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Amazonian Culture – Everything you need to know about it

Landscape trip across the Amazon river

Updated on 03/15/2024

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I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

All about the Amazon region

The Amazon region is a geographic and ecological region on the South American continent. The Amazon region has the largest tropical forest in the world and covers an area of approximately 7,989,000 km². The area is also spread over eight countries:

  • Brazil
  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana (Overseas Territory)
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela

The Amazon is also known for the geolocation of the longest river in the world, the Amazon, with a length of more than 6,800 km, crossing each of the 8 countries. The approximate population is estimated at 37 to 40 million inhabitants. However, it should be noted that the population density varies in different parts of the region. This means that there are completely remote areas inhabited only by a few indigenous communities that have been part of the Amazon for thousands of years, while other areas have experienced accelerated urban and demographic growth in recent decades.

Amazon culture

The culture of the Amazon region is characterized by the large number of ethnic groups and languages. It is estimated that there are around 470 ethnic groups, each with their own language and cultural traditions. According to historical records, it is believed that around 11,000 years ago, indigenous groups such as the Tupi, the Guarani, the Yanomami, the Tikunas and the Boras were the first to begin developing their own customs, traditions and religions. Technology and knowledge systems were inspired by the Amazon. Among the most important cultural aspects we can highlight the following:

  • Ceremonies and rituals
  • Traditional arts and crafts
  • Music and dance
  • Traditional medicine
  • Oral storytelling and mythology

It is very important to mention that the culture of the Amazon was influenced by a number of factors over the centuries which included European colonization, the expansion of trade, urbanization and migration. Despite these changes, many of the indigenous peoples of the region decided to keep their traditions in the same way using the knowledge of their ancestors. Today, many of these indigenous tribes continue to live in isolated communities in the rainforest, trying to preserve their cultural identity. Therefore, the culture of the Amazon today is considered a testimony of cultural preservation and is also recognized as an invaluable heritage of mankind.

The natural Amazon environment

It is estimated that the biodiversity of the Amazon is home to between 400,000 and 500,000 species of plants, while the fauna alone can contain around 2.5 million different species. The influences of the Amazon natural environment date back to the time when the first indigenous groups such as the Tikunas, Kayapós, Yanomamis, Guaraníes and Tupies began to develop ways of life adapted to the living conditions of the Amazon rainforest around 2,000 BC. adjusted. First, the construction of houses around the Amazon, and second, to a greater extent, mainly dependent on the three main activities:

  • Fishing
  • Hunt
  • Agriculture

Since then, their technology and knowledge have gradually grown. For these communities, the Amazonian nature is at the center of their life and culture. The jungle provides food, medicine, and materials to build their homes and daily subsistence, while the rivers are strategic transportation routes and a source for food gathering. The jungle is considered sacred and the place where they perform their rituals towards the gods out of gratitude for abundance and prosperity. Nature has also influenced the economy of the region. It is a source of natural resources such as wood, rubber and fruits that have been exploited by industry for centuries. Therefore, indigenous communities have developed artisanal and sustainable techniques to harness the natural resources, thereby demonstrating the ancient knowledge they have passed on and preserved over thousands of years. Likewise, the Amazon is now considered the lungs of the planet, something many indigenous people are proud of due to their culture and geolocation.

How is Amazonian agriculture?

The traditional agriculture of the Amazon culture is a practice that has been practiced in the region for centuries, believed to date from between 10,000 and 4,000 BC. has developed. This form of agriculture is based on knowledge and respect for nature and was developed by the indigenous communities that lived in the region. The traditional agriculture of the Amazon stems from the need of the indigenous communities to source food from the rainforest in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Indigenous communities have developed techniques to grow food on small plots in the jungle without damaging the surrounding ecosystem. These techniques include crop rotation, the use of organic fertilizers and the selection of plant species adapted to the region’s climate and soil. Indigenous communities developed mixed cropping systems, where different crops are grown together on the same plot of land. To this is added the exploitation of floodplains, which consisted in exploiting the flooded areas of the region such as the Várzeas and Igapós, areas rich in nutrients and offering ideal conditions for cultivation. The use of compost and ash also helps maintain soil fertility and reduces the use of chemical products. In addition, traditional Amazonian agriculture is based on knowledge and respect for nature. Indigenous communities have learned to carefully monitor the natural cycles of the forest, know when is the best time to plant and harvest, and ensure crops do not damage the ecosystem over the long term.

