WHAT WE DO
We promote the combination of the environment and indigenous cultures as a factor in sustainable development.
We create a network of small museum infrastructures to collect objects of ancestral memory.
The Museo Verde Project
Museo Verde was created with the aim of preserving the memory and traditions of the indigenous peoples living in the Gran Chaco.
This vast region is the repository of a rich and diverse heritage of cultural resources: textiles, sculptures, paintings, ceramics, murals, gastronomic traditions, etc.
The project aims to:
Create places of ancestral memory where indigenous peoples can preserve their objects and visitors can admire them.
To value a set of material and immaterial goods typical of the Gran Chaco.
Create useful alternatives so that young people do not abandon the places and practices of their identity.
To this end, promote useful pilot projects for small and sustainable craft and artistic activities that generate income for the original populations.
To achieve these objectives, the Museo Verde is working to: raise awareness and involve researchers, academic institutions, central government authorities, associations and NGOs, international organizations from Italy and the Gran Chaco countries, entrepreneurs, as well as interested indigenous communities.
In order to promote the resources of the Gran Chaco, a branding operation has been launched, i.e. the creation, in agreement with the indigenous communities, of a logo that characterises the products: handicrafts, medicinal herbs, food or intangible assets: theatre, music, dance, which are typical of the region.
4 main development factors:
identification of useful initiatives for the valorisation of ancient wood, in a context of rational and sustainable exploitation of forests with the appropriate participation of indigenous communities.
identification of the essences to be used in a pilot project to start their production, packaging and commercialisation by the indigenous communities.
Creation of micro-accommodation facilities at the Museo Verde sites to bring small groups of travellers into contact with indigenous cultures.
emphasis on traditional products and ancestral culture, made with natural materials and ancestral manufacturing techniques.
THE PACT FOR THE GRAN CHACO
Indigenous culture and unspoilt nature are a formidable factor for sustainable development from a socio-environmental as well as an economic point of view.
Based on this postulate, on the occasion of PreCop 26, the International Climate Change Conference, the Museo Verde launched the 'Pact for the Gran Chaco'.
What is the 'Pact for Gran Chaco'?
This programme welcomes the participation of international organisations, government authorities, non-governmental organisations, universities, research centres and private companies.
The Pact for the Gran Chaco is based on one premise: the Gran Chaco is an immense reservoire of natural and cultural resources that are threatened with irreversible destruction. These resources must be protected and valued to enable sustainable development.
We want to show that the intelligent management of natural and cultural resources can generate sustainable income, provided that the indigenous communities are involved in the project appropriately
By developing and launching proposals and projects to set in motion alternative development processes to deforestation, we want to escape the conservation-growth dichotomy: stop deforestation by promoting the economy, instead of sacrificing it.
Our programme proposes a third way. A forest possesses enough natural resources to produce economic returns without depleting its irreplaceable capital, trees.
Bows, arrows, feather art, frescoes, paintings, vegetable fibre weaving.
The Ache are skilled basket makers and produce beautiful wooden carvings, mainly representing animals such as fish, snakes and rodents, skilfully decorated with the technique of pyrography. This involves drawing forest scenes by passing a red hot metal tip across the surface of the wood, which leaves a dark, indelible mark wherever it passes.
They then build their wooden bows, up to 2 metres long, which they know how to use very well, still cultivating an ancient tradition. The arrows are beautiful, with a point with numerous carvings carved into the wood.
Finally, they follow the tradition of making pendants or necklaces from the teeth of animals such as wild boars or warthogs.
AVA GUARANI handicraft
Although they do not reach the level of elaboration achieved by the Yshir, the Ava Guarani produce interesting ornaments made from bird feathers.
They are also skilled basket makers and serve to embellish small gourds with elegant ornaments.
The most common craft activity is the production of terracotta, vases, plates and other objects of various shapes and sizes, most often decorated with geometric motifs in predominantly bay and brick-red colours.
The Ayoreo make bird feather ornaments, especially necklaces and pendants, from the feathers of parrots and other birds.
Feathers are also used to adorn cylindrical headdresses, made from jaguar skin, which are still worn on ritual occasions, a tradition also present in other indigenous cultures, such as the Yshir.
They also have a tradition of woodworking, especially for the production of tools.
The art that they practice most assiduously is caraguatá fibre weaving. They make square-shaped bags, decorated with geometric motifs, coloured in traditional colours such as black, brick red and the raw colour of hemp, with dyes obtained from natural fibres. However, synthetic colours can sometimes be used to achieve more vivid chromatic effects. Bags and small hammocks are also made using the same technique.
Yshyr women are experienced weavers of caraguatá, a natural fibre derived from a plant of the bromeliad family, which in the Argentine Chaco is called onça-pintada. They also make baskets and fans from plant fibres.
