Chambira in a Changing Landscape

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Sydney Larson


Amazonian peoples have traditionally relied on natural resources for their livelihoods. Within this context, Astrocaryum chambira is an important palm species, however modernization and development of the Amazon have led to changes in community social relations, traditional livelihoods and use of natural resources. Few studies have analyzed the present dynamics of chambira use in this area of transition. To study shifts in the use of the chambira palm, I reviewed the literature on traditional uses, conducted semi-structured interviews and did field observations at two sites in the Peruvian Amazon: Sucusari, a native Maijuna community and rural villages La Habana, Doce de Abril and Cahuide along the Iquitos-Nauta road. The goal of this study was to look at how modernization and infrastructure development of the Amazon has influenced the use of chambira. It was found that Amazonian people still use the chambira palm, but current use does not mirror traditional use. The expansion of markets and the availability of cheap goods has led to the replacement of certain products previously made with chambira. In some areas, the growing tourism in the Amazon has increased demand for chambira handicrafts. Native communities seem to have maintained a more sophisticated knowledge of chambira and preserved its cultural significance, while in more urbanized areas knowledge and value are being lost. In modern society, use and importance of the chambira palm are decreasing, but in traditional communities of the Peruvian Amazon, it remains a highly utilized resource.

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Social Sciences, Education and Communication