Amazonian mother abandoned three children when she couldn’t adapt to “modern” life
Kenneth Good is an American anthropologist who specializes in studying the Yanomami indigenous people in Venezuela. The Yanomami live in the midst of the Amazonian rainforest and are one of the few ethnic groups that, until today, live in a similar style to the way they did before European colonization. This is down to the inaccessibility of the lands they live on, surrounded by jungle and rivers. Kenneth was interested in studying the eating habits of the Yanomami, so during the 1970s, he went to live with them for a while. His work would supposedly be limited to finding out the amount of vitamins they consumed and drawing conclusions from it. However, he stayed with them for many more years than they planned. Why? Because of love.
While Kenneth lived with the Yanomami, he learned their language and was treated as an equal. One day, the head of the tribe told him to take his youngest daughter, a girl called Yarima. Kenneth believed she was about 13, but it was impossible to tell her true age as it's something the Yanomami don't keep track of. Kenneth, about 38 years old at the time, felt that he could not be with her. However, over the years, Yarima and Kenneth grew closer, until they fell in love.
The anthropologist had no reason to take Yarima to live in the United States with him, but he eventually did so after learning, on one occasion when he returned to the tribe, that she had been raped by a group of men. Yarima could've never imagined the cultural shock that awaited her in the "modern" world. She had never known anything except the jungle and rivers, and did not know of the existence of things like Western houses, or machines that could carry people — cars and planes. The first time she saw a jeep, she tried to hide, believing it was a gigantic animal.
The couple moved to New Jersey, in the United States. There, Yarima could get used to some things, like wearing clothes every day. But there were thousands of other situations that she simply could not understand. The young Yanomami had the sad impression that the people of the city lived alone and in complete solitude. She was accustomed to being in a small group of people who always shared life together, hunting, raising children, even sleeping in the same place every night. In New Jersey, however, each person lived enclosed in four concrete walls, away from their neighbors.
Kenneth and Yarima had three children together and, for about five years, the Yanomami woman was able, out of love, to survive in a society she did not understand. No one but her husband could speak her language. Sometimes they visited Venezuela and entered the jungle, on a trip of about three days by plane, van and barge, to return to the tribe. And on the last of these visits, Yarima confessed a truth to her husband Kenneth: she could not return.
The anthropologist was heartbroken, but he understood: he had taken his wife away from a world where everyone worked and lived as a community and brought her to one where people lived much more separate lives. She just could not live there anymore. So she stayed with her people, while Kenneth returned to the United States with his three children. The two youngest ones never felt that their mother had abandoned them. But David, the oldest one, did.
In fact, David always resented his mother for abandoning him. Throughout his life he invented excuses to explain her absence and even told people that she had died in a car accident. It was not until he turned 25 that he read a book his father had written, called "Into the Heart: One Man’s Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomami." In it, his father explained, from a scientific as well as a purely human point of view, the love story that he had lived with Yarima.
Suddenly, everything became clear and David understood his mother, her sadness and her loneliness. He realized that it was not her fault. And with this in mind, he decided to embark on a journey to find his mother and her tribe in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.
It was not easy, but deep down, the great journey also expanded his horizons. Entering such remote places, crossing rivers infested with piranhas, being bitten by mosquitoes and developing stomach problems, made him realize that he was, indeed, entering another world, one that he had tried to ignore throughout his life.
When he finally reached the remote tribe, the reunion was emotional: Yarima and David recognized each other immediately, and as soon as they saw one another, they understood that the love of a mother and her son is something that never fades. For a short time, David learned to live like a Yanomami. He even ate insects, snakes and lizards! But obviously, it could not last forever.
Eventually, the time came for David — like his mother, years ago — to return to his world. "The person I am today is completely different from the one I was five years ago, and I am now proud to be an American Yanomami, I am proud of my ancestors, I love my mother and hope to be reunited with her, as well as studying the customs of the Yanomami." he said.
David helped set up the non-profit organization called "The Good Project", which helps preserve the Yanomami and their customs. All the rancor he felt for his mother's abandonment disappeared. The trip he made to the jungle helped him understand how his mother felt when she first went to the United States. Both Yamira and David discovered that there is more than one way of living and community, both with their flaws and virtues.
You can learn more about their story in the following video:
It is easy to misunderstand what Yarima did without understanding what she had to go through. However, mother and son managed to overcome their differences, remaining true to themselves and the lifestyles they have chosen. No one has any doubt that the love that exists between them will overcome any border, whether geographical or cultural. What do you think of this incredible story?