Men continue to cultivate wood to make weapons such as sticks and spears.
There are also a number of figurative artists who evoke traditional and mythological themes, such as the ritual dances of shamans or ancestral deities, in evocative two- or multi-coloured paintings. The most famous Yshir artist is Flores Balbuenas, known by his nickname Ogwa. Karcha Bahlut's cachique, Bruno Barras, also produces quality work. In the city of Luque, a few kilometres from Asunción, where there is a Yshir community, there are some good young artists.
However, the art in which the Yshyr have excelled since ancient times is featherwork. Even today, shamans continue to make ornaments that they use in their ceremonies, using the feathers of appropriate birds, according to the ritual. It should be remembered that, to capture birds, natives traditionally use especially blunt arrows, capable of stunning the prey and allowing only the necessary feathers to be removed without further damaging the animal. Current productions, although not reaching the levels of refinement of the objects collected by Boggiani at the end of the 19th century, are still interesting and of good quality and consist of bracelets and necklaces or other ornaments.
The main crafts, although of lower quality due to acculturation, are today, as in the past, horn and woodworking by the men and pottery, weaving and body painting by the women.
The refined body drawings made by the Kadiwéu are an extraordinary form of expression of their art: the skillful draftsmen stamp meticulous and symmetrical designs on faces, traced with ink made from a mixture of genipap juice and charcoal powder. In the past, body painting made the difference between nobles, warriors and prisoners.
Kadiwéu women also produce beautiful ceramics: vases, animal figures, wall decorations ..... They decorate them with their own motifs, following a rich but fixed repertoire of shapes and colours. The pigments are obtained from forest elements and then glazed with palo santo resin.
Kadiwéu art is also found in the songs of the elderly women, in the music of the flutists and drummers, and in collective dances.
The women make chaguar bags, but their speciality are baskets, hats and objects representing animals or insects, made by weaving the leaves of a type of palm tree.
In some cases, following instructions from craft shops in Buenos Aires, they make products such as small backpacks or baskets that can be attached to bicycles, using traditional techniques and materials for objects that can also be used in modern city life.
The men mould vases and terracotta objects. They speak their own language, which has remained intact over the centuries, and respect the ancient traditions handed down by their elders, who are highly respected. Many works by Argentinian authors and composers have the Qom people as their theme. One of them is "El antiguo dueño de las flechas" (The ancient owner of the arrows).
Interesting musical experiences are also worth mentioning. The Tonolec duo performs songs in the Qom mother tongue, mixing them with electronic rhythms. Finally, there is also an activity of spontaneous production of "murals" which sometimes take up themes from ancestral traditions, always interpreted with creativity and bright colours.
Women are involved in crafts of great artistic and technical value: they make artefacts from chaguar (weaving yarn extracted from a vegetable fibre, known in the eastern Chaco as caraguata) and pottery ("clay"/ihnyat). Jaguar weaving is a purely female activity. The women, in small groups, go out to collect and from each chaguaral they choose only the plants that are of the required size and quality. They pick the leaves, remove the thorns and peel them, separating the fibres from the outside. The fibre is then cleaned by crushing, scraping and soaking in water again and again. Once cleaned, it is dried in the sun for a day or two. The yarn is made by joining several pieces together and twisting them with a quick hand movement over the thigh. Once the fibre has been spun and there are many metres of yarn, balls are formed. The yarn is dyed with various dyes (black, brown, grey and red are the most common) prepared from plants. Women also make artefacts from seeds and sticks, such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, curtains, yica, belts, clothes and ornaments. The species of trees and shrubs in the area provide the seeds needed to make numerous designs, alternating types and positions of seeds and sticks. The seeds are woven using ounce thread for threading, which gives great strength to the weft that is formed. The typical designs woven combining different colours are called "elbows", "ostrich back", "turtle shell", "lampalagua skin", "dock fruit", "carancho toe", "deer foot", "parrot foot", "jarara skin", "fox foot", "woodpecker breast".
The men, on the other hand, are dedicated to the manufacture of objects made of palo santo, highly valued in the national market, and make carvings in guayacán wood.
Trees and plants from which the seeds for handicraft are extracted:
Mimosa ( Leucaena leucocephala ): elongated, flat, dark brown seed, most commonly used.
Sapindus saponaria: round, large, opaque black seed; also commonly used.
Tipa (Tipuana tipu): elongated, reddish seed.
Euphorbia ( Ricinus communis ): large, speckled seeds of various colours.
Palo bolilla or paloborracho ( Chorisia insignis ): the thorn of the trunk is used.
Achira or achera ( Canna edulis ): black, round seed, smaller than that of soapwort.
Guaiaco ( Caesalpinia paraguariensis ): hard, light brown, elongated seed, larger than that of mimosa.
