Photographers' Blog

Struggles to survive in the Amazon

Me Txanava, Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

A day of navigating along the muddy Envira River brought us to a village of the Huni Kui tribe known as Me Txanava, or village of the Singing Birds.

The moon shone bright in the starry sky over the silent village that lies in the municipality of Feijó – part of Brazil’s Acre state, which borders Peru.

The night before, a Huni Kui woman had lost her newborn daughter while giving birth in a boat on the Envira River. The mother and daughter did reach a hospital, but the baby died an hour later.

In mourning, the community gathered inside a house where a small, closed coffin illuminated by yellow candlelight held the child’s remains. Village shaman Ninawa, the father of the dead child, accepted the presence of strangers openly.

“Be happy,” he said. “You’ve come home.”

Later, while strolling in the village, I stopped in front of the largest hut and stood there for a while. The starry sky was enchanting. This was a house of prayer called a shubuã, which the Huni Kui consider a type of university, a place where they learn and share their traditional knowledge. That night it was closed in mourning for the child who never had a name.

Village of joy

By Ueslei Marcelino

Deep in the Brazilian heartland, where the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin dissolve into the central plateau,  I had the opportunity last week to spend a few days in the village of joy.

What I dubbed the village of joy is the home of the Yawalapiti tribe. One day last week, a group of us were escorted into the Xingu National Park by members of the Darcy Ribeiro Foundation and the Cavaleiro de Jorge cultural center, and arrived at the circular Yawalapiti village under an enormous full moon.

The mood was one of celebration. The Yawalapiti, one of the 14 tribes living inside the Xingu National Park, were preparing a new “quarup,” a ritual held over several days to honor in death a person of great importance to them. In its original form, the quarup was a funeral ritual intended to bring the dead back to life. Today, it is a celebration of life, death and rebirth. From the very oldest to the very youngest, all the members of the Yawalapiti tribe participate in the preparations.

Guardians of biodiversity

By Diego Cortijo

The jungle is a place too inhospitable to allow large human settlements, or that’s what we have always believed until now. New archaeological discoveries tell of highly developed cultures that have lived in the heart of the jungle. The myths of ancient cultures and places lost deep in the jungle may no longer be myths in light of these new discoveries.

With this proposal I began my second expedition to the Amazon rainforest as a member of the Spanish Geographic Society, to try to learn about and document unknown places in the jungle. Members of native communities I visited in the past had spoken to me about ancient settlements, and now I wanted to locate them.

This was a grueling expedition that began in Brazil and ended up in the Peruvian Amazon. We came across undiscovered archaeological sites that were mystical to the native communities who were their unofficial caretakers, and isolated tribes that received me as a total stranger, but always with a smile. I tried to document their traditions and legends so that they wouldn’t be lost forever with the passing of time.