Remember the Rainforest 1
whereupon the priest urged us to return the weapons at once. These people had recently built huts for the cacao crop in the fields surrounding them.
Theobroma cacau, the cocoa tree
There was once the village, which was later transferred to Serpa, and the planting, then made, had become very productive here. From each tree hung six to eight fruits.
The Mundurucus; like the others I had come to see, were tall (many were five and a half feet), broad-shouldered, strong-waisted, extremely muscular, often quite light-colored, light black hair cut short on the forehead, and the whole body tattooed with fine lines. The minute scars, with which the painful embellishments are made, are applied from the head to the feet (1).
The Mundurucus, with these disfigurements, probably want to make their appearance warlike and frightening, for war is a pleasant occupation for them, even more so than for most tribes; everything from the beginning seems calculated for them to assert themselves in the war: on the poles some mummified skulls, from enemies, were stuck, and many skeletons of jaguars, coatis, and pigs were displayed around the huts, farther inland, and in the bush, etc.
At present, the Mundurucus could be regarded as the Spartans among the wild tribes of the north of Brazil, as are the Guaicurus to the south,
and were zealous for their own supremacy among their allies, of whom the Maues are the most powerful.
The tribe is estimated at 18,000, even up to 40,000 individuals, living on the Tapajos River, east and west of it, partly in the fields;
and they persecute diverse tribes, such as the Jumas,
and Araras (who inhabit the springs of the rivers Maues, Canoma and Madeira), with such inexorable fury, that the first
(I) The Mundurucus tattoo the whole face or paint in the middle of the face an elliptical mesh, from which depart innumerable parallel lines on the chin, lower jaw and neck descending to the chest. From the middle of one line to the other, are two or three lines, half a inch apart, running down the chest, and below them at the end of the breast are perfect rhomboidal drawings, now full or sometimes empty. The rest of the trunk is scratched with parallel lines forming a net. The backs are also tattooed, but not so much, and at the end there repeats the series of lines, with or without rhomboids.
Each one makes variations according to their taste. In women, it is rare to see the whole face blackened; the mesh that they decorate with feathers has figures of the crescent moon pointed upwards. They do not pierce the ears lobes, but pierce above, in the first groove, and there they use tassels of tupe. In their free lives they walk naked; it is only the men who wear the cotton suspender (*). I saw naked women, even at the mission, who must wear an apron to enter the church. On the other hand, it is these Indians, besides the Mauhes, who are the most perfect artists in the use of feathers.
Their scepter, hat, cap, long garlands, and tassels which they use as a headdress, and aprons of ostrich feathers and other birds, which cover the kidneys, rival the most delicate works of this kind, made in the cloisters of nuns from Portugal, Bahia and Madeira. The Ethnographic Museum of Munich has a large number of these objects, which we were able to acquire here. The feathers are selected with the utmost care by the Mundurucus, and then tied or waxed together for this purpose; they keep alive many parrots and especially mutums.
They have also assured me that they have the custom of ripping feathers from the parrots and sprinkling their wounds with frogs’ blood until the new feathers, particularly from green to yellow, change color.