Carob tree ( Prosopis spp. ).
PRECIOUS WOOD AND DESIGN
Forests are shrinking, their value is increasing and it makes sense to invest in their management. Economic logic and environmental requirements can be reconciled.
Temperatures in the Gran Chaco range from -5 to +50 degrees Celsius, with heavy rainfall in summer and drought in winter. To survive in these extreme conditions, nature produces century-old, slow-growing trees, extraordinary in their hardiness and resistance to insects, fungi and weather, resistant to rot and with extraordinary mechanical and aesthetic characteristics.
The Museo Verde has identified 17. They have a wide range of colours and veins, from dark brown to red and olive green. On the Brinell hardness scale, these species have values ranging from 3.2 for red Timbo (equal to oak) to 16.1 for Palo Santo (greater than aluminium). They are valuable materials that compete, for some uses, with cement, iron or epoxy resins and have great aesthetic value.
The "Silla del Gran Chaco" is an ideal symbol of hope for a sustainable economy, able to transform its own wealth into resources, while protecting the environment and activating a virtuous circle capable of bringing together many different communities. (see link)
The Morelato company participated in the project and created a chair, designed by Franco Poli.
The seat is made of ash and Gran Chaco corrugated wood, a raw material of certified origin that becomes a design object.
The chair is intended to be produced in small series, with certified wood, and to be marketed as a design object made from raw materials normally intended for much less profitable uses. An extraordinary raw material like Urunday wood can be used in small quantities compared to its usual use. Many other things can be made from it: the rudder of a ship made from this wood, for example, is so durable that it requires no maintenance.
Wealth destroyed for a pittance.
How is this extraordinary resource, which nature takes 200 to 300 years to produce, used? One hectare of forest contains 50 tons of precious wood that is sold for 20 dollars a ton, often to make charcoal. The destruction of one hectare of forest thus generates a one-off profit of $500. In other words: cut much less, but sell at much higher prices.
Forests are shrinking, their value is increasing, it makes sense to invest in their management.
Economic logic and environmental requirements can be reconciled: this is an achievable goal with more prudent, modern management of forest resources, improving their efficiency with the necessary training, provision of new machinery and marketing support: relatively small investments and potentially high profitability.
They are the : Quebracho, Algarrobo, Guayacan, Itin, Urunday and Palo Santo.
Quebracho was named after the expression 'quebra acha' ('axe-breaker'), because of its very hard wood. Quebracho beams in 18th century Jesuit missions still serve their function today.
The Algarrobo has a wood similar to that of the oak and produces about 40 kg of fruit each year, from which a flour is made that sells for $7 per kg. The large-scale marketing of its flour would generate more revenue than the felling of the plant.
The baton of the President of Argentina is made of Urunday, an underwater rot-proof wood, synonymous with durability and solidity.
Itin, an excellent alternative to ebony, is used for boat decks.
Palo Santo is used to make ball bearings for small hydroelectric power plants in the USA. Attempts to replace it with synthetic materials were abandoned because they were less cost-effective.
At this rate, within a few decades, little or nothing will remain of the forests that were virgin in the early 1900s. With the forests, the indigenous cultures that originate and draw lifeblood from them risk disappearing
Wealth destroyed for paltry profits
How is this extraordinary resource, which nature takes 200 or 300 years to produce, used? One hectare of forest contains 50 tonnes of valuable wood that is sold for 20 dollars a tonne, often to make charcoal. The destruction of one hectare of forest thus generates a one-off profit of USD 500.
In other words: cut much less but sell at much higher prices.
Forests decrease, their value increases, it pays to invest in their management. Economic logic and environmental needs can be reconciled.
This is an attainable goal with a more prudent and modern management of forest resources, improving their efficiency with due training, provision of new machinery and assistance in marketing: relatively low investment and potentially high profitability It can be done because the economic margins are enormous.
PLACES OF INDIGENOUS MEMORY: MUSEO VERDES
So far, 6 small museums have been created in 6 indigenous communities to preserve the testimonies of ancient customs and traditions.
The Museo Verde, with the aim of preserving and enhancing the heritage of the original peoples, has established relations with communities belonging to 7 of the 25 original peoples still living in the area. These are Yshir , Ayoreo and Ache in Paraguay, Kadiweo in the Brazilian Pantanal, Wichi and Qom in Argentina and Ava Guarani in Bolivia.
In this context he realises:
To this end, it promotes contact exchanges, between communities belonging to ethnic groups that in the past had little more than conflictual relations, in the common objective of preserving and enhancing indigenous cultures.
In short, the network is a specific resource of the Museo Verde on which it relies to achieve results in terms of solidarity, emulation of good practices and, above all, to nurture a legitimate pride of belonging to a reality of high profile and great importance, that of the Peoples of the Gran Chaco.
