Every time I eat a watermelon I remember that day. It was the dry season, when the rust-red floodwaters of Quebrada Fierro or “Iron Creek” subside to a lazy trickle, exposing wide, meandering beaches near its mouth on the upper Manu River in southern Peru. I was with a group of Matsigenka men and boys, we had spent the past few hours under a feverish noon sun portaging boat, motor, and gear to circumvent a stubborn Dipteryx trunk, impervious as tempered glass, that blocked dry season passage along the creek. It was the summer of 1995 and I was taking Hiram, a dear Matsigenka friend who called me “brother”, to meet up with a film crew camped out at the research station of Cocha Cashu down river. I was helping Hiram’s community negotiate for an upcoming shoot. Cheronto, who came from a rival community nearer the station, was the best boat pilot in the region. He was taking us down the river to close the negotiations.
December 14, 2011 Dispatches