It's hard to believe that a scrawny palm with long aggressive thorns covering its entire trunk could have such a wide variety of uses. Since ancient times, the chonta palm has been important to the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region. Artisans today use chonta to develop exclusive pieces of art and design.
Indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been using practically every part of the chontaduro for centuries. The delicious fruit resembles the taste of chestnuts and its nutritional value is equivalent to that of an egg. Locals use it make cooking oil and flour. The wood is used to make arrows, lances, (cerbatanas) and for building walls and floors of their houses. The young palms are sometimes used for making roofs and their characteristic leaves produce the delicious palmtito or 'palm hearts', which are now found in gourmet cuisine around the world. The shaman uses the sharp long spikes found in the chonta tree trunks as 'darts' to take out evil spirits which cause illnesses. The all-time favorite for Pastaza natives is chicha made from chonta, a fermented beverage made during the Uwi Ceremony.
Chonta isn't just important to the Amazon peoples; it's also used by African-Ecuadorian cultures to make the marimba, a musical instrument that resonates with rhythmic sounds in the beaches of Atacames and Sua. The Colorado Indians of Pichincha also make marimbas from chonta wood for their traditional music.
from article by Carolina Matheus for Folklore Olga Fisch.
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