Category Archives: Photography-cultures-Latin America

Photographs describing traditional cultures of Latin america, mostly the daily activities of Amerindians. Text describes the circumstances (when relevant), and specific information on the activities. Links are given on additional information that can be found on the internet, and some bibliographical information is given.


Mexico. Puebla State. Sierra de Puebla.

About my photography: I do not create photographs or situations, I grab what happens in front of me, if possible without my interference. I don’ want my presence to appear in my photography (it appears in the image below, but as I  noticed these two boys, they noticed me – it was not created). The emphasis is on documentation rather on  art.

Mexican Indian people

Indian boys, Puebla State.

This post shows a point in time, only 3 days, in the life of Mexican Indians in The Sierra Norte de Puebla in December 1970.

I rented a Volkswagen bug in Mexico City, driving to the northern part of Puebla State. I went to a small town: Cuetzalan (I don’t remember why I chose or who told me to go there), a Pre-Coumbian town with a population of both Totonac and Nahua Indians in The Sierra Norte de Puebla, at the intersection of the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. The region relies on agriculture (recently tourism infrastructue has been implemented), with coffee the main cash crop.

From Cuetzalan I hiked for 3 days in rugged montainous terrain to three Totonac and Nahua Indian villages (Jonotla, Caxhuacan, Ixtepec, all Pre-Columbian), using mule trails. I slept in Indian houses, eating their food, which had its consequence… On the last day, on my way back to the last village with before Cuetzalan, I started feeling stomach pain. Arriving at the village the pain became excruciating. Fortunately there was a Catholic father who took me to Cuetzalan in his old car. During three days and three nights the pain was unbearable. An old doctor, who, I was told, had participated in the Zapata revolution, had no clue. On the third day, a Sunday, a doctor from Mexico who had come for the weekend as a tourist, said I should take an antibiotic. Fortunately there was some in the local pharmacy (owned by the old doctor!). I soon was better, but I was so weak that I had to hire someone to drive the rented car back to Mexico City.

Looking at the satellite maps and zooming in on the villages I was surprised that now (2018) there are hotels, internet cafes, taco restaurants in these once relatively isolated villages…

Church and cemetery in Cuetzalan, Mexico

Cuetzalan: Lone woman walking through church cemetery.

Mexican Indian woman carrying flowers

Cuetzalan: Indian woman with calla lily flowers at Sunday market.

Indigenous Indian women at market in Mexican town

Cuetzalan: Indian woman carrying oranges in basket at Sunday market.

JNGX0095_market clay pots Mexico_72ppi_sharp_COPYRIGHT

Cuetzalan: Mestizo woman buying clay pot from Indian woman.

JNGX0110 Mexico agriculture coffee fruit_625px_SHARP_COPYR

Coffee, the main cash crop in the region..

Mexican boy spreading coffee beans

Cuetzalan: boy spreading coffee beans to dry in the sun.

Mexico. Puebla State. Sierra Norte de Puebla. Village: Caxhuaca. Drying coffee.

Caxuacan. Man spreading coffee beans to dry.

Mexico. Puebla State. Sierra de Puebla.

Mule train in Sierra Norte de Puebla.

Mexico Puebla Sierra de Puebla mule train on mountain trail.

Mule train on mountain trail, probably transporting dried coffee beans.

Mexico man riding horse

Leader of mule train, on horseback.

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Rio Zempoala between Jonotla and Caxhuacan.

Village, Puebla State, Mexico

Caxhuacan. Indian woman carrying water coming back from village well.

Ox-driven plough used by Indians in Mexico.

Indian men plowing field.

Mexico. Indian man planting on slope.

Indian man planting on slope, increasing the risk of erosion. Banana plants in foreground.


Men sowing maize with digging stick, Mexico

Men sowing maize using digging sticks.

Women walking, cobblestones, Mexican village.

Village: Ixtepec. Mestizo women walking on cobblestones.

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Dusk at Ixtepec.

Contact for quote   or   Purchase photograph online

Maps and Links:

Sierra Norte de Puebla       Wikipedia article.


From Wikipedia: Map By Yavidaxiu – Own work, Public Domain, Link    Relief map of Puebla: Mountain ranges in Puebla state. Includes the Sierra Madre Oriental and Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.

