According to indian Ronaldo Apolinario, peppers are "anti-Curupira". Curupira is a boy who, as the legend goes, is the protector of the forest and has inverted feet with heels pointing forward. But the added sense of protection comes from the fact that pepper has 20 times more vitamin C than an orange.
Walking into a clearing in the woods with resident Vera Lucia is like taking a trip back in time. The baniwa people have inhabited the region for at least three thousand years. At least that is what the archaeological records show. Perhaps longer before that. And as pepper is the main ingredient in the indigenous culinary it is likely that since that time they have domesticated various pepper species that can be found in the northern Amazon.
Baniwa mythology accounts for primordial beings in the beginning, who were neither people nor animals nor plants. Then one day a group discovered the source of power over the other species. "Previously there had been a large tree in baniwa called 'cari catadapa.' And on this tree existed various types of fruit, one being pepper. Among the beings called 'wacawene' in baniwa there was a primal being called "inhapculiqueu", which is a major conqueror of all baniwa cultural aspects. Pepper has therefore been used as an instrument to protect the body itself and also to cook food.
In the rites of passage to adulthood, young people learn that pepper is bactericidal, helps prevent contamination of food consumed fresh.
Throughout the Amazon over 150 types of pepper have been catalogued and as they are planted together, the crossings have given rise to new varieties. "There are several new species, so to speak, that baniwa can not name because birds consume much pepper. Then they eat them, dropping the seeds somewhere else thus helping people spread it," says the Indian André Baniwa.
Some villages have even pepper charmers. It's usually an old woman who inherited the secrets of ancestors and who has passed many rituals of lifelong preparation. 'Abomi', which means "grandmother" in baniwa, sings for the peppers to shine. She bestowed on us a great honor - visiting her private garden. Abomi believes to be 75 or more, diificult to tell by her face. Moreover, she is in excellent health. The explanation she has for this is because she lives next to the garden where she cultivates pepper plus all the meaning that pepper adds to cooking, health, religion and indigenous spirit. This shows how much pepper is completely blended in the baniwa culture.
The malagueta pepper is one commonly used in Brazil to make different hot sauces and add a kick to any dish. The Scoville scale, which measures the heat of chili peppers, rates the pepper at anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 units. For reference, consider a jalapeño, which sits anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 units.
SOURCE: (IN PORTUGUESE)