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Traditional Knowledge
Radio Ucamara
Teachers and producers from Radio Ucamara take a group photo outside the station in Nauta. They research and broadcast community engagement projects, including an initiative to revitalize their native language of Kukama.
Teachers and producers from Radio Ucamara take a group photo outside the station in Nauta. They research and broadcast community engagement projects, including an initiative to revitalize their native language of Kukama.
Photo by Cristina Díaz-Carrera, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Radio Ucamara started in response to the needs of the Kukama people, an indigenous community on the banks of the Ucayali and Marañon rivers in the Amazon. Since the eighteenth century, the Kukamas have been threatened by colonization, rubber and oil exploits and subsequent pollution, as well as political marginalization. In light of these pressures, the broadcast radio station develops projects to reinforce indigenous empowerment, revitalize language, and sustain cultural traditions. These projects include managing the Ikuari School for elders to teach the Kukama language to children, producing music videos, and hosting radio programs in Kukama on essential issues in the community.

Using participatory methods actively involving the community, Radio Ucamara is concerned not only with keeping the culture alive but connecting traditional Kukama world views and oral traditions with the problems they face today.

Inside the Radio Ucamara studio.
Inside the Radio Ucamara studio.
Photo by Cristina Díaz-Carrera, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Río Marañon

Kukamakana katupi – The Kukamas Appear

“The Marañón River occupies a distinguished position in the Kukamas’ creation stories and in their daily life. They travel on it, bathe and wash their clothes in it, drink its water, and communicate with the spirits and their deceased relatives, which according to their beliefs, live in its depths. For this reason, the impact of the oil industry and of the previous efforts to try to use the river for the production of energy and commercial navigation threaten not only the ecology of the river, but also the local culture.” —Leonardo Tello Imaina

Crisscrossed with paths connecting communities across geography and history, Peru boasts a stunning vertical landscape that integrates a diversity of ecosystems and cultures. Peru is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, containing ninety microclimates across extreme variances of altitude. The coastal, rain-forested, and mountainous environments provide abundant resources, including major exports such as fish, copper, and asparagus. Many culturally and historically significant areas are popular tourist destinations that encompass complex layered histories.

The uniqueness of Peru’s diversity lies in the connectedness of its landscape in the form of rivers, roads, and pathways that existed long before the Inka Empire (fifteenth–sixteenth centuries) and Spanish colonization (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries). Across its different altitudes and climates, communities exchange commodities and practices, shaping deeply rooted but constantly changing daily customs and celebrations. The influx and movement of people between and beyond borders also influence and transform these exchanges.

The 2015 Peru program featured projects, organizations, and groups whose cultural expressions highlight these social, cultural, and economic exchanges. It demonstrated how the networks of celebration and community, crops and markets, textile and craft production, foodways and technology, and music and dance forge the diverse cultural heritage of the country.

Visitors to the Peru Festival program could experience these unique connections through cooking and craft demonstrations, music and dance performances, moderated discussions, ritual and celebratory processions, and other participatory activities. In addition, there was a robust involvement with Peruvian American and diaspora communities. The public had the opportunity to learn, to eat, to dance, to shop, to witness these vibrantly connected cultures, and to create their own connections with Peruvian artists and specialists on the National Mall and beyond.

Olivia Cadaval and Cristina Díaz-Carrera were Curators for the Smithsonian; Rafael Varón Gabai was Curator and Consultant to MINCETUR. Valentina Pilonieta-Vera was Program Coordinator; Alexia Fawcett was Community Engagement Manager, and Betty Belanus was Family Activities Curator. A Curatorial Advisory Committee included: Madeleine Burns, Marjorie Hunt, Mary Linn, Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, Giancarlo Marcone, Soledad Mujica, Diana N’Diaye, Luis Repetto, Marcela Ríos, Daniel Sheehy, Jorge Ortiz Sotelo, Milagritos Saldarriaga, Francisco Tumi, and Madeleine Zúñiga. A Community Advisory Group included: Catherine Cabel Chicas, Nelly Carrión, Billy Castillo, Kristy Chavez-Fernandez, Fabiana Chiu- Rinaldi, María del Carmen Cossu, Miguel García, Elmer Huerta, Vicky Leyva, Doris Loayza, Ana Noriega, Elena Tscherny, and Ricardo Villanueva.

The program was co-presented and co-sponsored by the Republic of Peru Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR). Additional support was provided by the staff of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, directed by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), coordinated by Amy Van Allen; Washington Dulles international Airport and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Special media support is provided by Telemundo Washington DC,, Latin Opinion Baltimore Newspaper, Orange Barrel Media, WAMU 88.5, El Tiempo Latino, Washington Hispanic, Washington Blade, El Tiempo Hìspano (MD-DE-PA), CTM Media Group, El Zol 107.9, Digital Conventions, and Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Support for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage's welcoming ceremony was provided, in part, by Avocados From Peru and Pisco Portón (in-kind).

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