It’s a trip to Brazil authentic, an adventure in itself. The moment was remarkable. As night fell on the Rio Tapajosa major tributary of the Amazon located upstream from Santaremour canoes suddenly came into contact with a handful of Munduruku canoes, led by indigenous bare-chested populations in loincloths and crowns of feathers. In the middle of the water and in the dark, the encounter with these frail boats emerging from nothingness could have made one believe in a fortuitous contact, if it had not been duly prepared by the organizer of the trip.
Read also: Tourism: where in the world can you travel? The Mundurukupeople of Amazonia of Amerindian origin, do not constitute an isolated ethnic group as there are still some in the Amazon forest.
Brazil: the Munduruku, a community open to tourists
On this territory of 6.7 million km², the size of two-thirds of Europe, there are approximately 5,000, divided between the states of Pará, Amazonas and Mato Grosso. around their cacique (chief) Mitu, 69 years old, the 19 families (for 80 people) of the village community of Braganca, near Santarém, give thanks every week to their God Tupan, in a ritual of dancing and singing around the fire. That’s what we’re here for. The Munduruku agree to receive travelers from the Amazon Dream, a small traditional and comfortable cruise ship chartered by European tour operators during the dry season. But only in the evening and only for this ritual, never during the day – a way of protecting their lifestyle.
The rainforest protects the Munduruku
The canoes in which we embark with them glide over the black water, no doubt passing next to caimans (the jacaré, some of which measure up to 7 m in length), which park at night on the banks. At regular intervals, a boatman emits a whistle to signal his presence. In the distance, a Munduruku from the village answers him. We dock on a flimsy pontoon, greeted by other members of the community who have lit welcome fires. There is still a 10-minute walk to reach the village, by the light of oil lamps carried by other “Indians”. The Munduruku never settle at the edge of the water but always a few hundred meters in the forest. She protects them, they say.
Among the Munduruku, a labyrinth of water and trees
Tupan protects them, too. So that he continues to grant his favors to the village, the inhabitants – men, women, children, all gathered for the occasion – dedicate songs and dances to him. Under the large common box open on the sides, the chants and choreographies follow one another, guided in turn by a “chef de coeur”. Around the fire, the ceremony lasts about thirty minutes. The Munduruku take advantage of this to then sell their craftsbracelets, necklaces, small decorative objects… made with materials from the forest.
Nothing seems perverted in this trade, the low number of visitors received guarantees a respectful exchange.
Canoe ride with the Munduruku
We find the Munduruku the next day. On the menu, a new canoe trip, in the flooded forest. With strokes of the paddle, the frail skiffs slip between the aerial roots, in a labyrinth of water and damp trees. With a wave of his hand, our boatman suddenly ordered everyone to stop. A few meters in front of us, a swarm of wasps crosses the river mangrove. We let them pass.
Corpulent, visibly respected by the other young people of the village, Marçio no Nato Xavier Pimientel Munduruku came to settle in the village 4 years ago, after having married the daughter of the cacique. Of Munduruku grandmother but of German grandfather, he left the neighboring town of Belterra to join his wife. ” In a month, with the peak of the dry season, it will be possible to walk on foot here. Conversely, when the water rises during the rains, the landscape becomes more uniform and some of us run the risk of getting lost in a canoe. said the newlywed, directing the canoe.
Fishing and bow hunting
He learned, with difficulty, to speak Munduruku, the language of the ethnic group. Like the others, he divides his daily life between fishing, bow hunting (some arrowheads are carved from tapir bones) and cassava cultivation, invariable basis of food. The products are regularly bartered in neighboring villages for sugar and coffee. Marcio sometimes goes to sell the crafts made by the women in Santarém. In the first sense of the term, the Munduruku do not work. They live on self-sufficiency.
Formerly, the ethnic group was feared for its warlike instincts. At the time, to be a cacique, you had to wear a belt of heads of enemies killed in battle…
Contested logging project
In Bragança, there is no school but educational staff come to give lessons to the children. In the wooden houses, electricity comes from generators and the village is still home to a shaman. Each family has an average of five children and to meet between Munduruku communities, parties are frequently organized. The village receives two to three times a year the visit ofa hospital ship, for vaccines and other care and has a motor boat for emergencies. A necessity when you know, for example, that Marcio’s son, one and a half years old, suffers from hyperthyroidism and a stomach tumor and must have surgery in Belém, a city in northern Brazil. FUNAI, the Brazilian organization that manages the interests of Native Americans will finance the trip and accommodation of the mother. The immediate future is also a concern for the village. A person, presenting himself as “King of the Munduruku”, would try to influence the community to launch a logging project. The villagers are against it and seized FUNAI. They are trying to organize themselves to demonstrate in Belém and take the matter to court. Being indigenous in the Amazon is never a long calm river…
Paris CDG-Fortaleza with Air France Fortaleza-Belém with GOL Belém-Santarém with Azul
Cruise from Santarém aboard the Amazon Dream, replica of a traditional boat. 9 cabins. Meals on board. Boat rented by Grands Espaces, Franco-Swiss tour operator specializing in exploration cruises. French guide and French-speaking local guide on board.
Hotel Atrium Quinta de Pedras in Belém Stopover in the capital of the Amazonian delta, which is almost obligatory. Boutique hotel. Rooms with old fashion charm. Pool.
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