The Sapara History and Legend
The Sapara people have lived in harmony with Nature for thousands of years and their traditions and history have been passed from generation to generation as oral history. However, Sapara culture is under grave threat and in the process of extinction. In fact, on May 18, 2001, UNESCO recognized the Sapara oral tradition as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Of the 559 or so Sapara left, only 4 speak the Sapara language.
The origin of the Sapara began in the spiritual world, before the material world was created. Both powerful and weak spirits lived together and began to create the world in spirit form. After some time, a spirit known as Piatsaw decided to manifest his spirit creations into physical form and began to create the material world, including humans. Then Piatsaw himself took physical form and became the first Sapara man and lived with his family and other Sapara people. After the first humans emerged in the world and lived on Earth for a while, the epoch of the old sun passed and the age of the new sun began. In that moment, all human beings changed into animals; the Sapara took the form of Aritiawku, or “colored monkeys.”
Many ages passed as all the former humans lived as animals in harmony with the world. Then one day, as the Aritiawku went to the river to drink, they began to lose their tail, started walking upright and slowly over time changed back into humans, forgetting their animal past little by little.
From that transformation the Sapara began to organize themselves into groups and created a large family where all its members were connected with the spiritual world. This connection was fostered by the ancient plants that permitted them to dream with the mystical power that only the rainforest and its landscape can transmit. Dreaming became, and still is, a very important part of their culture.
The Sapara lived many years in peace with the rivers, animals and trees until serious events affected their population in three distinct moments: war with the Incas, the arrival of the Spanish, and the exploitation of rubber from the forest. All of these events reduced the number of Sapara people in an alarming way. The Sapara interpreted this as the fatal prophecy of Piatsaw which predicted that their people were condemned to disappear.
According to the last national population census, only 559 people identified as Sapara inhabit their traditional territory of over 890,000 acres, slightly larger than Yosemite National Park.
Despite the fatal prophecy that said the Sapara people would become extinct, in 1999 the younger generation of Sapara decided that they would change history, save the world and preserve their traditions. This is the reason the Sapara have opened the doors of their communities and their territory to visitors to share their ancestral knowledge, customs, stories, foods, and wisdom that can only be experienced in their fullness while visiting the forest itself.
The Naku project is specifically created to expose people to the medicine and healing skills of the Sapara culture and to facilitate visitors in experiencing and understanding the importance of their connection to Nature.