With limited resources and using local labour, so far we have created six small museums across indigenous communities belonging to as many ethnic groups. This is to preserve any traces of ancient customs and traditions and make them available to local populations and foreign visitors.
Along with the creation of mini-infrastructures, we are also developing a virtual devolution project that will see indigenous communities getting access to ancient artefacts preserved in European and Latin American museums.
For example, Rome’s Pigorini Museum (MUCIV) and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology at the University of Florence hold collections of century-old artefacts that were donated by Guido Boggiani and Doroteo Giannecchini. These artefacts belonged to the Ishir, Caduveo and Aché ethnic groups (MUCIV), and the Wichis, Qoms and Ava Guaranis (University of Florence’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology).
Museo Verde began collecting high-definition images of these objects. This project was expanded thanks to Latin American Museum Institutions like Museo del Barro, Museo Andres Barbero, Museo Ayoreo Salesiano in Asuncion, Centro Cultural del Lago in Aregua, Museo Etnologico Juan de Garay in Santa Fe, and Museo Etnografico Juan B. Ambrosetti in Buenos Aires, where Qom and Ayoreo artefacts are kept.
Today, technology makes it easy and inexpensive to access images of artefacts that are no longer available to Museo Verde locally. As their memory doesn’t go lost, they will be a stimulus to improve local craft production.
So far, we have carried out several experiments with encouraging results: PHOTOS
LA STRUTTURA ARCHITETTONICA
è basata su costruzioni tipiche, che utilizzano materiali del luogo. In alcuni casi, come in quello del Museo Verde Ishir di Karcha Bahlut, interamente costruito in legno, sono stati utilizzati materiali e tecniche costruttive antiche. In altri, come nel Museo Ache di Puerto Barra e di quello Wichi di Nueva Pompeya, si sono riabilitate e adattate strutture esistenti e in disuso. Sono state elaborate poi nuove metodologie come il “Museo Leggero”. Si tratta di piccole installazioni espositive che evidenziano il nesso tra tradizioni ancestrali e moderna produzione artigianale da inserire in strutture già esistenti, come associazioni di donne artigiane, per veicolare informazioni ed immagini provenienti da musei europei e latino americani. In tutti i casi la soluzione adottata è stata concordata con i beneficiari.
ACHÈ Museo Verde of Puerto Barra.
At the request of the community of Puerto Barras, a long unused wooden building was restored and refurbished, built with wooden planks on a concrete base, according to a technique traditionally used in Puerto Barra.
The wooden walls will be decorated with the traditional pyrography technique, normally used for sculptures, transferring ornamental motifs or forest landscapes onto larger surfaces.
The Museum already hosts a display of handicrafts such as wood carvings, basket bows and arrows.
The Museo Verde is also defining a project to improve the production capacity of vegetables by including the cultivation of medicinal herbs with medicinal qualities with the aim of contributing to the preservation and enhancement of ancient customs. According to the 'Pact for the Gran Chaco', launched at Cop 26 in 2022, medicinal herbs, as well as tropical woods, handicrafts and niche tourism are resources that have so far not been sufficiently exploited, capable of triggering sustainable development dynamics both environmentally and economically, with the proper involvement of the indigenous peoples.
How to get there
By car, approximately 400 km from Asunción. Road No. 2 then, a few tens of kilometres from Ciudad de l'Este, ruta No. 6, which is 63 km long, passing the town of Santa Rita. At km186, on the left, a dirt road of about 15 km leads to Puerto Barra.
AYOREO The Museo Verde of Carmelo Peralta.
In the locality of "La Punta" near Carmelo Peralta, 6 Ayoreo communities settled in the 1960s on a 20,000 hectare piece of land donated to them by the Salesians.
Here, at the explicit request of the indigenous people, the second Museo Verde was built, inaugurated in 2019, according to the wishes of the community in the style of a brick colonial structure. The indigenous community preferred this type of construction, compared to the one adopted for the first Museum in Karcha Bahlut, because it was more suitable to house a library, a computer and a meeting room, in order to lay the foundations for a centre of Ayoreo culture.
There is a photographic exhibition at the museum, still on display today, with pictures dating back to the 1960s/80s. The exhibition is divided into five sections: The Forest; Faces; Activities; Ornaments; Weapons and Dwellings. The indigenous community has welcomed it with keen interest as a means of keeping alive the memory of a relatively recent past that modernisation puts at risk of disappearing into oblivion.
The Museo has been the site of a project for the use of theatrical performances as a means of preserving and enhancing ancestral traditions.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the recent opening, in the vicinity of the Museum, of an 'Ayoreo art and craft house', run by the community's women artisans, where recently manufactured artefacts are exhibited and offered for sale.
