Carving is an imporant sector of the handicraft industry that supports a substantial number of native Indians and mestizos. A variety of woods are usedthe commonest being balsa and blood wood, the latter of which is becoming increasingly scarce. Here we focus on Antonio, a wood carver who lives in the village of San Pablo on the main stream of the Amazon between Iquitos and Leticia. San Pablo has a hospice where resident nuns care for victims of leprosy, more properly known as Hansen's Disease. Antonio suffered from the disease and lost his fingers and toes, but his talent as a carver enables him to make a decent living.
Here Antonio is using a chisel in the early stages of carving an armadillo. This is a relatively small carving, but his pieces are often quite large, and may reach 12 to 18 inches in length, such as the toucan shown in the handicrafts section. (See Handicrafts/carvings.)
Here Antonio is adding the finishing touches to an armadillo. He is using "Huito" (Genipa americana), a fast-growing hardwood that is not at risk of over-exploitation. The armadillo is a special topic for Antonio due to its association with the transmission of Hansen's Disease. (See Handicrafts/carved armadillos for the finished product.)