THE SHIPIBO

The Shipibo belong to the ethno linguistic pano family, like their Conibo neighbors to whom they are closely related. They are the only native group of the Amazon that have, after the conquest, maintained control over the banks of a great river: the Ucayali, the main source of the Amazon. Their business and conciliatory spirit, their ability to change settlement, their social cohesion strengthened by marriage exchanges, and the power of their Shamans, turned the Shipibo in a group resistant to the onslaught of missionaries, explorers and rubber hunters. Today, with their ancestral territory saturated by mestizo civilization and threatened by the chimerical nature of development, the Shipibo try to find their place in global economy without losing their identity.

The Amazon, except for some remote areas, is a colonized place, and indigenous cultures that ancestrally inhabited it are integrated on a greater or lesser degree to the market economy. Schools, health posts, census, development projects or anthropological research, have been common for decades in most parts of the Amazon territory. But this fact does not undermine the impressive cultural background treasured by the Shipibo, one of the most interesting and amazing ethnic groups in the entire Amazon basin. The Shipibo are generous people of incomparable exuberance, and still cling to a way of life based on family and nature around them, proudly maintaining cultural practices that have made them famous in the world: Shamanism and Crafts.

Some traditions were lost, others are endangered and others are still very important, like the designs with which women adorn cultural objects. Shamans, who plunged into the world of forms and colors opened by the Ayahuasca, returned from their travels with beautiful and refined designs for craftswomen to translate into their craft: their skirts, blankets, coats, ceramics... "These designs represent the world and the mind" said the great artisan and traditional Doctor Ida Ramos. But the designs are not only a representation of the world; at a more mundane level, these crafts have become the main source of income for many families. There is no ethnic group throughout the Amazon whose crafts have aroused so much admiration in the world as the Shipibo women’s. Their intricate designs, hand painted fabrics, and embroidery capacity were inherited from their mothers; serving them in today's globalized market economy to assert their independence from me.

The Shipibo very well managed to maintain certain control of the territory until present time, struggling to integrate into global society of free market economy without losing their roots. If anything distinguishes this way of life they are trying to keep, is the proverbial autonomy provided by the forest in which (and by which) they live. With the knowledge gained from their parents and grandparents, the Shipibo can hunt, fish, farm, cook, build houses and canoes and identify herbal remedies for their illnesses; food, shelter and healing. Based on this knowledge they can form a family and live well, with no major complications. Until recently, money was not needed to lead a full and happy life of plenitude; indeed, the emergence of money has been accompanied by great tension. For this reason, today, more than ever, it is very important to find a way to maintain the identity of this millenary culture.