Experience with the Murui Amazon People

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By Cote Baeza

I went with the uncertainty of not knowing anything about where I was travelling… I only knew that I wanted to go to the Amazon, learn about its cultures and participate in its ceremonies, photograph all that and above all be in a place not contaminated by tourism.


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That’s how, as if by chance, I received information about Puerto Leguizamo, an Amazon town in southern Colombia, on the border with Peru, separated from it by the Putumayo river… and where the wonderful town “Murui” is. There I met these calm, peaceful and happy people, without the mark of overwhelming tourism and not contaminated with material things. They never asked me for a coin in exchange for photos, or to seek any kind of benefit for interacting, they just smiled and walked happily with me. I told them, when they asked me, that I am Chilean but for them I was always “the gringo” From Puerto Leguizamo. I went to see some of their villages and communities, as well as being invited to participate in their ceremonies led by the elders and heads of the community, which for me was a true honour, since being in their ceremonies inside the Maloca, which are their temples and sacred place, was a real honour.


© Cote Baeza

I also had the opportunity to be present in the elaboration of the Mambe, a powder that is obtained from its sacred plants, the Amazonian coca leaf. It is roasted, ground, sifted and mixed with the Yarumo ash, and together with the Ambil they use in their rituals to relax the conversation and generate dialogue between the participants… in an almost theatrical conversation due to the force of the dialogue and the importance they give to listening to the other’s words, with a respect that struck me.


© Cote Baeza

The experience of ‘mambearing’ with them was incredible. I was introduced to the community of chiefs and the elders. They greeted me first in their language and then in Spanish, then they gave me the floor to introduce myself and that was my purpose of being there with them. Then I heard them speak, sing and thank their sacred plants, thank their ancestors, that they feel them present there and help them make important decisions through the voice of the elder, who closed the ceremony and gave the last words near dawn. And that’s how I spent the night, in the middle of the Mambe ceremony, in his maloca and uncertain in the middle of the Amazon jungle. I discovered that they are very happy, that they are just opening up to tourism, since they were, in other times, severely hit by the era of rubber, gold, drug trafficking and until now by the guerrillas present in the area, but everything continues with a peaceful and happy people with those who visit them.


© Cote Baeza

I take much more from this trip than photos, much more than a simple visit to the Amazon. I leave with a peaceful heart, grateful for such generosity, tremendous hospitality, such a friendly smile, such humility, valuing such wisdom, and above all such austerity. There is certainly much to learn from these rich cultures. I’ll be back soon, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m leaving with peace, happiness and pride at having met these wonderful people… The Murui.  


About the Author:

I did my studies first with Luis Poirot and then with Javier Moreta (Trimagen Centre for Photographic Studies) with whom I work on projects to this day.

Initially my job was to travel around my country capturing those wonderful landscapes. Little by little I was incorporating characters until I worked the spaces relating the environment with the people who inhabit it, taking me to travel in search of different cultures.

The portrait is another area of photography that I am passionate about, since the control of light mixed with the search for the identity of the portrayed is a challenge that I consider very special.

The pandemic prompted me to explore street photography, finding a fascinating new source of inspiration in my work. That is why in my work you will find landscapes, cultures, portraits, street photos and always in B&W, which as an artist is the language of light that I have chosen because, as I always say, “it seduces me, conquers me and traps me”.

Cameras: Nikon D800, Fujifilm X-T3

Lenses: Nikon 14-24, 24-70 y 70-200mm, Fujinon 16mm




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