The Shuar are an indigenous people of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru. Skilful warriors, they resisted to the Incan and Spanish conquest and are now fighting to save the forest.
In the surroundings of Macas (South-eastern Ecuador) we had the chance to be hosted by a Shuar family. This family belongs to the community of Buenaventura.
Spending few days with them we got to learn about their lifestyle, ancestral culture and determination to preserve the Amazon forest.
Here some curiosities about the wonderful world of the Shuar.
Shuar house and family
The Shuar house, called Jibaria, is a hut built in balsa wood and toquilla and earthen floor.
Usually there are two doors, one for women and one for men. These doors, opposite each other, give access to the female and male areas, which are internally divided by a wall.
In the Shuar culture, men and women have very defined roles. For example, the woman takes care of the garden while hunting and trade are man’s tasks.
In the past polygamy was common, however it’s now disappearing because of the Christian influence.
The Shuar cuisine is one of the richest and tastiest of South America. Today the typical dishes are still prepared using only the resources of the Amazon forest.
The delicious dish in the picture is called Ayampaco and consists in a bijao leaf wrap cooked on the grill. The mixture contains palmito, different Amazon vegetables and sometimes fish.
Shuar medicine and forest conservation
As other indigenous people of the Amazon, the Shuar have a huge and deep knowledge of the forest plants.
During the days we spent with them and the excursions in the forest, we learned a lot on the natural medicine of the Shuar people: there are vines whose juice is used to cure prostate problems; trees whose sap can heal wounds or clean the lungs; plants whose leaves, if squeezed, release a liquid that can be used as eye drops or to cure sore throat and so on.
Powerful hallucinogenic plants like Ayahuasca and Floripondio are also used as medicines.
The Shuar are committed to hand on to future generations their wide knowledge about the Amazon plants. The aim is to help them to defend themselves against modern illnesses and to make them understand the importance to preserve the forest.