Women also prepare the manioc beer that the Machiguenga drink in joyous parties, often on the full moon. In these parties, whole families join in together singing, dancing and playing music all night and into the next day.

Machiguenga man playing the "pegompi", a mixture between violin and Jew's harp. The one-stringed instrument is held between the teeth and bowed with the vein of a palm leaf. By opening and closing the mouth, the player produces an eerie modulation of the droning tone, used as a focus of meditation during the shamanistic trance produced by ayahuasca vine.


In addition to its great biodiversity, Manu is also very diverse in terms of its ethnic groups. In the highland regions of the park live large numbers of indigenous Quechua peoples, the former subjects of the Inca empire. In the lowlands of Manu and surrounding regions live a number of different ethnic groups, especially the Machiguenga, the Harakmbet (Amarakaeri and Huachipaeri), the Piro, the Yabashta-Yaminahua (or Yura), and the Mashco-Piro.

The Yabashta-Yaminahua only entered into sustained contact with the larger Peruvian society during the late 1980's. The Mashco-Piro and certain isolated groups of Machiguenga (the so-called "Kogapakori") still maintain their isolation from outside intruders. Large numbers of Kogapakori are found in the Upper Camisea, where natural gas exploration is currently going on. In the Piedras region, adjacent to the Manu, and perhaps even more pristine than the Manu, there are unknown numbers of Mashco-Piro, Yaminahua and Amahuaca Indians. Many fear that as oil and natural gas exploration activities in the Piedras, Camisea, and other adjacent areas continue, such isolated native groups may become contaminated with Western diseases or flee into Manu and find themselves in conflict with native groups or even tourists or scientists in Manu. The recent arrival of transnational oil companies exploring for petroleum in the regions surrounding Manu, and the push of lumber cutters ever deeper into remote areas, may force the last of these people into permanent contact with the outside world.

Each ethnic group has its own language, personality, customs and form of dress. The Piro tend to be outgoing, cosmopolitan, traders, middle-men and cultural brokers between different ethnic groups and outsiders, from rubber barons of the past century to lumber cutters and missionaries today. The Piro make beautiful weavings and ceramics decorated with elaborate geometric designs.

click here to return to the Manu Living Edens home page
Producer's Journal | The People of Manu | Flora and Fauna | History | Conservation
Classroom Resources | Trivia Challenge | Related Links | Screen Saver | About the Film | Manu Credits