Identification. The Huarayo are a South American Indian group in the Peruvian department of Madre de Dios and the Bolivian department of Pando. The name "Huarayo" or "Guarayo" probably dates to the time of Inca rule. Since the end of the nineteenth century, "Huarayo" has been a common name for all related groups and subgroups. The autodenomination "Ece'je" means "people."
Location. The Huarayo traditionally occupied the right side of the Madre de Dios River Basin to the Andean east slopes, the region demarcated by tributaries of the Inambari and Beni rivers. In the 1990s the Huarayo live only in a few scattered locales: on the banks of the Madre de Dios (the larger villages of Palmareal in Peru and Riberalta in Bolivia), on the Río Heath (a small camp), and on the Río Tambopata (Chonta and the settlement of Caserío de Infierno). Some individuals live near a Dominican mission, El Pilar. The lower flows of rivers are in the Selva Baja (lower forest) region; upper flows of the tributaries of Río Madre de Dios reach the Selva Ceja region (cloud forest), where there is increased precipitation.
Demography. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Huarayo population was roughly estimated at 3,000. Population reports from 1973 listed 510 individuals (97 in Palmareal, about 300 in Riberalta, 54 in Caserío de Infierno, 30 in Chonta, about 25 on the Rio Heath, 1 man at El Pilar, 1 man in Lago Valencia, and 2 persons in Puerto Maldonado).
linguistic Affiliation. The Huarayo language, together with its not-very-diverse dialects from the Tambopata and Heath regions, belongs to the Tacanan Family. The Huarayo language has morphological similarities to languages of the Panoan Family and genetic similarities to those of the Arawakan Family.