The Matsés are often referred to in the popular literature as the 'Jaguar People' under the misconception that the palm leaflet veins that women insert in piercings in their nostril flares are meant to represent feline whiskers. Upon being interviewed, however, the Matsés reject the assumption that their facial ornaments are meant to imitate the jaguar, and assert that these ornaments and their facial tattoos are just markers that identify them as belonging to the Matsés ethnic group.
Tattoos were made by pricking the skin with a palm thorn, using a mixture of genipap fruit juice and copal soot. They burn a chunk of copal resin, collecting the soot from the smoke in an overturned clay pot, from which they scrape off the soot that collects inside the pot, they then they mix the soot with the genipap fruit juice creating the the dark coloured tattoo pigment. There are still many tattooed Matsés today but now the tattoos are seen only on the elders as this practice was stopped shortly after contact with the missionaries sometime in the 1970’s.
Nestor Bina is a Matsés elder who lives in the remote village of Puerto Alegre on the Yaquerana river.
Facial patterns are often painted with achiote pigment.
The Matsés make a wide array of body adornments and jewelry, using a huge variety of seeds and materials from the rainforest. With precise tools, incredibly fine and detailed adornments are created.