My itinerary:

mapa hibrido cuetzalan-ITINERARY-rio zempoala_SHARPRio Zempoala, which flows into rio Apulco, a tributary of rio Tecolutla (indentified as Tecolutla on map – all tributaries of rio Tecolutla are called Tecolutla on Google Maps).               Map from Google / MAPHILL (hybrid map).

Enciclopédia de los Municípios e Delegaciones de México:

Puebla State        Click on  Region II, Sierra Nororiental, then on Cuetzalan, Jonotla, Cahuacan and Ixtepec for inforantion on the respective municípios (or click on the 4 links below)

Cuetzalan link

Jonotla link

Caxhuacan link  “El municipio se localiza dentro de la cuenca del río Tecolutla y es bañado por varios ríos provenientes de la sierra Norte.”

Ixtepec link


Go to full screen on top right (there are 4 different maps – you can navigate from one to another).

Detailed Terrain Map of Cuetzalan Del Progreso

Hybrid map of Cuetzalan del Progresso by MAPHILL.


It was my first trip to South America. I had already spent some time in Central America (Costa Rica and Guatemala) so I had a reasonable knowledge of Spanish. I first went to Chile, where I had a friend. From Chile I flew to La Paz. After a few days getting used to the altitude, I spent a another few days on an island of Lake Titicaca. From there I took a ride to the East (I think it was a random choice, the first vehicle that came along) in the back of a truck, on top of various kinds of merchandise, together with Indians, on a narrow dirt road bordered by precipices. Once in a while the truck would stop, and an Indian sitting right behind the cabin gave his bottle of aguardiente to the driver, who said “Solo manejo bien quando estoy borracho.” (I only drive well when I am drunk). Afters hours in a freezing night we arrived in Ayata, (Departamento La Paz, Provincia Muñecas) where the local owner of a plantation – the strong man of the town – who had been traveling in the same truck, offered me his hospitality. It happened to be Corpus Christi festival days, during which the waka waka dance is performed. I guess my host informed me that there were other dances in a Quechua hamlet some distance from town. I went there, and had a lucky surprise: a few men, carrying large bombo drums and playing siku flutes (zampoñas, the generic name in Bolivia for pan flutes) where dancing around a small mount of maize. Doing a Google search I found that it corresponded to the sixth month of the Inca solar calendar (coincidentally or by religious syncretism the two celebrations – Corpus Christi and maize harvest were performed simultaneously, the first in town, the latter in a hamlet).

Text in italics below  Copyright © 2007-2009

“… the calendar Inca invented and used were close to our current calendar. They used an approximately 365 days solar calendar or days, though the months started in December. Then they had also a lunar calendar, which was a 328 days year.”

Two Calendars
…  Inca had two calendars. One was a solar calendar or day time calendar, and the other one was lunar calendar or night time calendar.”

Sixth Month
Present day calendar : May
Inca Lunar Month : Ayruhua
Inca solar month : Corn harvested
They enjoyed the celebration of corn harvested. Feast of Aymara was enjoyed with singing, drinking and dancing.”


Quecha Indian woman and baby in a hamlet of Ayata.


Hamlet of Ayata: house of Quechua Indians, with goats and sheep.


Quechua Indian man harvesting maize.


Maize harvest festival in a hamlet of Ayata, running parallel to the Corpus Christi celebrations in the town. Men playing siku (zampoña) flute and bombo drum.


Maize harvest festival in a hamlet of Ayata, running parallel to the Corpus Christi celebrations in the town. Men playing siku (zampoña) flute and bombo drum.

Music link of the “bombo sikuri”:
Sicuris de Ayata
en la casa del preste 2010   (YouTube – uploaded by therealrhino21 on Aug 2, 2010): an example of the sound of siku and bombo (drum), “commonly known as “bombo sikuri” (see link on membranophones below)


Quechua Indian playing the siku (zampona, panflute) flute at a festival in Ayata a village in the Andes, Bolivia, South America

Quechua Indians playing flute at village festival in the Andes in Bolivia.

Quechua Indians playing transverse flute at Ayata village festival in the Andes in Bolivia.

Quechua Indians playing flute at village festival in Ayata, Andes, Bolivia.

Quechua Indians playing transverse flute at village festival in Ayata, Andes, Bolivia.

 Flute: aerophone

The top photographs show men playing the siku (zampoña or panflute). The two photographs above are of  side-blown (or transverse flutes); more typical of the Andes region are end-blown flutes (quena), so I am including below a picture of quena players at the waka waka dance performed at the Corpus Christi festival held on the same day (I don’t have good pictures of it; there are several videos of the waka waka dance, of which there seems to be variations, and other dances in Ayata on YouTube).


