Wonderland, the strange inhabitants of Delta Amacuro - PhMuseum

Wonderland, the strange inhabitants of Delta Amacuro

Alvaro Laiz

2012 - 2013

The Delta of Amacuro, eastern Venezuela, is one of the most inhospitable places in the world.

For the past 7.000 years ago Warao indians have turned its 20.000 km² of water canals and swamps into their home.

The Warao, as it happens in other ethnic groupes, considers certain people are not man neither woman. They call them Tida Wena. Historically, Tida Wena have been well integrated into the life of their tribes, and have often held revered and honored positions within them, but things have changed during the last 50 years.

The Warao tribes are extremely sensitive to the outdoor influence. There are a fundamental fact that is strongly complicating their survival: a few independent investigations indicate that a range in between 40% and 80% of the Warao tribe are infected with HIV. On the other side, the high levels of infantile mortality are extreme. One out of two newly born does not reach the age of three.

The unrestrained progress, the lack of a united educational and reproductive sexual responsability plus the peculiarities of their cosmology, where illness representates the evil spirits, contributes to the creation of a potencially fatal scenario to the Warao tribe and the dissappearance of those old traditions and knowledge represented by the existance of transgender people among the warao society.

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  • Arsenio Beria a 38 years old tidawena, drying his hair after a long swim in the river after sunset. Some tidawena are also a practitioner of diosoarotu – the owner of God – a novel form of shamanism which assimilated several missionary practices.

  • Arsenio Beria a 38 years old tidawena, drying his hair after a long swim in the river after sunset. Some tidawena are also a practitioner of diosoarotu – the owner of God – a novel form of shamanism which assimilated several missionary practices.

  • Sanse, a 16 years old tida wena washes by the edge of the river. Sexual intercourses are often held far away from the villages, usually near of the conuco, as palafites, where the whole family lives doesn´t offer enough intimacy.

  • Illness like HIV and TB have increased dramatically during the last years. Despite venezuelan government refuses to inform about the situation, independent NGO´s estimate that between 40 and 80% of warao population is infected with HIV.

  • The levels of infantile mortality are extreme. One out of two newly born does not reach the age of three. Warao childs are not given a name untill they are, at leaast, five years old. A young mother holds his 3 months years old severily ill.

  • After sunset a warao woman lights up the fire inside her hanoko. The women and tida wena are suposed to take care of their home, harvest and weave the moriche palm into hammocks or "chinchorros".

  • Although the mouth of the Orinoco in the Atlantic Ocean was discovered by Columbus in 1498 the swamp forests of the Orinoco Delta have remained unexplored for centuries. Much of this region is still intact due to its inaccessibility, however oil exploration and extraction projects have encroached into these once pristine forest.

  • Andres Medina, a young indian transgender, as many other like him, has adopted woman role among the community and helps his family with the okumo chino harvest in the middle of the swamp´s jungles.

  • Andres, 39 years old Tida Wena in a traditional warao dress beside his home. Ironically the origin of this dresses is owing to capuchin monks who designed and spread them among the indians who were used to be half-naked.

  • Girls playing volleyball at Murako village´s court. The court was built by the bolivarian government of Venezuela in 2003. Orinoco Delta has become an important source of votes for PSUV, even after Chavez´s´death.

  • A view of an empty classroom of Barakataina´s school. The lack of teachers and the fact that many of the children are urged to help their family in the field are a huge handicap for the school attendance among warao children.

  • A man carries a recently hunted crocodile. The Orinoco Crocodile can grow untill 6 meters long. Although hunting and selling their skin is a prosecuted crime many warao consider them a delicatessen and keep on hunting as their ancestors did.

  • A Tidawena jumps over a puddle held to a vine in the deep of the Orinoco´s swamp forest .

  • Delta of Amacuro is populated by jaguars, crocodiles and some of the most dangerous snakes in the world such us mapanare. Due to its isolation it is a perfect place for smugglers from near Trinidad. The fact that most of the Delta can be considered "no man´s land" makes the swamps and canals from warao region a really inhospitable place to live

  • Identity is not a static concept, but a fluent mixture of influences, both internal and externals, which conforms the way we face the world and how the world reflects this image to others. For Tida-Wena, the warao word for transgender, the identity is a matter of gender but also a cultural and ethnic issue. Sanse, a 16 years old Tidawena, watches his reflection on an old mirror while combs his hair in Murako village. Only women and transgender/homosexual wear long hair among warao people.

  • Wisiratu or shaman invocating the ancient spirits of jebus through tobacco´s smoke.


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