Life in remote villages of the Upper Amazon of Peru

A boy in Urarina, Peru, said he speared these fish in the waters of the Upper Amazon
A boy in Urarina, Peru, said he speared these fish in the waters of the Upper Amazon

One of the highlights of a riverboat tour in the Upper Amazon was the opportunity to visit remote villages that sit beside the many rivers in the Pacaya-Samiria government reserve near Iquitos, Peru.

During daytime village visits, our small tour group from Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic, off the riverboat Delfin II, seldom met any of the male residents.

“Out working,” said our guide, Juan Luis.

Daytime villagers mostly were young people, children and babies, and teenage mothers.

In Urarina, they gathered to greet us in a covered concrete meeting space in the center of the village.

Learning from the radio, when it works

Village radio station under repair
Village radio station under repair

A young boy sounded like a man as he told us of the importance of the occasional radio broadcasts, when generators work to provide power. They offer valuable information about contraception and how to prevent HIV, he said.

Women spoke of their recent education about their rights as women, and how to be community leaders during the day, when the men are out working.

“People in the jungle believe in Mother Nature,” said Juan Luis, who grew up in a jungle village. “They live with the sun, they work all day. They adapt.

“Some villages have a school, but no teacher. Other places a teacher but no school. Sometimes a school and teacher.” Juan Luis was lucky. He grew up with a school and a teacher.

Nice church, no members

In another village, we passed an empty church building that seemed abandoned.

Amazon Church, Inglesia Evangelica Wesleyana, Hijos de Sion
Amazon Church, Inglesia Evangelica Wesleyana, Hijos de Sion

I asked Juan Luis about the frequency of church services.

“Nice church,” he said, “no members.”


“No one here wants to sit and listen to anyone after working all day, sun up to sun down.”

Judging wealth and the village mayor

untitled15You can tell two things from the number of corrugated metal roofs in jungle villages in the Upper Amazon of Peru:

One is the wealth of the village. Thatched roofs last four years, maybe more, while the more expensive corregated metal roofs last for many years.

Two is the power of the mayor.

“A good mayor can get the government to help with metal for the roofs,” said guide Juan Luis. “If you see lots of corrugated metal roofs, you can imagine this mayor wants to be reelected.”

Amazon village house between roofs
Amazon village house between roofs

The lack of electric power is a huge barrier to a better life in remote villages. A woman told me proudly that she has two light bulbs in her two room house. They glow whenever the village power station is working, currently from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. three days a week.

The gift shop, Amazon village style
The gift shop, Amazon village style

At the village of Atumposa, we exited through the gift shop, which was a one-room schoolhouse where women and their children sold local crafts. We bought a embroidered cloth for 10 solas, about $3.60.

Photos by David G. Molyneaux,


David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at His cruise trends column appears monthly  in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise  He is editor of

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