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This image is of a Machiguenga woman who is dressed in traditional garb. Photo taken in the Pangoa province of Peru.

The Machiguenga (also Matsigenka, Matsigenga[A 1]) are an indigenous people who live in the Amazon Basin jungle regions of southeastern Peru,[1] east of Machu Picchu and close to the borders of Bolivia and Brazil. Their population is about 7700.[2][3] Theirs is a hunter-gatherer culture for the most part, although they also practice slash and burn agriculture. The main crop grown is cassava, and their main source of protein is the paca, a large 6–12 kg (13–26 lb) rodent. During the dry season, the Machiguenga also use fishing to supplement the protein in their diet.[3]


Most Machiguenga do not have personal names. Members of the same band are identified by kin terminology, while members of a different band or tribe are referred to by their Spanish names.[4][5]

The Machiguenga are classified as animists in religion. Their traditional nomadic lifestyle, that they are a "walking" people, is integral to and justified by their cosmogony.

Family life[edit]

The average tribal woman marries around age 16. Women have an average of eight to ten pregnancies. As with many indigenous tribes, the mortality rate for infants is high.[3]

It is a patriarchal and sometimes polygamous society; men may have multiple wives. During meals, men are always served and eat first, while the women and children divide what remains. While quite accomplished in using plants and herbs as medicine, the Machiguenga are susceptible to new infectious diseases brought in from the outside world.[3] The tribespeople wear a handwoven and homemade cotton tunic made by women, called a cushmas, designed with a V neck for men, and straight neck for women.[6] They fashion huts using palm tree poles as a frame, with palm leaves thatched for the roof.[6] Literacy rates for settled groups range from 30% to 60%.[7] Each extended family group is governed by a self-appointed "headman".[6]


The Machiguenga language belongs to the Campa group of Machi puceran Maipurean (Arawakan) language family, which is spoken by approximately 12,000 people in Peru.[7][8] There are two dialects of Machiguenga: Machiguenga proper and Nomatsiguenga.[8] Caquinte is also spoken, but is considered a distinctly different language.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The incorrect spelling form "Machigenga" was created as a neologism by the BBC show Living with the Machigenga aired in 2009 and 2010 which is strongly criticized in Anthropology News, May 2011, see also TV series about Amazonian tribe accused of faking scenes.


