The Tsimane are tribe situated around the South American Amazon River who reside in a huge territory of lowland forests and savannas in the Beni department of Bolivia. These people earn their living through agriculture, hunting, fishing, foraging and periodic manual labor. Around 9,000 of them live in approximately 80 diminutive villages. These given villages usually comprise of extended families.
The Tsimane greatly differ from the rest of Bolivia in the context of social and economical integration. As such, up to this moment none of their villages have tap water or even electricity. Yet, there are now ‘house’ schools in 30 Tsimane villages where children are taught to read as well as write in both Tsimane and Spanish. Overall, this Bolivian tribe is still very cautious of acculturation. This is mainly because of their wish to retain a distinctive social identity along with their ever present lack of faith in the rest of Bolivia. Well then, here are amazing facts you might not know about the Tsimane people of Bolivia.
1. The Tsimane are adept foragers and horticulturists
The local economy is founded on the small scale cultivation of a number of subsistent crops. This includes corn, sweet manioc, plantains and rice. They make use of the fertile, but flood-prone soils around the banks of their rivers to cultivate their crops. Every adult or couple is responsible for several fields in various phases of the cultivation process. The Tsimane also fish, hunt and forage wild products in their forests. Hunting is a particularly important part of their life, and they prey on species like collared peccary, howler monkey, Brazilian tapir, agouti paca, grey brocket deer to mention but a few. This Amazonian tribe primarily uses firearms such as rifles and shotgun to hunt. However, they use bows and arrows as well, particularly when ammunition for their firearms is scarce.
2. Among the Tsimane marriage is never marked by any formality
The core of Tsimane way of life is the nuclear family units comprising of parents, uncles, aunts and their offspring. It is important to note that in this Bolivian tribe, marriage isn’t marked with any formal ceremonies or rituals. Still, it is acknowledged in the tribe’s structure. Generally speaking, a couple is regarded married if they sleep together under the same room roof in a socially acceptable manner for a brief duration of time. The median age of marrying among the Tsimane is 21 and 16.5 for males and females respectively. Polygamy is not uncommon too.
3. The infant mortality rates among the Tsimane are 12x higher than in the United States
For the larger part of the Tsimane, modern healthcare is extremely limited. Granted, healthcare costs for expectant mothers together with infants are fully covered by the Bolivian government. Still, the trips to the San Borja hospital normally necessitate many days. So, this is not a practical solution to most. What is shocking in all this is the fact that the infant mortality rates among this Amazonian tribe remain one half greater than those of the rest of the Bolivian population. Even more astounding, infant mortality rates in Tsimane are around 12 x higher than those of the United States!
4. The Tsimane have the ‘healthiest’ hearts in the whole globe
According to a recent study, which was published in the renowned medical journal ‘The Lancet’ the Tsimane have been found to have the healthiest hearts in the entire world. In that study, evidence was tabulated indicating this Bolivian tribe has the very lowest levels of vascular aging ever reported. This is mainly attributable to their healthy wholesome diet and active lifestyle. In the first case, the Tsimane diet consists largely of non processed carbohydrates including plantains, rice, corn and nuts that make up for 72% of the food they eat. Protein accounts for 14% of their average diet and comprises of meat from wild pigs, fish, capybara and so on. It is noteworthy to state the Tsimane eat very little fat. On the other hand, the average villager spends at least 6 hours each day in physical exertion, and can walk between 16,000 – 17,000 steps on a daily basis.
5. Consuming beer is the Tsimane favorite pastime
Most of the visiting and sharing among different households in this Bolivian tribe are linked with beer consumption. Big vats of fermented manioc, corn or plantains attract visitors from different households and even villages. The conversations in such social gatherings normally revolve around tales on hunting, fishing and other activities. Life experiences, myths, songs are also exchanged during such meetings, both formally and informally.