In Carmelo Peralta, as well as in the Yshir community of Karcha Bahlut, a project is underway to collect video interviews of elders on topics of their tradition regarding handicrafts, rituals beliefs and customs.
How to get there
By car: 700 km from Asunción (via Loma Plata and Cruce de los Pioneros).By bus: twice-weekly connection Asuncion-Bela Vista. Then minibuses.
ISIHIR CHAMACOCO The Karcha Bahlut's Museo Verde.
Karcha Bahlut's is the first Museo Verde, built with palm and quebracho wood in 2016. It houses a small paneled photographic exhibition, with reproductions of objects acquired by Guido Boggiani at the end of the 19th century and given to the Pigorini Museum in Rome, where they are still preserved in perfect condition. Donatella Saviola, curator of this collection at the MuCiv, introduces it with these words: "Creating human ornaments with feathers is an art which, in addition to great skill, requires a profound knowledge of the ecosystem, the world of birds and their behaviour.
In the Chaco, only the Ishir create feathered art as skilfully as the artisans of the Amazon. With the plumage of parrots, nandos and ducks, they make large belts, diadems, crowns, earrings, bracelets and anklets, in short, all those elements that together form the costumes of the ritual masks used in collective ceremonies, in which human and divine actors are summoned to share and enact the mythical events that gave life to the community".
Bruno Barras, cachique of the community, adds, "We, the Yshir Ybytoso, respect what Mother Nature gives us, especially the birds, which are messengers and communicate through her. Since prehistoric times, the culture of feather art has been carried out as an element that reflects the great value of feathers and their confession, an important tradition of our ancestral knowledge. Each feather element used determines the criteria of the type of ritual dance, as well as the hierarchy of the person using it. Through this art, the life of the people is safeguarded. I invite you to learn about the wisdom found in feather art and to enter the magical world of Ybytoso through it."
How to get there...
By car. TransChaco road (paved) to Loma Plata 439 km. Then 408 km dirt road to Bahia Negra. To Karcha Bahlut 15 km by trail or alternatively by boat.
by plane. Asuncion Bahia Negra SETAM weekly connections.
By bus. Weekly connections Asuncion Bahia Negra Stel Turismo.
By boat. Weekly connections Concepción Bahia Negra by boat Aquidaban.
KADIWEU The "light" Museo Verde of Porto Murtinho and Alves de Barro.
Images of handicraft objects from the Boggiani collection at the end of the 19th century, obtained thanks to the kind offer of the MUCIV, Museo Pigorini in Rome, were used to create, with the contribution of Brazilian anthropologist Renata Curcio Valente, illustrative material on the history of the Kadiwéu.
This material was used to produce electronic booklets for the six indigenous schools of the Porto Murtinho municipality.
The same material was used to produce 4 panels made of rigid material (forex), with a metal support structure, which were placed in the Municipal Museum of the town of Porto Murtinho, thus creating a "Kadiwéu corner".
A similar procedure was followed to print the same material on synthetic canvas to hang them at the headquarters of the Association of Kadiwéu Women Artisans in the Alves de Barro Community.
A copy of a ceramic made with a 3D printer was then given to Elisangela, a Caduveo artisan from São João, along with a collection of two-dimensional paper images of artefacts from the Boggiani collection.
In essence, the Kadiwéu Museo Verde does not consist, at least so far, of a single infrastructure, but of three different types of intervention. Two, visible at Porto Murtinho and Alves de Barro, have taken the form of panels.
A third is for the time being only immaterial, consisting of electronic material made available to the younger indigenous generations in order to stimulate in them the preservation of historical memory and the pride of belonging to a centuries-old culture.
How to get there.
-Porto Murtinho can be reached from La Punta (Carmelo Peralta), with a boat that takes 10 minutes to cross the Paraguay River.
-Alves de Barro. From Porto Murtinho 283 km of paved road to Bodoquena, and then 53 km of dirt road, which can be covered in an hour and a half.
QOM The "light" Museo Verde in Fortín Lavalle.
In Fortín Lavalle, in the Argentine Chaco, there is an Association of Qom Women Artisans who have set up their own premises as a workshop/showroom for their products, mainly bags and other handicrafts made from palm leaf weaving. The first example of a "light" Museo Verde was set up here.
No infrastructure was built. All that was done was to put up panels inside the association's headquarters informing about the history and culture of the Qom people, with photos and texts, similar to those of the Caduveo people in the Brazilian Pantanal. The craftswomen appreciated the initiative, which aims to illustrate the close link between ancient traditions and modern craft production, and pointed out that the panels attracted the attention and interest of visitors.
