Social Documentary Photography – The River People In The Peruvian Amazon

Children in school

 

Photographer Ishita Das @ Implicit Self is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  These images are from her project ‘Portrait – Riberenos‘.  To see Ishita’s gallery of projects click on any image.

 

catch of the day with catfish

 

Amazonian Octogenarian She did not know her age

Amazonian Octogenarian
She did not know her age

 

As the Amazon or its precursor rivers flow along, only small to medium size villages flourish by the river banks.  These villages have names like Puma Cahua and Nueva York, San Jose de Paranapura and even Manhattan..

 

home and little child-EOH

 

Family in Nueva york

Family in Nueva york

 

Village female Mayor

Village female Mayor

 

child-EOH

 

Whenever civilization has entered the lives of indigenous people there is much more loss to the people and to the environment than can be justified by development. However, at the end of the rubber booms, in the absence of an alternative industry, the region around Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon was sort of left alone to regenerate. Now, along the Amazon, mixed race Ribereños (river people) thrive, as dependent on the Amazon to live, as, to die of the parasites it harbors.

 

bananas and family-yellow frock

Amazon family goes down the river to Nauta to sell bananas. The family lives and cooks on the raft. Weeks later they sell the raft and come back home in ferries.

 

family on canoe-EOH

 

Juan-EOH

The villagers make their own canoes, it is the first thing boys learn to do, as without the canoe there can be no fishing or traveling to other villages. Even the octogenarian Juan said proudly that he built his own canoe and paddle. And his wife still cooked what he caughts as his children had left.

 

Boys fishing

Boys fishing

 

Just as the names of the villages are a derivation of what once was (in Puma Cahua you could see pumas roam) and what is now known as the civilized world (Manhattan), so are the people, though much less so. They are far removed from the absolutely indigenous tribes, there is a great deal of inter-mixing with the European whites and Asian races, the society is purportedly Catholic, but believe more in nature and spirit of the jungle than any God.  The women and men contribute to chores. There are schools in villages, of course, there is often only one teacher for all grade levels. However, there is no electricity or clean drinking water supply. Some villages are  actively getting solar energy based power. Eco tourism has also partially sponsored clean drinking water supplies with a water treatment plants in a few villages or water filters for each family.

 

Bonita and her baby

Bonita and her baby

 

fish prep in boat-EOH

 

Salted piranhas

Salted piranhas

 

cooking kitchen-EOH

 

Nuevo York kids

Nuevo York kids

 

happy fisher woman-EOH

 

As the Amazon and its tributaries fluctuate 40 feet between the wet and the dry seasons, villages are used to their banks/ farmlands receding, their homes flooding as they quickly adapt to changing conditions, in what they call the worlds largest ‘pharmacy’.

 

Medicine bottles

Medicine bottles

 

Common squirrel monkey

Common squirrel monkey

 

With the help and education provided by naturalist volunteers, the villagers are becoming increasingly involved in sustaining the great treasures of the Amazonian basin, just as Shaman’s use centuries’ old knowledge and a decade of dedicated training to practice their herbal medicine. Villagers patrol the large regions of Pacaya-Samiria reserve to prevent illegal logging: as the area is too big for the few government rangers. Not only that, the highly endangered species of caiman: the black caiman, as well the endangered river turtles have been brought back from the edges of extinction by conservation and reduction in hunting or poaching of these animals for food or leather. Villagers are actively involved in collecting the turtle eggs and releasing baby turtles to the wild after proper incubation.

 

Turtle conservation

Turtle conservation

 

sunset canoe-EOH

 

boy and fish in boat-EOH

 

Will such a balance of the new and old survive for long? As education and better prospects call the young to the cities, will more of them return as teachers or naturalists? Only time will tell, but at least the beginning is promising.

 

See also:

Ruins of a sugar mill in Lamanai, Belize

Birds of Costa Rica

By Ishita Das

 


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