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The Machiguenga People

The Manu National Park is home to at least 4 different indigenous groups, the Machiguenga, the Mascho-Piro, the Yaminahua and the Amahuaca.

The Machiguenga, or Matsigenga, is the largest of these groups with an overall population of 6-8,000.

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A machiguenga man in traditional dress

Traditionally they grow their food using long-fallow swidden agriculture, cultivating, amongst other things, manioc, bananas, maize, sweet potatoes, cotton, peanuts, and chili peppers in small gardens cleared out of the forest. They supplement their diet with fish, game, fruits and other foods gathered in the forest and rivers.

They use the cotton they grow to make the traditional tunics worn by both men an women, the fabric spun and woven by hand. Men wear tunics with a v-shaped neck and women with a straight neckline.

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A Machiguenga girl and infant

Because of their isolation most Machiguenga communities have very little access to health care and so traditional medicines have remained very important to them. It is suggested they know and use at least 300 different medicinal plants, all of which could be potential sources for new medicines.

Interestingly most Machiguenga lack personal names. Members of the same group are individuated using kin terminology, mother, sister, brother etc, while members of a different tribe are referred to by their Spanish names.

For more information about the Machiguenga have a look at the Native planet website.

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