Back to
Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

The Importance of Castañas

Having just returned from the amazing community of Boca Pariamanu located on the Madre de Dios River, I find myself unable to express our experience in only a few hundred words. The Amazon Rainforest is unlike any other place I have ever visited, and the people we met in Boca Pariamanu are unlike any other.

Boca Pariamanu is an indigenous community that profits from the harvesting of Brazil Nuts. Their forest is divided into sections which are given to citizens who are responsible for the harvest of Brazil Nuts, or castañas.

As we walked through the Rainforest, Don Alberto, our incredible guide and an elder of the Boca Pariamanu community, could tell you which territory you were stepping in, and whose large, 70 kilogram sacks of castañas were propped up against various trees, waiting to be taken back to the collection area by motorcycle. Not only was I impressed by the ability for the community to collect so much produce, but it amazed me that everyone was so trusting in each other. Nobody thought about taking other people’s castañas because everyone was so familiar with the forest and their community members.

After spending 6 days and 5 nights in Boca Pariamanu, I realized everyone is connected in the community by a feeling of being each other’s family. Don Alberto, being an elder in the community, knows everyone. On our last full day, we took a four hour hike through the Rainforest to visit Walter’s house. A motorcyclist zipped down our trail, and paused when he saw Don Alberto. Putting on the breaks, they shook hands, exchanged a greeting and a laugh. The motorcyclist started his engine and raced through the jungle. I looked at Amanda, who works for Fauna Forever, and asked if she knew the motorcyclist. She laughed and told me she’s never seen him before.

The people of Boca Pariamanu are incredibly personable. They can connect to you or one another through anything – especially through volleyball or a game of soccer. It does not matter how much you differ from them, or even if you don’t speak the same language. They are always happy to see each other or another person in the community, and will greet anyone with a smile. They trust the family of Boca Pariamanu, and are willing to extend their trust to visitors.

I hope to find the same trust in people back home, and to be willing to extend my heart even a fraction as much as the people of Boca Pariamanu.