Village

The Matsés traditionally live in large communal homes or malocas that are hexagonal in shape with a rectangular body formed by two longer opposite sides.

The thatch roof covers the entire structure aside from two openings about 1.25 metres in height. These 'doorways' are located at the front and rear of the maloca at opposite ends of a central corridor that divides the house into two parts. In 1976, the largest malocas observed in Peru were up to 35 metres in length and 10 metres in height, sheltering 100 people.

Today, the vast majority of contemporary Matsés houses have been built in the regional non-indigenous mestizo style, large and cool stilted homes made from fattened palm slats and roofed with palm leaves. The Matsés never build their houses in floodable areas, so the stilts do not serve the purpose of water protection for them. This house style was developed as they copied the structure from mestizos who dwell in the floodplain, The attraction for the Matsés is that this house style allows them to not have a dirt floor.

Before contact with the outside world 50 years ago, all Matsés lived in the traditional malocas, today the mestizo style home is the norm. To construct a maloca only the remaining elders have the knowledge to do so, showing how this once fundamental ancestral art is on the verge of being forgotten.

AT NIGHT

As dusk falls in Matsés land and as in most of the Amazon, activity stops and families congregate at home to share food and conservation. In Matsés villages today, and like how it was 50 years ago before western contact, ‘shupiwii’ torches flicker in smokey homes as families settle down for the evening. Shupiwii are traditional torches made with copal resin - wrapped in palm leaves, the torches last for several days and are still widely used today to light homes during the evening.

PETS

There are always plenty of pets in the villages, orphans of hunted animals which Matsés children happily take under their care. Sloths, monkeys and birds are amongst the most common but many other animals are also adopted.