What looks like "primitive
life" is in reality a masterly adaptation to the environment.
The Yanomami are self-sufficient. They make tools of animal
teeth and bones, though gladly accept machetas and knives brought
by other tribes. They cultivate their own gardens. For precise
hunting they use four kinds of arrows, depending on the species
and habits of an animal.
The Yanomami are not na?ve or good-natured. They have their
dignity and honor which is an often cause of duels and fights
between the villages. They have their own concept of the universe
consisting of four vertical layers and they have created a unique
Here in the jungle money just doesn't count. What did the Indian
need 300 Bs for? Maybe to get from Jose Garcia some rice and
We walked up along a narrow path winding between the rocks.
We climbed the cliff and in front of me I saw the village. On
a big square of levelled ground stood a few houses, shabono.
After a while we were surrounded by tens of people. The men
were slim and shortish, with red bands around the hips. Women,
also almost naked, had wooden sticks stuck in their cheeks and
chins, while in the ears - alike our earrings - they wore bunches
of feathers or leaves. Nearly everyone - including the children
- had a tobacco wad put between the lower lip and the teeth.
It gave their faces a strange, a little ominous look.
Soon el capitan - leader of the village - took us to a house
we could use during our stay. We brought the luggage, hung the
hammocks and then Jose invited a few Indians waiting outside
to come in. They entered slowly, curiously looking at the backpacks,
bags and cases with food. While they were examining everything
with attentive eyes, I recalled what Jose Jad told me before.
But the Indians did not touch anything without making sure -
even if it was just a glance - that we wouldn't mind it.
Indeed, they have opened the torch, unscrewing it with slow,
quiet movements, checking what's inside it. They tried my hat,
sprayed themselves with a mosquito repellent but the greatest
curiosity aroused my ring. I had to tell them though that taking
it off my finger is a bad sign and a taboo. They nodded with
understanding and never asked again.
And it was probably then that I noticed that they all have
short, black hair.
- Jose - I asked mu guide later - how come? Do they have scissors
here deep in the jungle?
- What for? - he smiled. - You cut your hair with sharp grass.
When you live in the jungle, it will give you everything you
need. If you cannot find something, that means it is not necessary
after all. ...And be careful with this wood-louse - he added,
pointing at a long, yellow-and-black worm climbing up my knee.
- It is venomous.