The spirituality of the Amazon

Spirituality in Amazonian culture is very old, dating back thousands of years. Indigenous communities began over time to develop their beliefs and practices through observation and relationship with nature, as well as through the oral transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. Some of the most important aspects:

Relationship with nature

The indigenous communities of the Amazon consider nature sacred and alive. They also believe that all living things have a spirit. Therefore, Amazonian spirituality is based on respect and connection with nature. The connection and respect for the earth, the mountains, the rivers, the animals and the plants. Many of their practices and rituals aim to honor and connect with the spirits that inhabit every living thing in the jungle, thus preserving the wisdom of the ancestors.

Rituals and ceremonies

Amazonian spirituality is expressed in rituals and ceremonies that take place in sacred places such as rivers, mountains or forests. Such events take place every time there is a death, birth or wedding celebration. They also aim and strive to protect an individual or community from disease or natural disaster for mental and physical well-being.


Shamans or healers are important figures in Amazonian spirituality as they are responsible for healing people’s bodies and minds. Therefore, plants and other elements of nature are generally used in the performance of their rituals and healing ceremonies . Since communities believe that spirits are the primary cause of disease, there must be a spiritual connection to achieve healing and balance. It is a process that affects both body and mind.

The typical handicrafts of the Amazon region

The handicrafts of the Amazon have their roots in ancient indigenous traditions that have been passed down through generations. During the colonial period, Amazonian handicrafts were influenced by European techniques and styles. Over time, this craft has regained its native roots and its own cultural identity. The main feature of Amazonian handicrafts is the use of organic materials abundant in the jungle, such as wood, plant fibers, seeds, leather and ceramics, using ancestral craft techniques. Likewise, the use and presence of symbols and designs with a lot of color reflect the closeness to nature of the communities in the region.

The basketry

They focus on making baskets and baskets of various sizes, which they use to carry food or other items.

The tissues

The fabrics are very important in the Amazonian culture, they were mainly used to make clothes, hammocks, bags and other accessories. Historically, these objects were decorated with geometric and symbolic designs representing nature and indigenous cosmology.

The wood carving

The craftsmen of the Amazon are adept at carving figures of animals, plants, and mythological creatures out of wood to be used as decorative objects in rituals, representing their deities.

The pottery

It is another popular art form in the Amazon region and artisans use the ceramic technique to create vases, plates, bowls and other objects with colorful designs and unique shapes.

Customs and traditions of Amazonian culture

The customs and traditions of the Amazon have evolved over thousands of years as indigenous communities have adapted to the climatic and geographic conditions of the region. The traditions are based on the relationship with nature, fishing, hunting, agriculture, rituals and dances and refer to the greatness of the Amazon ecosystem. Equally important is the verbal transfer of knowledge to be preserved as an important pillar. All of these customs have a tradition of maintaining harmony between man and nature, and in particular ensuring the survival of the indigenous communities living in the region.

What are the traditional medicines of the Amazon?


It is used in various forms in Amazonian medicine. It can be smoked, chewed or inhaled as a snuff. It is also used to treat pain and respiratory disorders, as well as being used in rituals and ceremonies to strengthen and heal the spirit.

Cat claws

It is a climbing plant used in traditional Amazonian medicine to treat inflammatory diseases. As a powerful stimulant of the immune system, it is also used as an antitumor agent and an antiviral agent.

Yergon Sakha

It is a medicinal plant used in traditional Amazonian medicine to treat various ailments such as diarrhea, stomach pain, arthritis and inflammation.

Chiric Sanango

It is a plant used by shamans and healers for its medicinal properties. It is a powerful stimulant and is used to treat muscle pain and all kinds of general ailments.


It is a plant traditionally used for its medicinal properties. It is used to relieve anti-inflammatory pain and to treat respiratory problems, and is popular for its immune system revitalizing properties.


Surely you are familiar with this term, because ayahuasca is a psychoactive drink made from the combination of two plants: the Banisteriopsis vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant. It is the most commonly used drink in the Amazon community and is believed to have healing properties to treat physical and mental ailments.

