Destinations Central & South America

World Cup Tourism Proves to Be a Boon for Traditional Amazon Tribes

Jun 28, 2014 11:00 am

Skift Take

The total impact of the World Cup on Brazil’s infrastructure and community can’t be totaled until some time after the games end, but this tribe’s experience highlights the best possible outcome of the games for locals.

— Samantha Shankman

Free Report: The State of Student Travel

Andres Stapff  / Reuters

Tourists visit a traditional Amazon tribe outpost. Andres Stapff / Reuters


The sound of a boat chugging up the Amazon means only one thing for the indigenous Tatuyo tribe these days, another welcome group of free-spending tourists.

The number of visitors to the small reserve where tribe members live has soared since the World Cup started, bringing in the money needed to maintain the traditional way of living.

The Tatuyo live in the jungle a 40-minute boat ride from Manaus, the main city in the central Amazon.

Usually they host between 10 and 30 tourists a day. This number has rocketed to 250 since the tournament started, said Pino, the Tatuyo chief.

“During the World Cup our work situation has improved, the visits, the tourism, crafts… tourists from all over the world are visiting, a lot are being sent to us, so I am grateful,” Pino told Reuters television.

Outsiders get a glimpse of life for the five families that live on the reserve and fish in the Amazon, grow manioc, banana, sugar cane and potatoes and hunt wild pigs and deer and also raise chickens.

Visitors sit inside a traditional wood and straw hut and are treated to a 20-minute performance by dancers wearing red face paint and feather headdresses.

The performance, which includes music played on wooden flutes and drums, is based on a ritual that usually last 24 hours.

After the show, the tourists can dance with the performers outside and are invited to buy craft products such as earrings made of feathers and straw bracelets.

Maintaining Traditions

The Kern family from Louisiana came to Manaus for the U.S. team’s game against Portugal.

“I think that in some ways it can be a bit sad that they have to rely on outsiders,” said Britlyn Kern.

“But at the same time in such a globalized, modernized world it’s very interesting the way people have adapted to the kind of changes that go on around them and that they see welcoming an outsider as a way to maintain their traditions.”

Pino’s brother Wapi is candid about the importance of people like the Kerns.

“Without tourists I wouldn’t be able to survive, because I couldn’t leave to climb the trees to harvest (fruit),” he said.

Pino likes the soccer but says the number of visitors is such that he cannot watch all the games on the tribe’s television, which is powered by a gasoline generator.

He is critical of the Brazilian government, saying the billions invested for the World Cup could have helped build much needed health clinics and schools.

He also wants authorities to provide clean water and electricity. Tribe members now have to fetch water from a nearby tributary of the Amazon.

Pino uses the generator to power the cell phone needed to coordinate tourist visits.

Other less-well organized tribes are not having as much success. An hour up river are the Satere-Mawe, who live on a reserve that is hard to find.

“The government promised us many things before the World Cup but we haven’t seen a single tourist yet,” lamented Dona Baku, the village chief.

Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Ken Ferris.

Copyright (2014) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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