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HomeScienceThe Motorcycle Boom in Indigenous South America: A Journey from Horseback

The Motorcycle Boom in Indigenous South America: A Journey from Horseback


A man from Chacopo runs on his motorcycle. Credit: Diego Villar

With its tropical climate, flowing rivers, dense forests, vast plains and basins that make it up Lowlands of South America It covers a large part of the continent’s surface. In fact, the Amazon rainforest covers nearly seven million square kilometers or about 40% of the total land area of ​​South America.

These lowlands are mainly located in the eastern part of South America, stretching from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Two of the main lowland areas are Amazon Basin and the Gran Chaco—both diverse landscapes that are home to a variety of indigenous cultures and societies.

Despite the diversity of the region, much of its bountiful landscape has changed dramatically over the past 150 years through the arrival of mechanical machinery. This is particularly the case in areas inhabited by indigenous people, who have been forced to adapt to new ways of living, with their traditional lives altered or disrupted.

Steamships, railroads, and trucks used for transportation arrived over the last century—followed by guns used in both hunting and warfare. The arrival of bulldozers and chainsaws, used by the logging industry, changed the rainforest forever. Meanwhile, generators are constantly buzzing in the background.

Motorcycles It is one of the newer machines to hit the lowlands. Over the past two decades, there has been a massive indigenous motorcycle boom in South America, with more and more people buying bikes with the money they earn from the rubber business, Palm hearts (the inner core is pale white than that of a palm tree), Brazil nut. I have seen firsthand how motorcycles have radically changed the lives of indigenous people.

I’ve spent the past 20 years working with the Chacobo – a group of indigenous people from Bolivia – and have seen how, for them, owning a motorcycle is more than just a means of transportation. It represents a sense of belonging and citizenship.

Owning a motorcycle is a symbol of how indigenous people are successfully adapting to the changing world around them. The motorcycle is such a symbol of sophistication and progress that in the Bolivian city of Riberalta, you can even find a motorcycle monument.

For many people, motorcycles are more than just a way to travel. In South America, especially in regions such as the Bolivian Amazon, motorcycles have become a way of life.

Bikes and beliefs

In the past, the indigenous people of these areas would spend hours decorating ornaments and bows and arrows. Now they spend most of their free time polishing, disassembling or reassembling their motorcycles.

Most of these bikes are from inexpensive Chinese brands (Dayun, Wanxin, Tianma, Haoguo), while their Japanese counterparts (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki) remain a popular icon yet.

At the same time, the arrival of the motorcycle littered these local landscapes with mechanical ‘rubble’ or ‘fossils’. Wheels, handlebars, fuel tanks and exhaust pipes line all the villages and collect dust.

With suitable replacement parts not readily available, the inevitable repairs and upgrades must depend on ‘taking it apart’ – using parts from old vehicles or whatever items are on hand to sort out the problem. This obviously changes the way lowland motorcycles look.

Bikes are named and considered unisex. Indigenous people also believe that their motorcycles can be affected by spiritual or supernatural powers that can cause them to act in unusual or unexpected ways.

For example, according to these beliefs, a motorcycle may suddenly accelerate or stop running completely without any physical or mechanical explanation. It is believed that such episodes sometimes occur with the intent of causing harm or misfortune to the owner of the bicycle.

Passion versus security

The motorcycle boom has also led to a rise in traffic accidents. Road accidents involving motorbikes are now a leading cause of death among Chacopo – and even more so since Chinese companies began paving the way that runs through their territory.

Things many of us take for granted, such as insurance, speed limits, regular MOTs or services along with helmets and protective clothing, don’t appear here. So, a lot of Road accidents What happens in this area ends up being fatal.

This led to a number of communities forming roadblocks and burning commercial trucks, which ran over motorcyclists. Local authorities have begun to demand legal compensation for the families of those killed or injured. Dealing with road accidents has become an increasingly important topic for Indigenous leaders and communities.

At the same time, motorcycles dramatically transformed Aboriginal people’s relationship with nature and society. They made hunting, fishing and gardening much easier and more productive. And it’s not just men: many Indigenous women have become motorcyclists and are using their bikes to challenge traditional gender roles.

While the increasing number of motorcycle accidents is concerning, it is clear that this passion for motorbikes has become an integral part of Aboriginal lives that has the potential to be passed down through the generations. In fact, it is very common to see entire Aboriginal families on bikes – including pets and small children.

Introduction to the conversation

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quote: From Horseback to Motorcycle: Inside the Indigenous Motorcycle Boom in South America (2023, April 25) Retrieved April 25, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-horseback-motorbike-motorcycle -boom-indigenous.html

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