The Museo Verde ava guarani (ongoing project)
In 2018, the Museo Verde contacted the Ava Guarani community of Monteagudo, Bolivia, and provided them with high definition image prints of artefacts kept in the Ethnological Museum in Florence. These were objects of various kinds (bags, ceramics, a necklace, a silver pin, a wooden ocarina) from the late 19th century, which aroused great interest and curiosity in our interlocutors. Similarities were found with those produced today. For example, some ceramics were almost identical. The custom of using coins as a decorative element, which can be seen in the image of an ancient bag in the collection of the Ethnological Museum of Florence, is still in vogue today to make necklaces used in traditional festivities.
The Museo Verde Ava Guaranì (project in progress)
In 2018, the Museo Verde made contact with the Ava Guaranì community of Monteagudo, Bolivia, and gave them high-definition image prints of artefacts kept in the Ethnological Museum in Florence. These were objects of various kinds (bags, ceramics, a necklace, a silver pin, a wooden ocarina), dating back to the end of the 19th century, which aroused keen interest and curiosity in our interlocutors. Similarities were found with those produced today. For example, some ceramics were found to be almost identical. The custom of using coins as a decorative element, which can be seen in the image of an antique bag in the collection of the Florence Ethnological Museum, is still in vogue today for making collars used in traditional festivals.
WICHI The Museo Verde of Nueva Pompeya (ongoing project)
The community of Nueva Pompeya, where the Museo Verde was built, has a long history.
In 1900, Father Bernabé Tambolleo founded the Franciscan mission, whose building is still the most important structure in the town, and assembled a collection of indigenous artifacts that is now housed in the Anthropological Museum in Florence.
In the 1960s, an unconventional character changed the course of the indigenous community's history. Guillermina, also known as "the rebel nun", was a nun who could draw a pistol and fly small planes. She formed an indigenous cooperative to run a sawmill, which rescued the Wichi community from the role of serfs into which they had fallen, giving them unprecedented economic independence. His memory, and that of his achievements, lives on today.
It took place in the town of Nueva Pompeya, restoring and renovating part of a shed that housed an old sawmill, the same one that gave life to the epic of the times of the "Rebel Nun". A giant saw from the middle of the last century is still there, as a monument of industrial archaeology linked to the history of the Wichi community.
In another part of the same shed, there is a carpentry workshop run by the same indigenous community. The Museo Verde is implementing a project to modernise this workshop so that it can supply semi-finished products, with certification of origin guaranteeing that they come from forests managed according to environmental sustainability criteria, to European companies that produce high-quality designer furniture, such as "Silla Gran Chaco".
The museum hosts a mini-exhibition on wrought iron panels of Wichi artefacts from the Tambolleo collection, which have aroused great interest in the indigenous community, evoking memories of the characteristics, production methods and uses of the objects represented. These include bags, belts, utensils and ceramics from the early 20th century, the originals of which are kept in the Anthropological Museum in Florence.
By car: about 400 km of paved road from Asunción to Miraflores and another 120 km of dirt road to Nueva Pompeya.
115 medicinal essences grow in the bush. The natives use them to treat 35 diseases
The forest is not only a concentration of trees, but its valuable constituent is the undergrowth, which is also being destroyed by deforestation without generating any profit. Indigenous peoples are repositories of ancient knowledge, which teaches them to harvest food from the forest, as well as natural remedies against various diseases. These are not beliefs or legends, but scientifically-recognised facts.
The Gran Chaco is an immense open-air pharmaceutical laboratory, still almost completely unknown, which we can explore and put to good use with the help of our 'indigenous guides'. There are 115 medicinal essences growing in the undergrowth. The natives use them to treat 35 illnesses, such as asthma, cholesterol, urinary tract disorders, fever, coughs, rheumatic pains and dermatosis.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), plant organisms can contain substances that can be used directly for therapeutic purposes, i.e. to produce medicines. The WHO itself mentions as many as 7,000 chemical compounds.
The European Union has recognised the importance of this heritage by entrusting COOPI with the task of cataloguing the medical herbs of Gran Chaco. The results of this project, together with the testimonies collected from the indigenous peoples, will be collected in a manual containing descriptions, scientific names and pharmacological properties. The existing potential is considerable.
The active ingredients, from which new drugs and antibiotics can be made, must be identified and their concentration evaluated. Ancient knowledge and modern technology: this is the formula to adopt in the search for environmental, cultural and economic sustainability within our reach.
We propose an itinerary through 7 of the 40 ethnic groups of the Gran Chaco to discover their environments, philosophies and ways of life.
At the "Museo Verde" sites useful information is collected for travellers in Gran Chaco. The individual places are linked together, creating one or more itineraries. It is a route in the footsteps of two great explorers of the late 19th century, the painter and photographer Guido Boggiani and the Franciscan missionary Doroteo Giannecchini.
