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Machiguenga Indians
Mission Trips - Peru Machiguenga Indians
 

THE MACHIGUENGA INDIANS
AMAZON JUNGLE - PERU
Work began: 1947 Wycliffe Bible Translators began work among the Machiguengas. Population: 5,000 - 10,000
Location: Manu and Urubanba Rivers and their tributaries
Language family: Arawakan
Translators: Wayne and Betty Snell
Other workers: Harold and Pat Davis

The Machiguenga people are isolationists living in small extended family groups, widely spread over about 400 square miles of jungle. They live from day to day by hunting, fishing, and using the "slash and burn" method for agriculture. The style of dress is very

simple, homespun tunic type robes known as "cushmas". The cushmas are worn by both men and women. The "V" shaped neckline for the men distinguishes them from the women who have straight necklines. Houses too, are very simple. Poles are cut from the jungle and are erected for a frame. It is covered with split palm leaves of thatch.

The entire political and governmental organization of the Machiguengas is limited to the single self-appointed post of headman of each small family group. In the very early years they had chiefs who ruled with an iron hand. This practice has been changing, and now basically every man is a law unto himself and does as he wishes with little or no fear of reprisal. When a person is confronted by a situation with which he is either unable or unwilling to cope, he simply packs up and flees elsewhere.

Machiguengas are animists and lives in much fear of evil spirits. They do not seek to appease them. Their god "TASORINISE" (meaning, "the one who blows or breathes on them") made the world and the Machiguengas. they used to eat dirt before the moon came down as a man and gave them yuca. Yuca is now their basic food. At one time their creator gave them fire, and taught them their arts of spinning, weaving, and hunting. However, he abandoned them because the people did not obey him. Now they never have communication with their god, even though the spirits live conveniently nearby in hills, rivers, and cliffs.

Food taboos are a part of their life. A pregnant woman may eat only fish and yuca. If she eats meat of another animal, her baby will become like that animal. This causes anemia, poor health and weak babies.

Each Machiguengas girl must go through puberty rites. When she reaches a certain age she lives under the family house in a small enclosure made of woven mats. During her time under the family house she is not to look at a man or be seen by people. She is only permitted to go out of her small dwelling at night. She spends her time spinning and her mother teaches her how to be a good wife. Her food, basically fish and yuca, is brought to her by her mother. Her hair is cut very short in order to keep the spirits from grabbing her. She is given frequent hot baths. At the end of her confinement she is allowed to mix with people again, but she keeps her head covered and looks down at the ground most of the time because of embarrassment. She is not permitted to talk freely to a man. However, by the end of about a year she can again live a normal life.

Death is greatly feared and the dead person immediately becomes an enemy because his spirit is now free to catch someone. The body is taken a long way downstream and is buried with his feet pointing down stream so that his spirit cannot come upstream as easily to get someone. The house of the family is marked with epitaphs to ward off the spirits.

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Peru Mission Trip Resources: (Downloadable forms - PDF Format)

Preparation Checklist (Check off list of items to pack for mission trip)
Travelers Checklist (Essential items for health and safety in the field)
Field Operations Rules and Procedures (CERT International's rules for operating in the field)
Post Trip Evaluation (Print this form, complete and mail to CERT Office)

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