Contact was a traumatic experience for many of the Matsés people in Peru’s Amazon. Hear the tribe speak in their own words about life before contact, and prospects for their fellow tribespeople who remain uncontacted.
There are around 2,200 Matsés living on the Peru-Brazil frontier in the Amazon rainforest. The Yaquerana river runs through the heart of their land, marking the international border that separates their home.
But to the Matsés, the streams, floodplains, and white-sand forests make up an ancestral territory that is shared by the entire tribe. Matsés hunt for animals such as tapir and paca – a large rodent – in the forest using bows and arrows, traps, and shotguns.
Each community lives close to the riverbank, and every morning children and adults will set off to catch the day’s fish. A wide variety of crops grow in their gardens, including staples such as plantain and manioc.
Chapo, a sweet plantain drink, is always on the boil in a Matsés home. Women cook the ripened fruit and squeeze its soft flesh through homemade palm-leaf sieves. The delicious drink is then served warm by the fire, and most often drunk while swinging in a hammock!