South America, Bolivia. Corpus Christi festival in Ayata. Quena flute and bombo drum players accompanying the waka waka dance.Additional Links

Contact for quote  or Purchase photograph online

Additional links

LAND OF WINDS – Great blog on Andean music  © “Land of winds”, 2010.
Edited in Madrid (Spain) by Edgardo Civallero and Sara Plaza Moreno. ISSN 2173-8696

Andean instruments
Andean aerophones: History
 Andean aerophones: the siku  (zampoña) (1)
Andean aerophones: the siku  (zampoña) (2)
The Quena (Notched flute)
Andean membranophones



(Part 1: setting, house activities) During my 23 stay with the group, part of the time was spent with the whole group at their main house, and part traveling with a couple of families, staying at 7 different locations, including 3 permanent houses, one semi-permanent house and 3 temporary camps; 6 days were devoted to travel of a duration of between one and three hours walking time (roughly one-quarter traveling and three-quarters settled), the rest of the time being spent on subsistence or household activities including resting or leasure; food gathering and horticultural harvest  were the most frequent activities (in number of days the activity was performed), followed by hunting, fishing and travel; horticultural products were most often consumed (21 days: several kind of bananas, especially plantains, were the staple food and were eaten everyday; sweet potatoes were abundant during the last five days while we stayed at two smaller houses next to which were mixed gardens) followed by collecting products (fruit and honey – 18 days) and meat (7 days); fish was an occasional small supplement. **********


Slash-and-burn agriculture as practiced by low-density native populations is not harmful to the environment, provided enough time is given for the forest to grow again (estimated at about 15 years). Is is even considered beneficial, as discarded (or purposely planted) seed of useful species grow to mix into the rejuvenated forest. Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsA slash-and-burn garden showing remains of burned wood, maize and Xanthosoma sp. The nutrients in the ashes serve as fertilizer.

Left:  Woman harvesting manioc.     Right:  Woman and daughter harvesting sweet  potatoes.


Click on image to enlarge.


Click on image to enlarge.

Girl picking cotton in slash-and-burn garden. JNGX0356_lighter-106-aug-3_curv-contr_yellows-hue-minus-5_sat13_lightness8lev-red112-bl096_625px

Return from the slash-and-burn garden with cotton, sweet potatoes and firewood.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsMen harvesting bananas from a stand of possibly feral bananas, of various varieties, growing together with the similar-looking false banana, Phenakospermum sp.; one of them is making a palm leaf basket to carry them.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsMan harvesting tobacco leaves. The leaves are dried, crushed and mixed with ashes. Water is added to make a paste; this paste is placed under the lower lip (I tried it, and I became immediately dizzy; but I don´t smoke, so my brain is not used to nicotine).

Native cultivars show a rich biodiversity. Below are some samples of corn cultivated by the Hoti; each one had its specific texture and taste. Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands


Subsistence activities, be it slash-and burn agriculture, hunting or collecting, involve traveling as each group may have more than one house and dispersed slash-and-burn gardens, and the group may have to move in the forest where a species of fruit is ripe, or where animals like peccaries are known to be at a particular time of the year. JNGX0365_sat4_sharp-03-150_625px_COPYRIGHT_bl-pt-12_FLAT-LAST_lev-minus satMan building camp, tying saplings with vines.

Camp in forest,  covered with the banana-like leaves of Phenakospermum sp. JNGX0793_sat-7_FADE MEDIAN_shar-03-150_625px_COPYR_MOVE MAN_yellow-hue-plus9_darken right-corner


Although of irregular yield, hunting was the most important source of animal protein. It is often a day long activity. During my stay with the Hoti the animals killed were: two young peccaries, one small caiman, two anteaters (one adult and one young), one trumpeter (Psophia crepitans) and one agouti.

