People of the River

In the Peruvian Amazon live 64 tribes of indigenous residents. If time permits, visit the Amazon museum in Iquitos where you will see Shipibo, Bora, Yagua, Cocama, Witoto, Iquitos, Ashininga, Mayaruna, Aguaruna, and many others depicted in traditional dress and pose. The descendents of many of these peoples live in the area you will visit today.

The first European explorer to this region was Pedro Teixeira in 1639; he traveled 2000 miles upriver to claim the lands for Brazil. The Cabanagem Rebellion in 1835 resulted in the death of almost one-third of the inhabitants of the Amazon region. The discovery of rubber transformed the region after 1858, but by 1912 most of the rubber production facilities had relocated to Indonesia.

The Iquitos once lived in the land near the headwaters of the rivers. They hunted with spears of Pijuayo adorned with bird feathers, and drank a liquor made of Pijuayo fruit mixed with saliva.  They no longer live near the city; those that prefer their ancestral ways have moved to a reserve several kilometers away.

The Bora also live near the San Andrés village on the Nanay river. You may have seen them as we explored the history of the city of Iquitos.  You will remember that they are not truly native to the area, but were relocated from Colombia. They are known for their strong agricultural methods. Coca is an important crop, since it is used in their traditional religious services.

Around the lodges you will visit, you may meet the Yagua (Yahua) peoples. You may have met them in Iquitos as well and remember that the men sometimes still wear their native skirts of palm fiber. Their traditions include farming, fishing and hunting. Hunting is a prized skill among the Yahua. Skilled craft workers often offer wares near the lodges. Read more about them at

Pay careful attention to the lumber used for construction--It's not milled, but cut with chainsaws by hand. Also look at the boats that are made of mahogany, burned and stretched. You'll see one or two of these "vehicles" parked in front of each home along the river.

Archaeological Clues: How Many People--How Old?

Changing Times

The Peruvian government is now offering people who were once nomadic the opportunity to own and farm their own property. Grants of "ribbon farms" with one acre of ribbon frontage offer these people the ability to change from a life based on hunting to one with the stable food supply of year-round agriculture.

This change in economics has also resulted in a change in culture. Schools are now bringing communities together. That helps extended families, but also increases the amount of refuse and the chance of disease. It also increases the pressure on some endangered animals (like monkeys) that are considered ideal sources of meat by the people.

Indigenous people often have high immunity to insect-borne diseases. But researchers are seeing a change in the behavior of the insects in response to changes in population distribution. Researchers from University of Wisconsin Madison found that deforested sites the mosquito species A. darlingi  had a biting rate that was more than 278 times higher than the rate determined for areas that were predominantly forested. Their results indicate that A. darlingi displayed significantly increased human-biting activity in areas that were deforested and where roads had been built.*