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The Kukama Kukamiria: an invisible indigenous people that emerges revaluing their culture

It is estimated that more than 10,000 people self-identify as Kukama-Kukamiria.In May 2024, the launch of documentaries made by Kukama youth took place in the district of Parinari, Loreto. It was attended by more than 200 people from the community, neighbors and ORPIO representatives.

The Kukama Kukamiria indigenous people settled hundreds of years ago on the banks of the Marañon, Tigre, Urituyacu, Ucayali and Huallaga rivers. They chose these areas as their home because they are skilled fishermen and develop their lives around the river.

Over time, these same areas have become home to other peoples, including non-indigenous peoples, a situation that has led to social pressures, structural racism and the loss of their roots. It is no coincidence that the Kukama Kukamiria are known today as "invisible indigenous people" and that their culture is dying.

According to the Database of Indigenous or Original Peoples (BDPI) of the Ministry of Culture (MINCU), in the 2017 National Censuses, 10,762 people self-identified as Kukama-Kukamiria. However, it is very possible that this estimate does not consider all those who exist in Peru, since some of them do not recognize themselves as such, because it involves facing the rejection experienced by this people throughout multiple difficult periods.

In the 1990s, when the process of creating the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), the Regional Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples of San Lorenzo (CORPI SL) and the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO) began, these three also committed themselves to the long process of rescuing the Kukama Kukamiria culture.

WWF joined this effort in 2017, supporting the delimitation of the Kukama Kukamiria integral territory for integrated governance and supporting capacity building for the development of enterprises focused on the production of paiche, aguaje and handicrafts, examples of associative work.

In this context, and in order to continue the activities that are still pending, ORPIO, CORPI SL and WWF decided to create a short film that visualizes the urgency of rescuing this culture. In the 14 minutes that this film lasts, you can learn through the voices of the Kukama Kukamiria people, their origin, challenges and their struggle for the rescue of their traditions.

During the filming of this documentary, the organizations invited young people from the Shapajilla native community to develop a community film workshop. "To make these materials, the wise men of the community told us about their experiences as children, customs and traditions. This is the first time we have done something like this, they hardly talk about it, and it helped us a lot to learn about our culture," says Karen Jimena Bustamante, one of the participants.

Returning to the community
After a process of post-production and validation of the audiovisual stories with the young creators, in May 2024 the launching of these materials took place in the community of Shapajilla, district of Parinari, Loreto. The event was attended by more than 200 people from the community, neighbors and ORPIO representatives.
"Our territory reaches more than 4 million hectares and covers more than 300 indigenous communities in the Loreto department. Few people like me speak our language and they are still ashamed to say they are Kukama Kukamiria. We have to work harder to make them feel the same as I do, proud to be Kukama Kukamiria. These activities are a support to this cultural revaluation," says Miguel Manihiuari Tamani, Kukama wise man and ORPIO representative.

Watch the audiovisual material that revaluesthe Kukama Kumamiria culture


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