JNGX0795_Aug-14_SHARP-02-254_625px_COPYR_lev-bl-106_LAST_FLAT3_YOUNG MAN LIGHTER_FADE MEDIAN-6_8bitYoung hunter with spear

The men had left early one morning. I wasn´t ready to follow them, so I went to the forest on my own photograph nature. I was busy taking photographs of a red passion flower when this man, who was the informal leader of the group  and who had become my guide, came to get me. JNGX0796_RED096_625px_sharp-02-254_COPYRIGHT_8ibit_CLEANED_NEW_LAYER3We walked some distance until we reached two dead anteaters, killed with spears. He pointed to my camera and to the dead anteaters, making me understand that I should take pictures of them. He had never seen photographs before, but he understood that I was making a record of their activities. I also was happy to have a proof that I had been accepted by the group. I figured that, summing the time between the place where the two anteaters laid and the house, then the house and, following my tracks, the place where I was taking pictures, then the time back to the anteaters, he must have spent about 40 minutes (maybe a little less as he may have walked fast).   JNGX0561_BLUE-104_sharp03-150_625px_COPYR_blue087_RGB-5_sat-18_range11Elder cutting up meat of anteater ; the meat will be shared between members of the group.

JNGX0797_aug-14_sharp-02-266_625px_COPYR_8bit_curves-54-194_lev-114_chrom-aberrMan hunting with blowgun, with bamboo quiver under his arm. Darts are poisoned by curare traded from the Eñepa (Panare). He is looking up at a bird in the canopy.

Food gathering / collecting

Food gathering was also important, although not quite as important as horticulture. It takes more time and demands more work, first in locating useful products (wild fruits and honey), then in collecting them. Often a tree had to be felled; picking thousands of olive-sized lute fruit from felled trees was a time-consuming process. JNGX0802_sharp-02-279_625px_COPYR_LAST_FLATMan cutting tree on scaffolding, to save work cutting the tree higher, where the trunk is narrower, for collecting wild fruit or honey. The gap left by the fall of the tree is small enough for the forest to recover quickly; in case of fruit, some fruit will have been left on the ground allowing for the same species to regenerate.

Collecting honey from hole carved in felled tree to reach beehive. A hole is carved in the felled trunk; the honey is squeezed in a calabash, and the other parts of the beehive, including wax, are wrapped in a leaf of a plant of the Marantaceae family.


Click on image to enlarge.

These small bees were not stinging, but very annoying because they stuck in the hair. Eating honey was always a feast! Some would be taken to the house, and diluted in water to make a beverage.


Click on image to enlarge.

Venezuela, Guiana HIghlands, Hoti (Hodi) Indians.Young man collecting fruit of  Dacryodes sp. (Burseraceae) from felled tree.                         Olive-sized forest fruit Dacryodes sp. (Burseraceae). They are eaten after light cooking. JNGX0360_Aug-16_625px_FLAT_lev_sharp_COPYRIGHT_NikonScan327

Contact or Purchase photographs online


(part 2 : subsistence activities: slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting and collecting of wild fruit and honey)

In the early seventies I photographed two Indian tribes in the Guiana Highlands of Venezuela.  One, the Hoti (Hodi) were isolated until the sixties, some groups remaining isolated today. Their language was unknown at the time. The other one, the Eñepa (Panare), who speak a language of the Carib family, have a long history of contact with the Venezuelan Criollo population, but their culture is very resilient and they have kept most of their traditional mode of living, adding to it metal tools and other western artifacts. They divide their subsistence activities between the rainforest and the savanna. These two tribes are in contact with each other and trade items, mostly bamboo for making blowguns from the Hoti, and metal tools and curare from the Eñepa.

The pictures are from  1970 and 1971 expeditions to the north of the Hoti country, mostly from one group near Rio Kayama, a tributary of the Cuchivero River; and from a 1973 trip (with a third participant besides my guide and me) starting from caño Majagua at the south of the Hoti area, visiting several groups, going through the Caño Mosquito (a tributary of the Rio Parucito) watershed, and reaching the center of the Hoti area, at the foot of the Maigualida Mountains near the headwaters of the Cuchivero (map of Hoti territory in Egleé L. Zent, Joti ecogony, Venezuelan Amazon, 2013; the exact location of groups may have changed due both to their mobility and to the presence of two missions, a Catholic one at rio Kayama and a Protestant one at caño Iguana).


To the Hoti, who were probably not understanding exactly what I was doing, but who received me warmly, and to the Panare guides who took me there; to anthropologists Roberto Lizarralde and Robert Carneiro, who always saw my project with enthusiasm and gave me their unconditional encouragement, and to Walter Coppens who draw my attention to the existence of this tribe. Also to the many anonymous Criollos and semi-acculturated Indians who helped me during various stages of the trips. Two anthropologists, Egleé and Stanford Zent,  were not involved at the time, but they started studying the Hoti 20 years after my first visit, and are still doing so. They invited me to publish a manuscript written 40 years ago; my next project is to slightly edit it and place it in their hands.


