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Matses, Amazon, Peru

The Matsés Indians (commonly called Mayorunas in Brazil) are often affectionately referred to as the "cat people" due to the characteristic "whiskers" that women place in their noses. There are about 2200 Matsés living in the Yavarí Valley of Peru and Brazil, with the majority residing in Peru. The Matsés speak a language of the Panoan linguistic family that is closely aligned with the dialects that the Matis and Korubo Indians speak. The Matsés share many aspects of their culture with the Matis Indians, including medicinal plant use. Some Matsés know how to prepare neste or dauë (a medicinal bath for children) and bëcchëte (an eyewash for improving visual acuity) similar to the Matis Indians of Brazil. Matsés Indian facial tattoos consist of accentuated lines surrounding the mouth and extending along the cheeks to the base of the ears. Women wear ornaments made from the ribs of palm leaves in their noses to represent the whiskers of cats. In addition, sticks made from the shoot of caña brava are sometimes placed in a perforation of the skin below the lower lip of women. Formerly, men had perforations in their upper lips in which they placed spines from the ungurahui palm (Oenocarpus bataua). Commonly, a bright red dye (achiote), obtained from the seeds of the annatto tree (Bixa orellana) is applied to the face and body.


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