For the last twenty years I have been out of contact with Ron and Phyllis Manus, the linguists who had asked me to come work with the Urarinas. When I moved to Missouri I lost their address. A couple weeks after first putting this web site together I found out some very disturbing news. At about the time I lost contact with Ron and Phyllis, outsiders began encroaching on Urarina lands.
Loggers began cutting down mohogany trees for export to the United States. A Joint venture between British Petroleum and Petroperu laid a pipeline accross their land and now wants to do exploration there. Homesteaders with backing from the World Bank are clearing fields on the southern portions of their land. And now Adventure seeking tourist are being brought in by American "Guides" who have no understanding or concern for the people living there.
Until the early 1980's The Urarinas had very little contact with the outside world and therefore have no immunity to diseases such as cholera, dengue fever, measles and others which are prevelant in other areas. Before I went into Urarina villages in 1969 I was in seclusion at Pucallpa for weeks to insure that I was not sick. None of the newly arrived outsiders have taken such precautions. They just arrive, along with their new diseases. Many Urarina have died as a result of such incursions onto their lands. The outsiders have also introduced new strains of malaria to the Urarinas which are more deadly than the Vivax malaria which is endemic to the area. The falciparum malaria which has been newly introduced is also more resistant to antimalarial medications.
Life is hard under the best of circumstances in the swamplands inhabited by the Urarinas.The Urarina man looking over his shoulder on an earlier page of my web site was at the time the oldest man in the village of Yarinacocha. If I recall correctly, he was also the oldest man in the tribe. He was thirty Eight years old when this picture was taken. I believe his name was Alberto. But, my memory is not good and I would have to ask Ron or Phyllis to know for sure. He was such a warm hearted man who always laughed and smiled. All the Urarina were like that, no matter how bad things got. I hope the years have not changed that. I had no culture shock when I entered their society. Only when I returned to civilization. It remains with me still.
These new diseases and those yet to be introduced threaten to lead to the extermination of these intellegent, peaceful, friendly people. This would be a tragedy not only for them, but also for the rest of the world. They have much to teach the rest of the world. But, only through limited contact with the outside.
Right now there is no possibility of protection for the Urarinas because the Peruvian Government does not recognize their rights to the land. Land that they have inhabited for at least a thousand years. So, unless the nation of Peru somehow learns compasion in the very near future, the Urarina will, like so many tribes before them, be killed off by "civilization".
There are people in Peru that strike out violently at the government because of its callus disregard for their well being. The People called the "shining Path" who have received so much attention around the world are not causing trouble just because they are bored and want something to do. They have grievences against the government and in their frustration, they behave like governments do, with violence. People like the Urarina Don't make it onto the international wire services because they die quietly. with no one knowing eccept for their families and fellow villagers. They die as they lived, at peace with those around them. The Urarina Have so much to teach the rest of the world. I wonder if they will ever have the opportunity to do so.
I know that I am thankful for what they have taught me.
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