Introduction to Ese’eja De Infierno Native Community

The Ese'eja de Infierno Native Community is an indigenous group in Peru whose ancestral land is located on the Tambopata River in the Madre de Dios region, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. The region is characterized by the Amazonian lowland rainforest and has several endangered species such as the Amazonian turtle, the caiman, the macaw and the giant river otter. As in many regions of the Amazon, land conversion for agriculture, illegal logging, deforestation and habitat loss remain clear threats today.

The Ese'eja de Infierno Native Community was formed in 1974, when the Peruvian government passed the Native Communities Law, stipulating that all indigenous people of the Amazon had the right to form communities, demarcate their land and, in return, obtain formal, legal recognition of inalienable territorial rights. Thus Ese'eja joined with other Andean and riparian inhabitants of the Infierno region to form the Native Community of Infierno. Although this mobilization and constitution process took two full years, the group emerged as the first officially recognized "native community" in the state of Madre de Dios and the community was granted legal title. The Ese'eja de Infierno Native Community was the first to benefit, in the late 1970s, from Peru's Native Communities Law in the state of Madre de Dios, receiving legal title to 9,558 hectares of land on both banks of the Tambopata River. As a condition for the defense of their land in the 1980s, the Community was obliged to set aside some 3,000 hectares as a communal reserve where hunting, logging, forestry or any other type of resource extraction was prohibited. Since 1996, in partnership with a private company in the sector, the Community has jointly managed an ecotourism lodge, called Posada Amazonas, which takes advantage of this 3,000-hectare forest area. Between 1997 and 2007 the net income from this lodge was over US$250,000 and, as usual, the profits were divided equally among the 500 members of the community. In the year 2000, the community invested 25% in to education, which made it possible to build and operate the only rural secondary school in the region.

Tourists come to Posada Amazonas Lodge from all over the world, the most common nationalities include: North Americans, Europeans from the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Guides who can speak in Spanish, French and German are available although most of them are English speaking guides, but are local staff. The guides are from the community of Infierno and Lima; they also work with male and female interns from the University of San Martin and the Peruvian Tourism Training Center (CENFOTUR).


Cultural information

The Ese'eja de Infierno Native Community is composed of just over 500 members, 20% of whom are Ese'ejas, 21% Andean immigrants, 23% local immigrants and 34% mestizos. Prior to the initiative, the Community was economically poor and marginalized, surviving largely on subsistence farming, the collection and sale of Brazil nuts, and small-scale hunting and gathering. Over-reliance on these activities and the lack of viable alternative livelihood options, were placing unsustainable pressure on local ecosystems and natural resources. In response to these dangers the community decided to explore the ecotourism sector as a possibility to improve local livelihoods.

Craft activities are practiced by some of the community members of Infierno in order to obtain income to supplement the basic family, as well as to reaffirm the cultural value they have as an Ese Eja ethnic group. One of the community members who is dedicated to this activity is Don Pedro Mishaja, he has been working here for 5 years, and he learned this activity watching what his sister Angelica was doing. Among the pieces of handicrafts that he makes are tiger, picuro, macaw, wolf, sachavaca, sajino, are carachupa. For this, materials such as topa and tornillo wood are used.

There are two levels of social organization within the CNI: a family level and a supra-family level. The supra-family level includes a major level, which is the community, and an intermediate level that corresponds to the extended families also known as "clans". The family level, on the other hand, is expressed at two sub-levels: the nuclear family (father, mother and children) and the domestic unit (more than one nuclear family or a nuclear family and members of other related nuclear families). It is common to see domestic units consisting of the father, mother and their children and the wife and children of one of the children. This type of family social organization is common to all ethnic groups represented in the community.




Transport to Ese’eja de Infierno Native Community

The community of Infierno is located on both banks of the Tambopata River or in the local native language Ese Eja, Bahuaja River, in the department of Madre de Dios, South Eastern Peru. The community is in a strategic location because it is the main access route along the Tambopata River to the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. It has easy access, only 40 minutes by car from the city of Puerto Maldonado, the departmental capital. The Infierno Native Community is located on both banks of the Tambopata River, between the village of Chonta and Lake Tres Chimbadas, approximately three laps downstream from the mouth of La Torre Creek, 19 km from Puerto Maldonado, in the Tambopata District, Tambopata Province, and Department of Madre de Dios.

Getting around the area

There is a daily flow of tourists, approximately 20 to 30, depending on the season; there are days when the flow of tourists reaches 80 visitors, with a maximum of 90 allowed. All activities are offered through package tours, but you can visit the community with private transportation from the city of Puerto Maldonado.

The community has been the object of numerous conservation and development projects so it serves as an ideal meeting point for various researchers and thesis students as well as being a strategic partner of Rainforest Expeditions for the construction and management of an ecotourism lodge within the community's territory.


What’s good to eat in the community?

The gastronomy is simple and at the same time extravagant, colorful and abundant, with unexpected flavors that result in a tasty and seductive exoticism. This cuisine is original and varied, but difficult to obtain outside the area, many of its ingredients, especially bush meats, fresh or dried paiche, taricayas or motelos, fresh palm hearts and seasonings.