The Ayahuasca ritual

The Ayahuasca ritual is a spiritual and medicinal practice that is part of the Amazonian culture. It is believed to have been around 2,000 B.C. arose. As already explained, it is a psychoactive drink made from the combination of two plants: Liana Banisteriopsis and Psychotria viridis. During the ayahuasca ritual, participants drink ayahuasca and wait for the drink to take effect in the body. This can take about two hours. It is a sacred and respected practice by indigenous communities across the region and is performed in sacred places such as jungle temples or even in the homes of the shamans themselves. The ritual includes ancient songs with music and dances and is performed under the supervision of a shaman or an experienced healer. The ritual can be performed from time to time in the year, although it depends on the culture. This means that at each of the festivals that the tribes usually hold, the ayahuasca ritual is performed. Side effects may include certain types of hallucinations, changes in consciousness, and vomiting and diarrhea. Participants are more likely to connect to the nature and spirituality of their own consciousness. The goal is to establish a deeper connection with the spiritual world and to heal the body, soul and spirit of all evil. It is also believed to have properties that cure depression and anxiety. Finally, this ritual is also practiced for tourist purposes, because some people have the opportunity to take part in this ritual to experience the effects firsthand. This ritual is performed with great respect and always under the supervision of experienced shamans and healers.

How is community and family in the Amazon?

Amazonian families tend to be large, composed of multiple family nuclei that share the same territory and natural resources. The community in Amazonian culture is organized around the figure of the cacique, or community leader, who is elected by consensus and has the responsibility of making important decisions for the good of the community. Decision-making is always based on the search for the well-being of not just one individual, but all members of the community. In other words, they are based on family and solidarity relationships between their members. They are organized socially and politically on a consensus basis and seek to maintain equality for all.

Oral traditions of the Amazon

Oral traditions are considered an important part of a cultural treasure. They are tales, legends, songs and knowledge in which the indigenous people represented a spiritual connection to their ancestors and expressed respect through nature.


Medicine is based on all the knowledge that has been passed down through generations through practice and observation. Healers use environmental resources to create medicines and it is a tradition passed down from generation to generation to strengthen the spirits of living beings.

Myths and legends

Myths and legends are stories that are passed down through generations. The stories mostly relate to the creation of the world, nature and the gods. These oral traditions are used to explain the origin of things.

Songs and dances

Music and dances are an integral part of oral culture. They are used to connect to and establish communication with the spirits. They are also used to convey stories and teachings through lyrics and choreography.

Traditional languages

They are an important part of the Amazon cultural identity. Languages are also passed down through generations, carrying with them ancestral knowledge and wisdom about life, nature and spirituality.

How did music originate in the Amazon region?

Music has an ancient origin and goes back thousands of years. There is no exact date for its origin, but it begins in the indigenous communities’ connections with nature, such as the sounds of the jungle, the songs of the birds, the rush of the wind, the murmur of the water and music inspired by the sounds of nature. It was created with the aim of establishing a communication with the gods and spirits of nature and celebrating the life and traditions of the indigenous communities. The music has been influenced by external cultures such as African and European at the time of colonisation, but despite this it has retained its ancestral indigenous roots for thousands of years, in other words it has retained its ancient essence.

The most popular instruments of the Amazon region

Wind instruments

Flutes and trumpets are made of plant materials such as reed, bamboo, wood and clay, while others are made of horns, bones and snails, i.e. of animal origin.

String instruments

It is a stretched string used to produce sound. The string used in the Amazon is called Arco Sonoro and consists of a kind of “elastic wood”, a cord and a resonator made from a gourd.


They produce sounds thanks to the resonant box made of a turtle shell. They can be kicked, shaken or rubbed to make them sound. Gourds, snails, teeth, and animal bones are most commonly used in the region.


They are percussion instruments made of percussed or rubbed membrane that produce a sound. Like the drums, made from big logs. These drums are hung on strings from trees and were originally used for communication between tribes.

The ocarinas

Small ceramic flutes are also an integral part of the most common instruments, providing melancholy and spiritual melodies to all the festivities that take place in Amazonian culture.

Rhythms and musical genres of the Amazon region

Within the musical genres and rhythms are found some of the most distinctive traits of Amazonian culture that are still preserved today in museums or in the indigenous communities themselves.