When I visited Venezuela for the first time in 1969, anthropologist Walter Coppens mentioned a tribe, the Chicanos, who had not been contacted. The next year, in 1970, I hired a Panare (Eñepa) Indian guide, Domingo, “capitan” of Manteco settlement near La Candelaria in Bolivar State, who said he could be take me to the Chicanos. It was 7 days of trekking with a heavy load up and down the hilly rainforest, the last days with blistered feet. I had no map, there were no GPS in those days; with a compass and my clock, I noted every change in direction and its duration, estimating a speed of 3 km/h in this rugged terrain. Later comparing comparing my notes with a map and a side-looking radar photograph I was able to determine the location we had reached: the Kayama river, a tributary of the Cuchivero. Finally we reached the camp of the most remote Panare group, the only Indians that were in contact with the “Chicanos”. One day Domingo told me that he had guided archaeologist José Maria Cruxent 10 years earlier and that they had a brief contact with a group of Chicanos. We stayed a few days at the Panare camp headed by “capitan” Augusto. On my first day there a small group of Chicanos appeared (maybe called by the Panare?) and set camp next to the Panare’s. Later linguistic similarity demonstrated that they were the same ethnic group that had been contacted about 200 km to the south by Protestant missionaries. I was with then only for 2 or 3 days, then 7 hard days of trekking back, still with blistered feet. At times the pain made me cry.

The following year, 1971, I decided to go by helicopter from the Guaniamo diamond mine to a savanna near the camp of Augusto. I was this time with Domingo´s 2 sons, who had never been there, but Indians can always find their way in the forest. First I went to La Candelaria,, the last criollo village that could be reached by road, a few km from Domingo´s settlement. Planes going from Ciudad Bolívar to the Guaniamo diamond mines flew over La Candelaria, which had a dirt airstrip. You extended a blanket at the head of the strip, signalling pilots that there was a passenger waiting. On the way back they would land and pick you up. At the mine I chartered a helicopter, which left us in a savanna close to where Augusto’ s group should be. We made arrangements for the helicopter to come back after a month; however payment depended of my agent sending money from New York to a French photographer, Henry Corradini, who lived in Ciudad Bolivar. Corradini spent a few days with me at the Panare camp and did a short visit to the Hoti, previous to my 23 days alone with them. My 2 guides then left me and went looking for their relatives; 2 days later they came back, bringing with them Augusto´s group which set up camp in the forest close to the savanna. Augusto made arrangements for 2 men to take me to the “Chicano” group. After hiking a certain distance, they suddenly lost sight of the trail and said we couldn´t continue. I “bribed” then with a machete, and suddenly they found the trail again… We finally arrived at a Hoti temporary camp, where the Panare left me. The Hoti stayed there a couple of days, then traveled to what turned to be their main house.

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1971: Heating instant coffee with sugar for breakfast, sitting in my hammock in front of the main house of the group. Like the Hoti, I lit a fire next to my hammock at night to ward off the cold. I had to wake up once in a while to put more firewood and re-activate the fire


Hiti (Hodi) Indiand in Guiana Highlands of Venezuela.

1971 – Couple traveling in forest.

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1973 – House and slash-and-burn garden with maize at foot of Sierra de Maigualida mountain range. The bamboo uses to make the internal tube of the blowgun grows in these mountains, at an altitude of 1600 – 1800 m.


1970. Hoti maternity: mother and baby resting in camp soon after arriving at Panare camp just after my arrival.


Aerial view of Sierra de Maigualida.

The Hoti (Hodi)  live in the rainforest at the base of the  Maigualida Mountains, a lone granite mountain range among the sedimentary tepuys (table mountains) of the Guiana Highlands  in Venezuela. Showing a short vocabulary collected during my first trip to Robert Carneiro and Janet Chernela at the American Museum of Natural History, we found some similarities with Piaroa of the Saliva family. Indeed it was confirmed later that their language belongs to the Saliva family (recently Marcelo Jolkesky has re-classified them in the  Macro-Daha family, amplifying the Saliva family). The Hoti are semi-nomadic, their subsistence consisting of products of slash-and-burn gardens, of hunting and gathering. They live in small bands averaging about 15 individuals each. Each band may have 2 or 3 “permanent” houses, and several temporary camps scattered in the forest. The Hoti subsistence is based on slash-and-burn horticulture (main crops: plantain bananas, maize, sweet potatoes, tobacco); hunting (spear for big game such as peccary and tapir, blowgun for monkeys and birds); and collecting of forest products such as wild fruits (many from palm trees) and honey. They move frequently from one location to another, apparently according to the local availability  of a mature crop (they have gardens at several locations),  of ripe wild fruit or of game. They trade the bamboo from which the inner tube of the blowgun is made to the Panare (Eñepa), their northern Carib neighbors, in exchange for metal tools and curare.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands

