Native people here in the upper Amazon have relied on the panera to carry heavy items long distances. Paneras, were originally thought of as bread baskets, but today have morphed into general baskets that can carry anything from fish to kids. With a good head strap, a pretina, one can get serious about carrying stuff. We usually think that heavy items are best carried with shoulder straps such as with a backpack. But here the head strap wins out. You can bend over and redistribute some of the weight on your back, but still the neck muscles seem to do most of the work.

I’ve seen men using head straps carrying motorcycles and engine blocks up the banks from the Amazon River.

Impossible weights aside, most panera are woven baskets as in the photos. For the basket material people use the tamshi plant Heteropsis, jenmannii to supply a rawhide-tough fiber for the basket.
The pretina strap is usually made from chambira, Astrocaryum chambira. Today, I see more and more pretinas made from nylon that’s easer on the forehead and will outlast chambira.

I found this panera on a tributary of the Amazon. Motorista Salustino Apuela is hefting a basket of banana tree starts. Even with the skilled use of a panera, carrying this weight over hillocks in jungle heat to a planting site is a back (or neck) breaking job.

I find these paneras from time to time and can export them for displays. I look for paneras that are made with tamshi and well-worn with some character. And I’ll look for head straps made from chambira not nylon. I can’t ship live plants like the banana starts, but must rely on the creativity of the display designer to fill the basket.

If you need more information about paneras, drop me a note at

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