An itinerary of 7 of the Gran Chaco's 40 ethnic groups is proposed to discover their atmospheres, philosophies and ways of life.
The provision of information on roads, accommodation, supplies and food, as well as ethnological and folklore information, by the Museo Verde, can attract a small flow of visitors: qualified, niche tourism that can provide the economic resources needed to improve the living conditions of the indigenous peoples.
The proposed itinerary covers more than 4,000 km, with parts of dirt road that can be travelled with well-equipped 4x4 vehicles during the dry season and with good weather coverage.
Puerto Barra is about 400 kilometers from Asunción.
A few tens of kilometres from Ciudad del Este, along Route No. 7, you have to take the entrance to Route No. 6 on the right, which you will follow for 63 km, passing through the town of Santa Rita. Once you pass the junction to Naranjal on the left, at km 186, you will see a large sign on the left indicating access to Puerto Barra by a 13 km long dirt road. There are
ample accommodation in Naranjal and Santa Rita.
No problems with refuelling.
The Community is located at 21º 02' 37,6'' N; 56º 56' 48,3''. If you come from the Museo Verde of Carmelo Peralta, you have to cross Paraguay with a boat called a "lancha" and go to Porto Murtinho on the Brazilian side. From here you have to take the BR 267 for 207 km to Bonito. This stretch is also served by a bus line of the Cruzeiro do Sul company. The useful contact in Porto Murtinho is Erasmo Duarte, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the way out of Bonito, take the MS 382, a dirt road that is also suitable for off-road vehicles and enter the Serra de Bodoquena National Park. This dirt road should not be impassable even in heavy rain. About 36 km after a restaurant (another one is located 14 km before), you should turn right. 14 km later, another fork, turn left. 10 km later, turn left.
In total, after about seventy kilometres of dirt road, which can be covered in about an hour, we arrive in São João.
4 km before arriving in São João, on the right, is the Quidaban waterfall, at the base of which it is easy to take a refreshing dip.
The community is made up of 76 families, partly Caduveo and partly belonging to two other indigenous peoples: the Terena and the Kinikinau, or Kinikinawa. both are part of the Guana ethnic group, the Arnak linguistic group and originate from the Chaco.
In the second half of the 18th century they crossed the Paraguay River to settle in the territory that is now part of Brazil, where they live scattered in various communities.
The Kadiweu component of São João, which can therefore be defined as a trinational community, comes from the Alves de Barro Community, from which they separated some 70 years ago due to disagreements over the appointment of the village chief: the cacique. Being quite few in number, they were taken in by the natives with whom they live in harmony.
The Museo Verde has also established relations with this Community, from which the São João Community originated, and in which AMAC (Associação Mulheres Artistas Caduveo) has its headquarters.
From Bonito you should take the MS178, a paved road of about 70 km to Bodoquena.
At the exit of Bodoquena, take the dirt road MS 339, following the sign "Cement Factory".
After 7 km, at the sign indicating "Fazenda Primavera", turn left. After another 24 km, when you see the sign "Fazenda Pedra Branca", turn right at the crossroads.
As you approach Alves de Barro, the road enters a dense forest from which tropical birds sing. The Caduveo settlement appears from above like a small patch of light in a sea of vegetation.
The route from Bodoquena is 53 kilometres long and can be covered in an hour and a half, even with a vehicle that does not have four-wheel drive, although with some caution. On the way back, turn right at the crossroads 4 km after the start.
To get to Nueva Pompeya, you pass through the Impenetrable National Park.
Nueva Pompeya is 167 km from Castelli. Road No. 9 is paved for the first 50 km to Miraflores. The next few kilometres are dirt roads, which are easy to negotiate in good weather. In case of heavy rain, a good 4x4 is essential and, as in the rest of Chaco, information should be obtained before departure. We enter the region that in the 19th century was known as the Impenetrable, due to the lack of roads, the torrid climate in summer and the uncomfortable conditions it represented for those who tried to enter it. Today, this is an immense reservoir of virtually untouched natural resources. The tourism master plan for the province of Chaco includes El Impenetrável National Park. From Nueva Pompeya, contrary to what it looks like on maps, it is not possible to return to Laguna Yema to take Route 81, due to the lack of bridges over the Vermejo River. There are only small rafts capable of carrying pedestrians or motorbikes. It is therefore necessary to backtrack through Castelli and Comandante Fontana. In Nueva Pompeya there are two good hotels, the Hotel Clemente and the Chaco Impenetrable, and a Shell petrol station with good fuel.