1973. Hoti man a inspecting a stand of bamboo (Arthrostylidium cf. schomburgkii) from which the internal tube of the blowgun is made, Sierra da Maigualida near headwaters of Cuchivero River, cloud forest, altitude about 1650 m.

Hoti social organization, religious beliefs etc has been studied by anthropologists Robert Storrie (social organization and cosmology) and Stanford and Egleé Zent (ecological relationship with the forest, cosmology and much more, including helping them with the demarcation of their land).

Below is the main house of my hosts and guides, where I stayed for 13 days out of 23 days in 1971. From my hammock I could hear playing the flute inside the house, as people were relaxing.  As I was resting in my hammock, with my camera ready on my side the couple came back from collecting in the forest.

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Couple returning to palm thatch house after collecting in the forest.

As I was staying with the Hoti, they would give me the same food they were eating, bringing often copious servings to my hammock outside their house. I included bananas, both sweet and plantain, the latter either roasted on embers or served as a gruel; maize of several varieties, often roasted on embers; lute fruit (Dacryodes sp. of the Burseraceae family – Zent & Zent pp. 87 – 88) wich was abundant at this time of the year (1971 trip). Lute fruit are olive-sized, they are lightly cooked before eating or made into a kind of soup. I was abundant at the time of my visit and I ate it almost every day; the fruit of several palms. Meat is eaten communally; when there was meat they invited me inside the house. I kept track of everything I ate, and of all their activities, which I timed as accurately as was possible. I had to keep my belongings ready all the time, as I would sometimes suddenly see them, in their semi-nomadic way, leaving with packed carrying baskets, moving to a camp or to another house without warning. I needed to be ready to follow them. Displacements were usually short, about 2 hours, the rest of the time being spent is subsistence activities. I was the almost daily routine at the end of my stay after the 13 days at the house until they took me back to the Panare.

Same woman as above, preparing food (sweet potatoes), with pet monkey


1971: Woman preparing sweet potatoes. She typically wears collars made of Job´s tears seed and palm seed crossed on the chest. Pet monkey is watching.


1971. Making palm leaf baskets.

Making baskets for collecting or harvesting, using immature palm leaves.

On a few occasions I noticed that a girl from this group, about 10, was apparently sick. The first time, her mother washed her with vine water (see also below, photograph of baby treated with vine water). Days later she was in her hammock, sick with fever and sometimes vomiting. Her father applied his hand on her then blew, keeping his hand on her head.  It lasted more than a week. Despite her being sick, after the first 13 days we left the main house and the group traveled to shelters and smaller permanent houses. On the way to one of the shelters, the father had to carry his sick daughter on his back. An old woman was also seen shivering a couple of times. Once I gave the girl´s father a chloroquine tablet, the malaria preventive used at the time, which I was using. He gave her half the tablet, then he chewed the other half and rubbed the resulting mixture on her body (I gave her later a full tablet). Despite her sickness was seen harvesting sweet potatoes with her mother in a slash-and-burn garden close to the house. (According to Zent & Zent, vomiting can be induced to expel undesirable agents: Ser y volverse Jodï: … p. 209 ; I don´t know if the vomiting I saw was natural or induced).

(Back in New York, a few months later, as I had stopped taking chloroquine, I got sick with high fever and vomiting. I had malaria previously in Africa, but the symptoms were very different, so I did not immediately think of malaria. I was hospitalized, all kinds of tests were made, with no results. The doctors were puzzled, until I suggested to test for malaria. The results were positive, so given the right medicine I recovered in a few days. Then came the worst of it all: a New York hospital bill!)

Two other groups lived relatively close to the main house of y hosts, no more than an hour´s walk, forming a “neighborhood”.

South America, Venezuela, Guiana Highlands. Hoti Indians.


