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).
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.
ESE’EJA DE INFIERNO NATIVE COMMUNITY