manucaiman Manu Biosphere Reserve is synonymous with wildlife, but the area offers much more than the attractions of nature. Manu is also an important part of Peru's great cultural diversity. The reserve is a true cultural mosaic, closely tied to nature, where Amazonian indigenous groups live in voluntary isolation and Quechua inhabitants continue to practice their ancient pastoral traditions and maintain their rich folklore.

There are at least five Amazonian indigenous groups in Manu. Each one has its own language, its own harvesting techniques, hunting and fishing practices, religious rituals and medicine.

These peoples have different degrees of contact with the predominant Peruvian culture. Although they often wear Western-style clothing, they retain their own language and perception of the world.


manucaiman The cushmas, or typical white cotton tunics with crimson horizontal stripes for women and vertical stripes for men, are the clothes which distinguish the Matsiguenkas of Manu. They have developed unique linguistic and cultural characteristics which differentiate them from the other indigenous communities along the Urubamba River, in the northeastern section of the park.

The Matsiguenka are particularly hard working and have a great knowledge of the medicinal uses of wild plants. They call themselves Matsiguenkas (the expression "naro matsiguenka" means "I am Matsiguenka, a human being"). The Matsiguenka population of Manu is estimated to number around 1,200. Some groups of Matsiguenka continue to live in partial voluntary isolation within the park, as do the Tayakome and Yomibato people.

Others are becoming increasingly involved in the market economy, using a sustainable development framework, through the tourism development project "Casa Matsiguenka" (Matsiguenka House). Other indigenous communities sharing the park include the Shipetiari (along the Alto Madre de Dios river) and the Palotoa Teparo (along the Palotoa river, a tributary of the Madre de Dios).


manucaiman Known for a long a time as the "Piros", these people now exercise their right to be called by their true name, the Yine, in an effort to establish a more respectful relationship with the outside world. Traditionally, they are navigators of the Urubamba and Ucayali Rivers, living as traders. The Yine are currently located at the Diamante Native Community, near Boca Manu. Their population numbers some 400, including a number of Matsiguenka and Huachipirepeople, who live among them.

The Yine identity is expressed by the characteristic geometric designs of their cushmas and cotton bags, as well as in their traditional pottery. Some of these handicrafts are now sold to the tourists who visit the Manu Reserve. Another Yine community, called Island of the Valleys, is located at the mouth of the Manu river.


manucaiman The indigenous Mashko-piro people live in Manu in voluntary isolation.

They are located along the Pinquen, Los Amigos, Las Piedras and Lydia rivers in the western and northern sections of the park.

Their language is believed to be related to the Yuen tongue. It is thought that their total population is around 800 people, of which some 200 probably live within the Manu National Park.


manucaiman The indigenous Yore people, whose name means simply "us", are also known as Shares, Nashuas or Yaminahuas. They lived in voluntary isolation until 1984, when they were forced to move out of their traditional territories in the northwestern section of the park by oil exploration activities.

They moved to the Cashpajali and Manu Chico rivers and to the headwaters of the Manu river. From there they moved into Matsiguenka territory, mostly within the park. For many years they stayed along the Manu river and could often be seen there during the dry season.

Finally, they settled along the Serjali river, a tributary of the Urubamba. It is thought that a group of some 400 Yore still live in voluntary isolation along the Alto Manu ( the Upper Manu River ).


manucaiman The Harakmbut is a group formed by several peoples, including a population of 700 people the Amarakaeri and the Huachipaeri within the Manu Biosphere Reserve. These groups believe they are descended from a common ancestor. They are the children of Huanamey, the mythical tree that sheltered them when the world was destroyed by a great fire, and to which they return when they leave this world.

There are two Huachipaeri communities in the reserve: Queros and Santa Rosa de Huacaria. For both, the town of Pilcopata is their reference point. It is there that they sell their handicrafts - including baskets, vegetable fibre bags and arrows. The people of Huacaria are Quechua and Matsiguenka.

Part of their territory lies within the boundaries of the Manu National Park, where they offer tours. The indigenous community of Shintuya, where a Dominican mission is located, is home to people of the Amarakaeri and Huachipaeri.


manucaiman Ever since colonial times, the Kosñipata valley has been settled by highlanders in search of agricultural land. The flow of colonists, mainly from the Andes, continues to this day, and many have settled permanently. The flow of immigrants increased in the 1960s with the construction of the road from Cusco to Shintuya.

These settlers are known locally as "colonos", and originally came from Cusco, Puno and Apurímac. They founded the settlements of Patria, Pilcopata, Salvación , Itahuanía and Boca Manu.
The "colonos" have built an identity of their own which combines the ways of their own culture with the adaptions they made in order to live in the Amazonian lowlands. Their population has grown to 4000. Although some of them raise cattle, the mainstays of their economy are agriculture and logging activities.