Amazonian Cumbia

Amazonian cumbia is a musical genre that combines Colombian cumbia with rhythms and melodies of traditional Amazonian music. It is characterized by a happy and danceable rhythm that makes extensive use of giant drums, long used in festivals and celebrations in the Amazon region.

Ritual music

It’s a genre that has been used in the Amazon for thousands of years. This music serves to communicate with the gods and nature spirits and has a specific rhythm and melody for each ritual. It is generally accompanied by quenas, rattles, flutes and drums.

Folk music

Considered a musical genre in the ancestral traditions of the aborigines, it serves to transmit teachings and stories and is characterized by a rhythm with different sounds for each ritual. Membranophones are generally used to determine the beat of any rhythm.

Flute music

It is a musical genre based on the sound of flutes and quenas made of cane or bamboo, characterized by a melodic and relaxing sound.

Culinary delights from the Amazon region

The origin of food in Amazonian culture lies in the indigenous communities’ connection to the jungle and the organic resources available in the region.

Fish in bijao leaf

Ingredients: Fish in bijao leaf, spices and vegetables.

Nutritional value: Rich in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. Rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Tacacho with beef jerky

Ingredients: Green plantains, cecina (salted and dried pork), spices and vegetables.

Nutritional value: High carbohydrate and protein content. Abundant energy source.

Motello soup

Ingredients: Motelo (-snail), spices, vegetables.

Nutritional value: Rich in proteins and minerals. Can help the immune system.


Ingredients: bijao leaves, fish, cassava, spices.

Nutritional Value: Good source of protein and carbohydrates. Rich in vitamins and minerals.


Ingredients Chontacuros (palmworms) prepared in different ways.

Nutritional Value: Rich in protein and healthy fats. Can be a source of vitamins and minerals.


Ingredients: Mojojoy larvae cooked and prepared in various ways (fired, fried, smoked, roasted).

Nutritional value: source of protein and fat. Can be a source of important micronutrients.


Ingredients Pirarucú fish, spices, chillies and some vegetables.

Nutritional Value: High in protein and low in fat. Good source of phosphorus and vitamin B12.

The typical dances of the Amazon

Here we present 5 of the most popular dances in the Amazon.

Dance of the Anaconda

This dance depicts the mythical animal of the Amazon. The dancers imitate the subtle movements of the anaconda, simulating moving through the jungle. Its feature is that it uses handmade, colorful masks and costumes that depict the beauty of the anaconda.

Ayahuasca dance

This dance is performed at ceremonies involving the consumption of ayahuasca, a sacred plant used in spiritual practices. The dancers move in circles and in different directions, thus representing the connection of nature spirits with earthly beings. Their attire usually consists of suits of green colors representing the flora of the jungle, while they are usually accompanied by the flute, which one Basic rhythm marked.

Bestknate Dance

At this ceremony, the communities distribute food, the parade is led by a high-ranking member of the community who wears a red mask and carries a bell to mark the pace of the dance. The carnival is meant to give thanks to the earth for the fruits it has received throughout the year and thanks to the men in white dances with red capes and triangular hats. The white represents purity and the red represents the blood shed during colonization.

Zuyuko dance

This dance is traditionally celebrated for the building of a new set of traditional Amazonian musical instruments. These dances are usually accompanied by songs whose origins lie in the preservation of Amazonian culture. The songs are about the different methods of obtaining basic resources such as honey, fruits or fire. Today it is considered a recreational dance.

Dance of Tobas

This dance originated in the jungle communities of the Amazon and is typical of the Tobas community. He is characterized by having stages where jumps are performed aggressively, depicting the hunt for men and women in the jungle. Symbolic decorations of animals such as the jaguar, snake, hummingbird and condor are used, which according to Amazonian tradition represent wisdom. The culture of the Amazon is fascinating and full of mysteries. This region is home to numerous indigenous tribes and communities who have lived in the jungle for centuries, trying to preserve their customs despite outside cultural influences. One of the most interesting characteristics of Amazonian culture is its close relationship with nature. The residents of this region have great respect for the environment and believe in the importance of living in harmony with nature. The opportunity to travel to this region is an experience that immerses you in legends, music, gastronomy and a sense of connection with the land like nowhere else. The hidden sacred paradise of South America.

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About Author



Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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