The Chapo is a dish made with ripe plantains and milk, preferably fresh. This is made by firstly boiling ripe plantain in a sufficient amount of water so that it cooks well, secondly it is mashed until a mass is formed and thirdly milk is added to taste.

The Timbuche or Chilcano is prepared with small fish, such as falmarachi, sapamana, lisa, mojarreta, palometa, guasaco and the famous carachama (similar to choro). It is prepared in a pot with a good amount of water. Once it comes to the boil, the small fish is added, seasoned with salt and sacha culantro, chopped chili are added then served. This dish is usually accompanied by "hinguiri" (parboiled green plantain).

The preparation of the Patarashca dish also contains fish with a special dressing based on jungle ingredients and salt. The seasoned fish is wrapped in vijau leaves or banana leaves, it is this specific leaf that gives the fish a special flavor when grilled over wood or charcoal, over a low flame.

The Muchangue, a simple dish prepared with eggs of charapa or taricaya (turtles), to which fariña (specially prepared toasted cassava grain) and salt or sugar is added to taste.

Among the many delicacies that Puerto Maldonado offers the motelo soup is a speciality of the area. The motelo is a land turtle, an important ingredient for this soup.

There are many different dishes for tourists to try and here are some others to consider when you visit; Masaco; Tacacho of yucca with ground dried meat, accompanied by tea. Puchucuy, a kind of corn-based sweet tamale baked in the oven. Sudado de picuro, Juanes de gallina, Sudado de gamitana, Fried suri, Roasted deer and Picuro accompanied with green plantain and rice, Inchicapi (soup), palm heart salad. There is a very special dish, Paca with maiden, that is prepared inside the paca also known as bamboo and the maiden is a fish whose name is also golden.

Among the typical drinks are masato, chapo, aguajina, hugurahui, cocona juice, aguaje, passion fruit, carambola, taperiva. In Madre de Dios there are also exotic drinks such as Siete Raíces, RC (Rompe Calzón), Mishquinchado, Ventisho, Uvachado - plenty for visitors and locals to try together.

The Masato is a typical drink of the inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon and is made by cutting yucca into slices and boiling in a large pot for cooking. Once boiled, it is placed in a "batán" or "pilón" (vessel), then the yucca is crushed with a mallet and, once crushed, it is mixed with the water where the yucca was cooked. This mixture is then subjected to a fermentation process. There are 4 types of cassava fermentation: mixed with sugar or honey, mixed with cane broth, mixed with sweet potato or mixed with saliva. It is then left to cool in the same tank and is wrapped or covered with banana leaves or vijahue, until it is ready to be dissolved in water and then placed in a jar to start drinking. This preparation is made by jungle veterans and is their favorite drink. They use it in their great celebrations to the sound of jungle dances, the "Tiri Tiri", changanaco, sitaracun, torio negro, etc. It is also a nutritional drink.

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    Top tips for your stay in Infierno Native Community

    The community is small and the population is dedicated to their ancestral activities, to take a tour it is necessary to make a reservation in one of the tourist lodges of the community that are located on the Tambopata River. There are also agencies that offer programs in the community itself, but everything must be booked in advance.

    The tourist packages come via Cusco, first to Machu Picchu, the guide will wait at the airport, and the package is 190 Dollars per night per person, for approximately 3 or 4 days. Look out for promotions, which are offered when there are groups of 10 or 12 people - a discount of 20% is made.

    For stays in the tourist lodges of the community, it is only necessary to bring clothes and accessories for personal use and personal care for the jungle. It is not necessary to bring tents or food, since the tours include everything you will require. The service is provided to a kind of small resorts where you can find a little bit of everything; of course these additional services have an additional cost.


    Best things to do in Tambopata

    The community offers a four-day program of non-motorized raft tours to the natural habitats of unique endemic species. In addition, lodge guests are also offered jungle hikes, ethnobotanical walks, night walks and briefings, as well as farm visits. A 35-meter-high scaffolding tower offers visitors the chance to see toucans, parrots, macaws and flocks of different species. A small population of giant otters can be observed in a nearby oxbow lake, as well as caimans, hoatzins and arucos. Some tours offer birdwatchers the possibility of spotting farinose amazons, yellow-headed and blue-headed parrots, and black-billed parrots.

    The Ñape Center started as a promoter of regional traditional medicine and disseminator of Ese’eja culture, starting in 1985. Born from the AMETRA (Application of Traditional Medicine) 2001 Project initiative in Madre de Dios, which was a replica of a health project for communities of the Shipibo-Conibo group in the department of Ucayali that had begun in 1982. This project sought to improve the health conditions of the local indigenous population by promoting the use of medicinal plants in combination with basic aspects of primary medicine. In addition to serving as a community and health center, the Ñape Center sought to serve as a model for community development and to integrate indigenous knowledge with appropriate technology in various health, nutrition and resource management projects. All native communities affiliated with The Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and its Affluents (FENAMAD) participated in the project. The communal company Bahuaja Expeditions today manages this center and it is the SNV-Dutch Cooperation, the institution that has more presence in relation to Centro Ñape, involved in a project to improve the infrastructure to receive tourists and the edition and publication of a pre-existing collection of stories, myths and beliefs Ese Eja collected in the CNI.