At one of them I had a hint at shamanism, when my hosts visited the house of this old woman, about an hour to the south. She wore the typical collars crossed over the chest, but  much more ornamented than most people, with what looked like amulets or perhaps containers of magical material. Both my hosts went into the house with the old woman, and with members of the third group, also present, asking me to stay outside; the old woman gave me food to eat while waiting. I suppose must have dealt with transactions with the supernatural. On a couple of other occasions I was asked to stay away while my host was talking to her.

(it was confirmed in an email by Egleé Zent, who studied the Hoti for the last 20 year with her husband Stanford: “As far as the woman definitely she is a jkajo jau! a little one, a visionary, a wisdom woman, a shaman… no doubt to me! some old women were supposed to be strongest or stronger than the men.”

South America, Venezuela, Guiana Highlands. Hoti Indians.


Here she is seen in informal conversation, probably without any ritual significance.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands




















A man from this group was probably also a shaman, as my host asked me to stay away while talking to him.

Both Robert Storrie and Stanford and Egleé Zent documented Hoti shamanism.


1971. Man making fire with fire drill.
















Arrival at camp: man making fire with fire drill…


… and girl fetching water in calabashes near her house.
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1973 – Girl returning from fetching water at stream. (click to enlarge)

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1973 – Girl going to fetch water. (click to enlarge)

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1973. Girl carrying baby going to palm thatch house, caño Mosquito region.













1973. House with girl carrying baby, Caño Mosquito region, on the way to the Hoti heartland.












Group of Hoti Indians, Caño Mosquito region. While staying briefly with this group on our way toward the headwaters of Rio Cuchivero, we had a demonstration on how carefully the Hoti manage their resources, taking only what they need. Our guide, a semi-acculturated Piaroa, had a shotgun. One day he went hunting with one of the 4 men. He killed 7 peccaries to take the tusks to make collars to sell to tourists, letting the dead animals rot in the forest.  In the evening the leader of the group (man at left on the photograph) made me understand (I don´t remember how!) that he was not happy about it.

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1973. Group of Hoti Indians from caño Mosquito region.

Thereafter a woman and children became sick; I was made to understand that the cause was the killing of the peccaries with the shotgun. The older man rubbed his hands on the barrel, then rubbed his hands on his belly, seemingly to transmit to himself the force of the shotgun.

South America, Venezuela, Guiana Highlands. Hoti Indians.

1973. Man dripping vine water on head of sick baby, caño Mosquito region.

Curing: he blew the water of a water vine on the head of a sick baby.

I made sure to tell the guide not to kill animals that are not for eating anymore. Management of resources is well documented in Zent & Zent, various articles.










Young man processing bamboo stems to make blowgun.

South America, Venezuela, Guiana Highlands. Hoti Indians.

1973 – Young man from house at foot of Maigualida Mountains near Cuchivero headwaters where bamboo grows, drying or straightening a bamboo stem with fire. These bamboos form the internal tube of the blowgun; the external tube is made of stronger palm wood to give it rigidity

Children playing with annatto seed (which children don’t like to make a mess with colors?). They must be in their early to mid-forties now. What is their life as adults?


1973: Children playing with annatto (onoto in Venezuela) (Bixa orellana) seed, which are used for body painting.

Did they go to the catholic mission school (which did not exist during my visit) and learned to read, write and speak Spanish? Or did they decide to stay in the forest, living the traditional semi-nomadic life,  going only occasionally to the mission to get such things as metal tools? Or have they been contacted by illegal miners and do cheap labor for them in exchange for manufactured goods? Or, perhaps, they were taught to use a GPS to identify their traditional land and help with the demarcation of their territory (unfortunately this demarcation is being delayed by a cultural conceptual difference of the relationship between man and land and by an ever-increasing bureaucracy: Zent, Zent & Molo, IWGIA 1911; Bello, IWGIA 2013).


After 23 days the Eñepa (Panare) came to get me and left me in the savanna to wait for the helicopter. They left, leaving me alone, waiting for the helicopter, if it ever came as it has not been paid for yet. I had observed how the Hoti build their temporary shelters; so I cut some saplings, tied them with vine and covered the frame with false banana (Phenakospermum sp.) leaves. It wasn´t very pretty, but I had a place to hang my hammock. The next days were spent cutting small trees in the savanna to make a heliport. I also gathered dry wood to make a fire to signal my presence to the helicopter. On the day it was supposed to come I cut some branches with green leaves to throw on the fire to make smoke. Than I waited anxiously… Suddenly a black point appeared at the horizon. He was coming! I threw the leaves on the fire, and soon the helicopter was there. He told me he had seen the cleared area before the smoke came up. So we went back to the Guaniamo mine. He told me the money had not arrived from New York, but Corradini had paid for the flight. Merci Henry!

