These photos were taken during our frog-hunting adventure in the Amazon jungle. In order to find said frog and subsequently get high on its venom, we had to travel for three days on a boat through the rain forest. We were leaving from a town on the ass end of Colombia and Brazil called Leticia (Colombia) and Tabatinga (Brazil). Leticia/Tabatinga was basically a military outpost for both countries until the 1980s rolled around and the city blossomed into the center of Brazil’s cocaine trade. Supposedly one in every seven people in the city makes a living from the cocaine business.
The night before departing on our journey, we met up with our river guide, Juan, who told us that the indigenous communities we were going to meet had no use for money but would surely appreciate some apparel—t-shirts, hats, dresses, bags, whatever. We set off on a shopping spree through Leticia/Tabatinga, and as we jumped from one shitty store to another we noticed that half the clothes they were selling were fake luxury goods. We thought our new friends could use some senseless logo-covered “bling” so we stocked up and headed out like a bunch of fashion missionaries.
The Mayoruna tribe we were going to meet has only had limited contact with the outside world through FUNAI (the Brazilian government organization that deals with indigenous issues). These people were, in a sense, virgins to our world, and we were sure that the logos would mean nothing to them, but when we finally got there half the kids in the tribe were running around wearing Nike, Adidas, and Versace. It’s true that the brand names and logos didn’t mean anything to them, but they also weren’t anything new to them—just more gear coming down the river from wherever the fuck they thought we were coming from.
They were still plenty happy to get presents, though. Handing out all the stuff was quite a scene. The tribe chief made everyone line up like schoolchildren and each person got one thing, regardless of whether it fit their body or their needs at all. As soon as they were given something, they would run off to hide it in the forest and then get back in line like it was their first time. Later on, they were gracious enough to let us photograph them in their new ensembles.
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The Brazilian Issue