Around 1,700 Ese’eja live in the Bolivian and Peruvian lowlands, in nine communities situated along the Madre de Dios and the Beni rivers and their tributaries.
Map 1: The Madre de Dios & Beni rivers, adapted from Kmusser (2008)
Map 2: ‘Traditional’ territory & present day communities, adapted from Alexiades & Peluso (2009)
The language vitality is relatively well preserved in the Bolivian communities, where the language is still transmitted to younger generations and spoken in everyday conversations. The situation differs in Peru, where language loss is evident, especially in the community of Baawaja, where only a dozen Ese’eja still speaks the language very occasionally.
Ese’eja belongs to the Takanan family, together with Araona, Cavineña, Maropa/Reyesano and Tacana. The four sister languages are only spoken in Bolivia.
Map 3: Approximate location of the Takanan languages, adapted from Grinevald & Bert (2000:504)
Most of my fieldworks took place in the community of Portachuelo Bajo, Bolivia, in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013 (see pictures below). I also went to the Ese’eja communities of Baawaja and Palma Real (Peru) for the first time in July & August 2013.