|Tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum)|
Machiguenga greet strangers by asking, "Are there fish in the river where you live?" La Patarashca, a restaurant in Tarapoto, serves doncella stuffed with shrimp in a sauce of cocona fruit (Solanum sessiliflorum), and as a patarashca — stuffed leaves — with tomato, onion, and sweet chili, wrapped in bijao leaves (Calathea lutea). People are not fooling around here.
But first you have to catch the fish.
|Paiche (Arapaima gigas)|
|Carachama, sailfin catfish (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus)|
Fishing nets can be cast from a canoe or by wading out into the water. Casting a fishnet requires skill clearly beyond my own, although, to my chagrin, I have seen numerous young boys do it quite successfully.
|Communal fishing with barbasco (Lonchocarpus urucu)|
Fish poison is also widely used in the Upper Amazon. The term barbasco can be used to refer to fish poison in general, or more specifically to Lonchocarpus urucu, which is of sufficient importance that some indigenous peoples cultivate it in their gardens. The procedure is simple: the root is is dug up, carried to the fishing place, and pounded with sticks so that the milky sap can be drained into the water. The primary active ingredients are rotenone and deguelin, which affect gill function in fish, inhibiting their ability to breathe. Within fifteen minutes or so fish begin to float on the surface of the water, where they can be collected by hand or in baskets, hit on the head with a machete, speared, or shot with a bow and arrow.
|Preparing fish for salting and drying|