From Nueva Pompeia to the Bolivian border is 990 km. After the unpaved stretch to Miraflores, except for the potholes before Comandante Fontana, the road is smooth. Then it becomes very fast, straight, with an excellent surface and not very busy. You can sleep in Tartagal, about fifty kilometres before the border, where there are hotels of various categories. The problem may lie at the Yacuiba border, where checks on car documents are inflexible and finicky. If you are travelling in a car that is not yours, you must have a "power of attorney", a power of attorney from the owner. A simple notarial certification or authentication of the authorization signed by the owner is not enough to cross the border. From Yacuiba to Monteagudo is 416 km, which is quite straight and flat at first. Then the road starts to climb, becoming more winding and leaving behind the typical Chaco landscape. The vegetation is a fascinating mix of typical lowland and tropical plants.
Monteagudo can also be reached from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a distance of 450 km for the non-Paraguayan traveller, which can be covered in about 6 hours.
After Camir, there are long stretches of dirt road until almost Monteagudo. However, work has begun to pave the entire route, which rises to 1600 metres and then descends to 1200. In good weather, an off-roader is not essential.
In Monteagudo, the hotels Algarrobo and Ibáñez offer simple but comfortable hospitality.
There is a picturesque food market where you can also eat.
Puerto 14 de Mayo (Karcha Balut in the indigenous language)
17 km south of Bahía Negra. It can be walked with a good off-road vehicle, only if the ground is dry, or with a launch over the Paraguay River. In the Ishir language, Karcha Bahlut means "big shell".
Karcha Bahlut can also be reached by a picturesque ship that brings supplies every week from Concepción, which can be picked up at Carmelo Peralta every Friday afternoon and called in at Karcha and Bahía Negra. Conditions are spartan (you sleep in a hammock) but not particularly dangerous from a health and safety point of view if you take the necessary precautions.
Carmelo Peralta can therefore be the starting point for a visit to the Ayoreo, Ishir and Caduveo communities, making a first part of the Grand Tour of the Chaco Pantanal in the Paraguay River basin.
The bus service runs twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, leaving at 10.30am (Compagnia Stel Turismo tel. 021 558196).
Air connections are provided by SETAM Company (tel. 021 645885 and 0984 571372). Bahía Negra Air Base (tel. 0982 306234).
Both land and air connections are affected by weather conditions.
In the event of heavy rain, especially frequent in October/April, the Philadelphia and Loma Plata car lanes, as well as the Bahía Negra dirt airstrip, become impassable.
If you are travelling with your own means of transport, it should be borne in mind that after Philadelphia and Loma Plata, fuel is difficult to obtain, often of poor quality and more expensive than normal.
Accommodation: Pension Hombre y Naturaleza (tel. 0982 898589 or 0982 862543). In Karcha Bahlut it is possible to rent a small house with a bathroom and a rudimentary shower.
Activities: Eco Club Pantanal (tel. 0982 559 789), organizes environmental education activities and tour guides. Tres Gigantes Biological Station. Located on the banks of the Rio Negro, this is a research centre that is part of the 15,000-hectare Pantanal Paraguayan Reserve. It can be reached by a one-hour boat trip from Bahia Negra. Boat and canoe excursions to visit the reserve contact Guyra Paraguay (tel. 021 229097 or 021 234404).
700 km from Asunción (via Loma Plata and Cruce de los Pioneros).
It is connected by a Stel Turismo bus service (tel.021 558195) that leaves Asunción at 10:30 am on Mondays and Thursdays.
Accommodation, in Carmelo Peralta: 3 de Julio (0985) 721792 (0982) 888966.
The Asunción road will most likely be fully paved in the next few years.
Currently, however, the Loma Plata section, over 300 km long, is dirt and, like all unpaved roads in the Chaco, can become impassable in wet weather.
Therefore, it may be advisable to take a longer route of about 100 km, but fully paved, along RN 3 to Bela Vista. This section is also served by the regular bus service of the Cometa de Amambay company (tel. +595 21 551657). From here you enter Brazilian territory and, via roads 384 and 267 (there's also a bus service on this stretch, run by Cruceros do Sul), you reach Porto Murtinho, a town with several accommodation and restaurants, located on the left bank of the Paraguay River. From Porto Murtinho it is easy to cross the river with rafts carrying vehicles, or with spears (costs 10,000 Guaranis equivalent to about $2) and reach Carmelo Peralta.
astelli is located 437 km of paved road from Asunción.
Road No. 81 de Formosa straight and smooth with good paving. At Comandante Fontana, turn left to take 95. For some tens of kilometres there are large potholes that force driving at very low speeds.
Good possibilities of refuelling. In Castelli there are Esso and Ypf petrol stations, the latter open 24 hours.
Hotels: Nuevo Hotel Florencia comfortable, clean, wi fi, good breakfast.
WHERE WE WORK
Museo Verde has contacts with 7 indigenous communities in 4 countries:
Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.