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PUYO


"El Puyo" is a beautiful city in the east of central Ecuador, and capital of the province of Pastaza. It is located on the right bank of the river of the same name, some 950 meters above seal level. It is the trading center and the most advanced river port of the province, towards the east, on the edge of the rainforest. It provides services to the population of the province, settled in places very close to the courses of the rivers. The river Puyo itself is navigable by small vessels and is a trade and transport route for regional products. The city is connected by road with Ambato and from there to the central urban area of the country. It also has a small aerodrome situated about ten kilometers to the north. Population is 45,825 inhabitants (year 2000).

The populated part of the province of Pastaza is located in and around El Puyo, reduced to a small zone: Pastaza extends out towards the vast plain of the east. The territory starts in the hills of the eastern Cordillera, below the town of Baños, with impressive landscapes of mountains, rivers and plains. There are not many high points. One of them is Habitahua, 1,820 meters above sea level. The climate in the zone is hot and humid. Its average temperature is between 18 and 24°Celsius, and the area is almost all virgin rainforest.

The river system of the province is very large with a great number of small and larger rivers, the main ones being: the Conanaco, navigable along much of its course towards the east; the rivers Pintoyacu, Cunambo, Corrientes; the Bobonaza, which flows out into the Pastaza; the Copastaza, tributary of the Pastaza; the indians of the river Tigre; and the torrential Pastaza, on the southern border with the province of Morona, which becomes a tributary of the Amazon.

El Puyo, considered to be one of the gateways to the Amazon rainforest, shares its characteristic climate, temperature, and the large unpopulated areas due to the density of the forest, to which those tribes have retreated that look askance on integration to the modern world. This is the case of the Jibaros, who reject all external contact and are determined to stay outside the limits of civilization. Strong and proud, this family of tribes is feared by all the other tribes, because of their fighting spirit and their fondness for blood cults. The Jibaros have left the banks of the navigable rivers, spreading out towards the distant tributaries, protected by the thick forest cover. There they protect their own forest culture and society, featuring polygamy and magic rites. The women are slaves and are subjected to extremely hard work. The men are sovereign, with the right of life and death over their wives. The funeral customs of the Jibaros are very particular. Their custom is not to bury their dead, but to leave them inside their cabins, after putting them into hollowed out tree trunks, and providing them with food and drink.

Even less approachable than the Jibaros are the Aucas indians. Their origin is unknown but some researchers claim they have Araucanian ancestry. It is also said that the hostility of these inhabitants of the forest has a historical basis, linked to the extermination that they suffered when the rubber traders were looking for laborers in the villages. They killed the women, children and old people, and made the able-bodied men slaves work on the rubber plantations. This hatred has not died: the Auca is even more introverted than the Jibaro and may kill anyone who tries to enter his village, invade the secrets of his life or persuade him to reach a reconciliation with the ancient enemies of his tribe, just as happened with some American Protestant missionaries, who were killed on attempting to penetrate these rigid taboos.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:

Tourists, especially foreigners, marvel at the incomparable landscape of mountains, rivers, wildlife and vegetation, that extends from the depressions of the Cordillera coming out of the Baños canton to the great plain of the river Pastaza and along the road to El Puyo.

The city of El Puyo is located 100 km from Ambato, 110 from Riobamba, 79 from El Tena, 129 from Macas, and 239 from Quito. It is linked to them with a road system that allows unlimited access. Land and river routes and some airports connect this province with cities in the sierra or in the Amazon itself. There are also air services to the most important towns.

In the city of El Puyo, entertainment parks as well as sports complexes have been built beside the river. The weekly market is an event, because it is the focal point of the whole town's activity, enabling tourists to witness the customs belonging to each place. Complementing this, there are crafts and other examples of indigenous cultures such as the shuar, achuar, huaorani and alama. Private companies have responded to the challenge of tourism, developing a good infrastructure of hotels, restaurants and other services.

POPULAR FESTIVALS

The most attractive ones are the commemoration of the Day of the Ecuadorian East Amazon on February 12th, in memory of the discovery of the river Amazon in 1542 by Francisco de Orellana, as well as the tree or chonta-palm festival, in which the huaorani tribe take part.

TYPICAL FOOD

There is one dish known as "mayto" which is a preparation of meat and plantain, wrapped in bijao tree leaves.

The catfish stew is recommended, and so are the meals stewed with agouti, tapir and carachazas (river fish).

In drinks, as in the other provinces of the region: the cassava chicha, chonta, plantain liquor and those prepared with other plants and roots such as guayusa and ayahuasca are commonly used, generally at weekends or when there are local markets.

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