Arabela. It is one of the few indigenous peoples in Peru , whose language belongs to the Záparo linguistic family , whose language has survived in the country.

The name of this town comes from the area where they came into contact with Augustinian missionaries, the Arabela River , a tributary of the Napo River . Another name for this town is tapueyocuaca, a word that means ‘family, brothers’. Although a small group of people speak the language of this town, many inhabitants of the Arab communities communicate in Spanish and in a variety of Kichwa or Amazonian Quechua .


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  • 1 Location
  • 2 History
  • 3 Features
    • 1 Political and economic institutions
    • 2 Ancestral beliefs and practices
  • 4 Sources


They remained in relative voluntary isolation until the 1940s . Currently, this people lives mainly in communities located in the department of Loreto , near the Arabela River . According to data obtained by the Ministry of Culture, the population of the village communities is estimated at 403 people.


In the middle of the 17th century , the missionaries advanced along the Marañón River , reaching the mouth of the Curaray River , probably the former territory of the Arabs. Although at this time no affected places or towns are specified, in 1667 the loss of 3,400 indigenous people due to rebellions was reported.

In the 18th century , numerous indigenous rebellions against the evangelizing missionaries were reported. According to Waldemar Espinoza , in 1749 one of the last indigenous rebellions was reported in the Maynas region , after this and the expulsion of the Jesuits from the viceroyalty of Peru, the region where the Arabs were located would remain quiet.

At the beginning of the 20th century , when the Augustinian priestly order expressly expressed its desire to establish missions on the Napo , Putumayo and Curaray rivers, it was when there were again references to indigenous peoples whose language belongs to the Záparo linguistic family in this geographical area.

The exploitation of rubber was another process that pushed the entry and penetration of this area that had remained isolated. At the beginning of the 20th century, with the expansion and interest in rubber, Ecuadorian merchants entered through the Napo River, establishing rubber towns or rubber estates, which would become riverside communities located on the Napo and Curaray rivers . In this context, some indigenous peoples were forcibly recruited and others were kidnapped from their lands and taken to live with other peoples, some of them rivals.

The region currently occupied by Arabelas was populated by Zaparos , oas , gays and shimigayes , people disappeared by the violence of the era of rubber and disease.

They maintained a nomadic life, mobilizing in the area of ​​the upper Curaray river until approximately the 1940s, when they established contact with Augustinian missionaries. In 1945 the first recorded contact occurred, with the appearance of a group of 27 indigenous people who came out of the Arabela river basin, from which they took their name. It is probable that the arabela are a descendant group of the ancient oas or gayes .

The missionary activity along the Napo River started by Avencio Villarejo, was continued by Father Ismael Barrios , who was the first to get in touch with the so-called arabelas (DAIMI-Peru 2008). Until 1959 they lived under the rule of a landlord from Napo on the Arabela River, in a place called Vaca Cocha (INEI 2007). As a result of contact with groups of mestizos, the Arabela began to learn Amazonian Quechua or Kichwa .

In 1964 , with the help of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, the first Arabic school was created in the Buena Vista Viejo community.


Political and economic institutions

Although formerly in the Arab settlements the pattern of extended families that inhabited a large house prevailed, Chirif and Mora (1977) have argued that the basic social unit of the Arabs is the nuclear family, consisting of two generations. Traditionally, the arabela lived in malocas , houses where several families lived, linked by blood type or affinity, the interior space being divided by each head of the family. This pattern would have been maintained during the time that the Arabs were in isolation. After contact with other companies, the group would have been changing these practices by adopting a model of construction of family homes, in force today.

According to the traditional sexual division of labor, Arab men are engaged in certain activities such as hunting, fishing, preparing the land for the farm, building houses, making canoes, among others. The Arab women, on the other hand, have as their main activities harvesting, grinding corn , cooking, spinning chambira , and pottery. Formerly they produced dresses based on tree bark (Ribeiro and Wise 1978). When it comes to major jobs such as cleaning the farm or building a house, the owner organizes a minga and invites members of the community to work together.

In recent decades, the raising of birds and small animals has become widespread in families. The arabela use surplus cassava, corn, banana and some fruit trees for commercialization.

Ancestral beliefs and practices

Traditionally, arabela men wore crowns made of long macaw feathers , glued in a semicircle with beeswax. On their arms they wore woven bracelets and also belts adorned with colored feather tassels, which went to the elbows and knees. In addition, they wore body ornaments on their noses and ears, and painted their bodies. For their part, women wore tubular dresses made of bark, the fabric was painted with hexagonal designs.

There is a cultural change in some of the practices of the arabela, an example of this is the traditional drink. Formerly a drink made from cassava and ungurahui called “sacamanacu” was made , this was gradually replaced by masato , a traditional drink of a large part of Amazonian indigenous peoples.


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