The Amazon rainforest, also known as “The Lung of the Earth” is also famous for the larger presence of native indigenous communities. These communities have always lived isolated, in close contact with nature for generations, accustomed to seek for food, medicines and building materials directly from the environment in which they live. The unstoppable rise of globalization has drastically changed their needs, their expectations and consequently their way of life. Located in the Reserva Tambopata, on the border between Peru and Bolivia, the native Comunidad Palma Real is one of the clearest examples of this change. This indigenous community has come into contact with the civilized world in recent years, entering in a transitional phase that partially modified its lifestyle. Palma Real is part of the nomadic community Ese-Eja, established in the Amazon rainforest of Peru before the Spanish colonization. After the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the community suffered an extermination that led to the separation of the community in three different areas of the Madre de Dios region in southern Perù, on the border with the high Sonene located in Bolivia.
The Ese-Eja community of Palma Real is formed by about 300 people who lived on the banks of the river Madre de Dios, approximately from 1976. This river acts as the only way of communication with the civilized world, represented by the city of Puerto Maldonado at about 6 hours of canoeing. With the advent of globalization, the habits of this indigenous people have changed drastically due to the desire to possess the new objects brought by the industrial impact and the need to find a profitable job that allows their children to study and improve their future life. In order to start this developing process, the Bilingual school (Ese-Eja and Castellano) was founded in 2004 and welcomed children of the community from 5 to 13 years old. The development of the Bilingual school has given the young people of the community the opportunity to keep pace with modern times without forgetting the traditions of the indigenous people to which they belong.
At the end of the school at the age of 14, the young people of the community have the desire to continue their study path and they are forced to move to Puerto Maldonado, determining a not indifferent expense for their families accustomed to live a simple life. The families therefore developed the need to earn money necessary to finance the course of study of the young, and even to buy goods not available in nature became indispensable, such as technological devices, clothes and industrial products which would simplify their daily life. The priority of earning money to buy these goods, has brought the community to enter the domestic market by selling their handicraft products and in the local market with the sales of medicinal herbs or fish. For this purpose they began to produce handicrafts such as necklaces and bracelets made with stones and jungle seeds.
They also produced handmade containers, abanikos (fan) and bags made of Gicungo or Tamish which are wild lianas that grows on trees, which once dried are processed and braided by hand until the realization of the desired object. Once all the artisan products are finished, the appointed person of the community will collect them and bring them to the big Peruvian cities, such as Cusco or Lima, where they will be sold. When he returns to the community, the revenues will be equally divided among each families. Despite the impact of progress, Palma Real is one of the rare indigenous communities that during this transition phase has kept its traditions alive, such as its native language “Ese-Eja” for example, still spoken daily by their members. Even the hunt and fishing are daily practiced by the inhabitants of the community mainly for their sustenance. These activities are still conducted as their ancestors were accustomed to do, with a bow and arrows. Furthermore, each family of the community owns a cultivated field within the jungle called “chakra” that can be cultivated with fruit trees or manioc. Their daily diet is still made up by indigenous recipes such as the “Patarashca”, in other words filets of a fish called Paco rolled up in platano’s leaves and cooked on fire, served with rice cooked in bamboo sticks. Even if the food is traditional, the people of the community have begun to cook it artificially with small gas tanks and not only with embers. On the other hand, the houses are still built with wood planks and palm’s leaves, called “Palmiche” curled together to create the roofs. The roofs of Palmiche are easily perishable and for this reason the leaves have to be replaced every three months. From the beginning of the last decade, the need to use the new electrical devices, has developed the need to obtain energy. Aware of the risks of pollution, the community has tried to reduce as much as possible the environmental impact, keeping a direct and important relationship with nature. The electric energy, in fact, is obtained from small solar panels and not by generators that cause environmental and acoustic pollution, which represent a serious danger for the local flora and fauna. The inhabitants of Palma Real extract the medicinal products from plants and trees present in the jungle still today. These kind of cures, without the use of chemical products, are the result of a bequeathed knowledge by their ancient shamans. Their great sense of belonging to the indigenous world of the Amazon rainforest is having a decisive role in the civilization process of the community. Contrary to many other indigenous communities which have succumbed to globalization in a complete way, Palma Real is still in a slower transition phase compared to others, thanks to their strong attachment to their indigenous roots. All this makes Palma Real an authentic indigenous community that will continue to pass on its ancestral traditions to the new generations, proudly keeping its history alive, even if the advent of the modernization seems unavoidable at this point.