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KICHWA NATIVE HOUSE EXPERIENCE

Casa Nativa - FEEL THE AMAZON - Anakonda Amazon Cruises

Kichwas live in family communes, not cities.
And you’re going to meet a Kichwa family and see what it’s like to live in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

You’ll walk up to the family home and the guide will introduce you to the woman who lives there. Many of the families are large, up to eight children in addition to the parents.

Free range chickens are milling about the property. The family’s pet monkey is scurrying above, hopping from branch to branch. The chickens are raised to eat and sell. The monkey will be let into the wild when it is fully grown.

The home has a large common area, raised up on stilts with a thatch roof above your head. In the back, is the most important (and dryest) area, the kitchen. You don’t notice any modern appliances, just wooden bowls, handmade utensils and a fire.

Your guide explains how this family makes chicha, and Amazon rainforest staple, from yuca and sweet potato. In the past, women fermented the chicha by chewing the yuca, an enzyme from their saliva initiating the fermentation. You hear animal sounds in the distance. A few of the other guides are trying to spot the smallest monkey in the world, the marmoset monkey. They’ll call you over once they see the little guy.

This house your sitting in was built by the men in the family. It took four days to build the palm leaf thatch roof, which will last ten years. Now, the men use nails, but in the past, they constructed their homes by tying the frame together with bark. “Minga” is the Quechua term for communal work. All house projects are completed as a minga

Gender roles are very distinct in the Amazon. Men hunt, fish, and build. The women bear children, clean, and cook. Girls marry at age fifteen or sixteen.

Every morning before the sun rises, this family drinks a herbal tea. The parents pass on their wisdom and knowledge to their children at this time. They share their dreams, which will inform them as they make plans for the day. The children will take a “school boat” to an area school. The government provides the infrastructure, supplies, and technology for the local schools to operate. All this is provided as compensation for the land, which is valuable for drilling oil.

You ask a few questions to the Kichwa mother who has so graciously let us into her home. The guide translates and you learn something new about life in the Amazon.

Historical Background on the Kichwas

During the massive rubber extraction that took place in the first half of the twentieth century, the Kichwa people came to live along the Napo River. Many Kichwas lived in the lowlands, the outskirts of the Amazon, around the city of Archidona. Priests would send Kichwa people into the rainforest to work for the rubber companies and collect the rubber. The Kichwas traveled up the Napo, Aguarica, and Curaray rivers, collecting rubber, their labor and freedom greatly exploited. It wouldn’t be till 1962 that the Kichwa people would receive ID cards issued by the government, and later still that their land rights would be recognized.