"We, the Guarao (Warao), live on the Land of the Arms of the Orinoco. If we were to name this territory in our native language the name would have to be Land of the Arms of the Orinoco. Our grandfathers were born here and died here. We, their grandsons, were born right here, we live right here and we shall die right here". -Excerpt from Hacedores de pais by Sudan A. Maccio


On the wide Orinoco River and its fertile delta composed of islands and marshes, Warao people inhabit wall-less thatched-roof huts built upon stilts for protection against floods. These houses are usually built on the highest ground to avoid the annual floods. Sometimes a group of houses is built upon a single large platform of trees. The huts each possess a clay cooking pit or oven located in the center, with sleeping hammocks encircling it. Besides the hammocks, the only other furniture sometimes present are wooden stools, sometimes carved in the shapes of animals.



Warao use canoes as their main form of transportation. Other modes, such as walking, are hampered by the hundreds of streams, rivulets, marshes, and high waters created by the Orinoco. Warao babies, toddlers, and small children are famed for their ability to hold tight to their mothers' necks, as well as to paddle. They often learn to swim before they learn to walk.


The Warao use two types of canoes. Bongos, which carry up to 50 people, are built in an arduous process that starts with the search for large trees. When an old bongo is no longer usable, a consensus is reached by the male leaders of each household on which tree is best. At the start of the dry season, they find the tree and kill it. At the end of the dry season, they return to cut it down. It is then hollowed out and flattened with stone tools traded from the mountains (or local shell tools) along with fire.

The other type of canoe is a small, seating only three people, and is used for daily travel to and from food sources.



The Warao diet is varied with an emphasis on the products of the delta, mostly fish. By 1500 they had acquired basic horticulture, although many of their daily fruits and vegetables come from the wild orchards of the delta. In July and August, Warao feast on crabs when they come to the delta from the beach. Hunting is generally avoided due to cultural taboos.



The Warao are, according to their own reports, descended from an adventurous heavenly figure — the primordial hunter. This man originally dwelt in a sky world which had men, but was completely devoid of all animals except birds. Hunting these heavenly birds, the founding man used his bow and arrow to strike a bird in mid-air. The bird fell from the sky and eventually hit the heavenly floor. The birds burst through the floor and proceeded through the clouds and towards terrestrial land (Earth) below. The hunter went to the hole in the floor made by the bird and looked through. He saw lush and fertile land (Venezuela) and resolved to descend to it to partake of its pleasures: beauty, abundant game, fruit, et cetera. The hunter took a long rope of heavenly cotton, tied it to a tree, and threw it through the hole and lowered himself through the clouds to what is now Venezuela, forsaking his sky world.  -Wiki


Photo: Alan Highton
Photo: Alan Highton

The Warao Indians are excellent basket weavers. They live in the vast delta of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. The creation of their works is concidered an all family event where the children are encouraged to participate. These are century old techniques which have been passed generation to generation. Their traditional material used is Moriche (Mauritia flexuosa linn), in Spanish "árbol de la vida" which means “tree of life.” One of the special characteristics of the moriche is that the fibre is smooth and very comfortable to the skin.


"The tree (the Moriche Palm) yields materials used for food, building, fibers, threads, rope, footwear, foliage used for roofing, fishing tools, loin cloths, arrows, hammocks and baskets. 

The processing of the fibers is time consuming and hard work. The leaves are cut from the tree, is dried for several weeks and then crushed into very fine hairy fibre. It is then boiled and dried in the sun. After, using their hands and legs, the fibers are twisted into very fine threads.


The Warao have demonstrated their profound ability of resourcefulness through their usage of this tree.


"Life and death is defined by their ability to survive from what the earth provides and to find solace in that. Once we reach this point, we will be in a position to understand the Warao's affirmation that their country is the country of the mouth of the Orinoco. the delta being its universe'." -Source: Sudan A. Maccio of Hacedores de pais



Here they wrap the fibers around a coil

of a palm branch. This technique offers us some of the strongest and tightest weaves available being some of the finest in the world today.