People so often ask how we came to be involved with jagua and the Amazon that I thought I’d write it down and point people to our blog! To my husband Pascal and me, we were just doing what we always do—walk through a promising door when it opens. But people keep telling us how unusual the story is, so here goes. I’ll give you the condensed version.
We were minding our business selling our Earth Henna tattoo kits when we heard about the jagua fruit. Always on the lookout for a natural stain that would look like a real tattoo, I Googled to see what I could find. I happened onto an article written by an American biologist living in the Peruvian Amazon. In it he had posted pictures of himself hanging out with members of the Matsés people covered in what looked like tribal tattoos, but the caption mentioned that the body art was made with jagua.
I emailed the author of the article and explained that for 12 years our company had been buying the entire harvest of one family of henna farmers in Morocco. I said we would love to establish a relationship with the Matsés people as our source for the jagua fruit. He was eager to help the Matsés establish economic viability, and readily facilitated the introduction. No trees are cut down to create our product. If not for us, the jagua fruit—which grows in profusion there—would just fall to the ground and rot. Win-win!
Not long after, Pascal found himself on a plane headed for Lima, Peru. From there he took another plane to bustling Iquitos, the gateway city to the jungle; a tiny military transport plane then flew him to another village; from there an 8-hour, hot, humid and mosquito-filled canoe ride deposited him in the village where 200 Matsés people live. Daniel, the 38-year-old chief of the group, spent the next three weeks showing Pascal how they harvest the jagua fruit and turn it into the juice we use as the base of our Earth Jagua gel. He and Pascal established a system for how they would ship the juice to us, as well as a communication protocol since there are no phones or internet available in the Amazon jungle!
The jagua tattoo business isn’t always easy, and is quite often tricky—luckily Pascal and Daniel both speak Spanish (the older, and uneducated Matsés only speak Matsés!). Still, nuance sometimes gets lost and misunderstandings occur; shipments can get delayed by the famously capricious Peruvian customs agency. This is a major concern since the juice must be as fresh as possible when it arrives to us in Los Angeles (this is why we use citric acid, a natural preservative, to keep it that way while in transit). Once here, we have each batch tested for bacteria and parasites, then we send it to a facility, which freeze-dries the juice so that our Earth Jagua kits can have a shelf life while they wait to be scooped up by customers in retail stores and online.
The trouble is worth it, though, because people loveLoveLOVE their jagua tattoos! It’s a sustainable product, which helps support a very economically challenged people. We help pay for the group’s malaria medicine each year, and help them out with other issues, when necessary, and they provide us with the means to make people happy, pay our bills and keep our staff employed. All good stuff. I’ll expand on the story in my next blog!
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