Santa Teresita, Madre de Dios, Perú

Alex Dzwierzynski 

In order to be an anthropologist in the Jungle, extensive sweating in rubber knee high boots and rain gear is required. I coat my skin in poison; it repels the mosquitoes. It’s funny; I always talked about saving the rainforest without realizing quite how shitty it actually is. Everything in here is deadly, snakes, jaguars, frogs, plants, caimans, the indigenous man wielding a large knife slicing up a large stick, arrows besides him. He’s showing us how to make a bow in the traditional way. You cut the bark off and then continue to shape the wood until it resembles a bow. I ask a question in Spanish but only get a blank stare in response. Less than a thousand people speak their language, our head anthropologist Alfonso being one.

He finishes the bow, puts up a target and gives it to me. I’m nervous, everyone’s watching so shoot the arrow and wow I managed to shoot it behind me. The other white people fare no better, and after laughing with us the indigenous man shows us how they do it, hitting the target every time. I guess the laws of physics don’t apply to Americans in the Amazon. A little indigenous boy wearing a Hillary Clinton 2016 shirt offers the bow to Alfonso. He’s an expert on indigenous tribes in the Amazon means notch an arrow, pull the bowstring back too far, smile and wink at us Americans and snap the bow. The arrow flies fifty feet up as the shattered bow hits the ground. “Rompo arcos2” The village chief laughs nervously alongside him. I take notes about the village. There is a baby parrot, emerald green and phoenix red, that rushes in front of me. Hello parrot friend, I’m sorry your wings have been clipped.

Later that night after we hit the bars we pass by a tourist shop offering things to do in the Amazon. In between the monkey tour and the caiman tour lays the indigenous peoples tour, selling their culture for anthropologists like me to study. We discuss it being problematic, and then move on to the next bar.

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