Purchase photographs:  Photo gallery: Hoti (Hodi) Indians of the Guiana Highlands of Venezuela

Photo Gallery: Geography, geomorphology: Sierra de Maigualida, Tepuys

Contact and purchase images



Egleé and Stanford Zent studied the Hodi: list of their publications at  (ecological relationship with the forest)

Among their many publications I selected:

Treading & threading memories: a personal encounter with forest and people in Southern Venezuela,  by Stanford & Eglee Zent.  A vivid personal account of first contacts with Hoti groups.

Amazonian Indians as Ecological Disturbance Agents: The Hotï of the Sierra de Maigualida, Venezuelan Guayana by Egleé López-Zent and Stanford Zent .

Jotï ecogony, Venezuelan Amazon , by Egleé Zent, (pdf download also from list above) (abstract) which shows how the Hoti interact with the environment, both at the material and immaterial levels.(published in Environmental Research Letters).

Jodï horticultural belief, knowledge and practice: incipient or integral cultivation? (pdf download) Crença, conhecimento e prática horticultural Jodï: cultivo incipiente ou integral? Stanford Zent, Egleé Zent  Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas. Caracas, Venezuela   Abstract

Ser y volverse Jodï: la construcción del ser, el cuerpo y la persona a través de las prácticas curativas  p. 191, in PERSPECTIVAS EN SALUD INDÍGENA –  COSMOVISIÓN, ENFERMEDAD Y POLÍTICAS PÚBLICAS, Germán Freire, Editor, Grupo de Estudod Antropológicos, Universidade Politécnica Salesiana

LOS JODÏ ( Hotï ) by Egleé L. Zent y Stanford Zent in Salud Indígena en Venezuela, vol 1, p.77 –

Being Human: personhood, cosmology and subsistence for the Hoti of Venezuea Guiana, by Robert Douglas Storrie.                                   PhD thesis, University of Manchester, 1999

The Politics of Shamanism and the Limits of Fear by Robert Storrie (pdf)

Language link:

Macro-Daha: reconstrução de um tronco lingüístico do noroeste amazônico, by Marcelo Jolkesky (UNICAMP). ROSAE – I Congresso Internacional de Lingüística Histórica, 2009

Salivan Language Family: State of Documentation and Brief Typological Sketch, by Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada – The University of Western Ontario

The Hoti – Now and future

Políticas Públicas y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas en Venezuela (1999-2010)
Luis Jesús Bello (editor)       IWGIA  1911                                          (pdf download)

STANFORd ZENT, EGLEÉ L. ZENT y LUCAS JUAE MOLO: Un largo y sinuoso camino:            breve historia de la autodemarcación territorial Jodï en su décimo aniversario ……….97

IWGIA – IPES – 2013 (various authors)                                             (pdf domnload)
VENEZUELA               INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN RELATIVE ISOLATION                                                                                                                                                            By Luis Jesús Bello………………………………………………………….. 130
Location of isolated indigenous people………………………………131
History of contact with isolated indigenous people……………. 135
The current situation facing Proposals to protect indigenous people in ‘relative isolation’…………………………… 144
Policies to protect the lives of indigenous people in ‘relative isolation’……… 153

Sierra de Maigualida:

Botanical novelties from Sierra de Maigualida, southern Venezuela. I by Shingo Nozawa, José R. Grande  & Otto Huber. Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid Vol. 67(2): 195-202 julio-diciembre 2010:                                                                               (pdf download)

“The almost unexplored Sierra de Maigualida is the largest and highest non sedimentary, granitic mountain system in the Guayana Shield.”

“In contrast to the famous sandstone table mountains (“tepuis”) sparsed over the territory of the northern Guayana Shield such as Mt. Roraima, Mt. Duida or Cerro de la Neblina, the Sierra de Maigualida is a mountain system made up of igneous-metamorphic rocks”


THE PANARE –  Tradition and Change on the Amazonian Frontier, by Paul Henley. Yale University Pres, 1982.                                                                                                 (BOOK)

Yoroko: A Panare shaman’s confidences by Marie-Claude Mattei Muller (1992)   (BOOK)