  1. ^ Project, Joshua. "Nomatsiguenga in Peru".
  2. ^ "Native People of the Manu". Public Broadcasting Service. 2008. Retrieved January 14, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Russo, Ehtan (September 7, 2002). "The Machiguenga: Peruvian Hunter-Gatherers". Weston A. Price Foundation. Retrieved January 14, 2009.
  4. ^ Snell, Wayne W. (1964). Kinship Relations in Machiguenga, pp. 17-25.
  5. ^ Johnson, Allen W. Families of the Forest: The Matsigenka Indians of the Peruvian Amazon. University of California Press, 2003. pp. 9-10. Retrieved from Google Books on April 1, 2012. ISBN 978-0-520-23242-6.
  6. ^ a b c CERT (2008). "Machiguenga Indians". Christian Emergency Relief Team. Archived from the original on November 19, 2008. Retrieved January 14, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition". SIL International. Retrieved January 14, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c Native Languages of the Americas (2007). "Machiguenga Indian Language". Retrieved January 14, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Storyteller (1987), novel by Mario Vargas Llosa that includes recounting of Machiguenga cosmology.
  • Baksh, M. (1990) Time Allocation among the Machiguenga of Camana (Peru). New Haven, CT: HRAF Press.
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian Languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Deyermenjian, G. (1988) Land Rights, Cultural Survival and Innovation among Indigenous Peoples of the Western Amazon Basin: The Case of the Machiguenga. Master's Thesis, Clark University, International Development Dept.
  • Henrich J et al. (2005) " 'Economic man' in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28:795-+
  • Ohl, J. 2004. The economy of the Matsigenka – ecotourism as a chance for sustainable development?, Ph.D. thesis, University of Greifswald, Greifswald.
  • Ohl, J. 2004, El eco-turismo como opportunidad para un desarrollo sostenible? Eschborn, Germany, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH.
  • Ohl, J., A. Wezel, G. H. Shepard Jr., and D. W. Yu. 2007. "Swidden agriculture in a human-inhabited protected area: The Matsigenka native communities of Manu National Park, Peru," in Environment, Development, and Sustainability
  • Ohl-Schacherer, J., G. H. Shepard Jr., H. Kaplan, C. A. Peres, T. Levi, and D. W. Yu. 2007. "The sustainability of subsistence hunting by Matsigenka native communities in Manu National Park, Peru", Conservation Biology 21:1174–1185.
  • Ohl-Schacherer, J., E. Mannigel, C. Kirkby, G. H. Shepard Jr, and D. W. Yu. 2008. "Indigenous ecotourism in the Amazon: A case study of “Casa Matsiguenka” in Manu National Park, Peru", Environmental Conservation.
  • Solís Fonseca, Gustavo. (2003). Lenguas en la amazonía peruana, Lima: edición por demanda.
  • Pancorbo, Luis: Río de América, Laertes. Barcelona, 2003.
  • Shepard GH (1997) "Noun classification and ethnozoological classification in Machiguenga, an Arawakan language of the Peruvian Amazon", The Journal of Amazonian Languages 1:20–57
  • Shepard G (1997) "Monkey hunting with the Machiguenga: medicine, magic, ecology and mythology", paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Meetings
  • Shepard GH (1998) "Psychoactive plants and ethnopsychiatric medicines of the Matsigenka", Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 30:321-332
  • Shepard GH (1999) "Resource use and ecology of the Matsigenka of the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Vilcabamba", In: Schulenberg TS (ed) A Rapid Biological Assessment of the Northern Cordillera Vilcabamba, Peru, vol RAP Working Papers No. 11. Conservation International, Washington, DC
  • Shepard GH (1999) Pharmacognosy and the Senses in two Amazonian Societies. In: Department of Anthropology. University of California, Berkeley
  • Shepard GH (1999) "Shamanism and diversity: A Matsigenka perspective", In: Posey DA (ed) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, vol U.N.E.P. Global Biodiversity Assessment, Vol 2. United Nations Environmental Programme and Intermediate Technology Publications, London, pp 93–95
  • Shepard GH, Rummenhoeller K (2000) "Paraiso para quem? Populções indígenas e o Parque Nacional do Manu (Peru)". In: XXII Reunião Brasileira de Antropologia. Fórum de Pesquisa 3: “Conflitos Socioambientais e Unidades de Conservação”, Brasília, Brasil
  • Shepard GH, Yu DW, Lizarralde M, Italiano M (2001) "Rain forest habitat classification among the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon", Journal of Ethnobiology 21:1–38
  • Shepard GH, Yu DW (2001) "Verificación etnobotánica de imágenes de satélite: La intersección de conocimientos tradicionales y cientifícos", Debate Agrario 33:19–24
  • Shepard GH, Chicchón A (2001) "Resource use and ecology of the Matsigenka of the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Vilcabamba", In: Alonso LEea (ed) Social and Biological Assessments of the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Peru. Conservation International, Washington, DC, pp 164–174
  • Shepard GH (2002) Primates in Matsigenka subsistence and worldview. In: Fuentes A, Wolfe L (eds) Primates face to face. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 101–136
  • Shepard GH, Yu DW (2002) "Vanishing Cultures" (Comment). New York Review of Books 50:92
  • Shepard GH, Yu DW, Nelson B, Lizarralde M, Italiano M (2004) "Ethnobotanical Ground-Truthing and Forest Diversity in the Western Amazon", In: Maffi L, Carlson T, López-Zent E (eds) Ethnobotany and conservation of biocultural diversity, New York Botanical Gardens (Advances in Economic Botany), New York
  • Shepard GH (August 1998.) "Uncontacted native groups and petrochemical exploration in the Peruvian Amazon", In: International Society for Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES) Conference, Williamsburg, VA
  • Shepard GH, Rummenhoeller K, Ohl J, Yu DW (in press) "Trouble in paradise: indigenous populations, anthropological policies, and biodiversity conservation in Manu National Park, Peru", Journal of Sustainable Forestry
  • Yu DW, Shepard GH (1998) "Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?", Nature 396:321-322
  • Yu DW, Shepard GH (1999) "The mystery of female beauty", Nature 399:216
  • Yu DW, Proulx SM, Shepard GH (2008) "Masculinity, marriage, and the paradox of the lek", In: Swami V, Furnham A (eds) The Body Beautiful, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 88–107

External links[edit]