Baure



ETHNONYMS: Chiquimitica, Maure, Mojeno, Moxa, Moxo


Approximately 5,000 to 7,000 people call themselves Baure, but only 300 or so can presently speak the Baure language. Most live in the Bolivian departments of Beni and Santa Cruz in the areas of the Machupo, Baures, and upper Mamoré rivers. Concentrations of Baure may be found in the towns of Huacaraje, Trobi, San Ignacio, Baures, Campo Santo, and La Cruz. An uncontacted group lives between the Guaporé and Colorado rivers. The Baure language belongs to the Arawakan Family.

First contacted by the Spanish in 1580, the Baure successfully fought off the Spaniards' attempts to conquer them. In the 1660s the Jesuits made peaceful contact and established several missions for the Baure then and in the eighteenth century. The relationship was not always a peaceful one, however; the Baure killed a Jesuit, Father Barrace, in 1702. When the Jesuits were forced from South America in 1767, their protection ceased and the Baure were subjected to slave raids and an unsympathetic government. Although they had traditionally taken war captives (who were allowed to marry Baure but who were otherwise treated harshly), the Baure then began to take slaves themselves, whom they traded to Whites for metal tools and glass beads. In the nineteenth century rubber tappers entered the area, and their contact with the Baure often resulted in Baure deaths. Between the early eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, the Baure population fell from 40,000 to 6,000.

The Baure traditionally lived in large villages that were protected by palisades, ditches, and pitfalls along nearby trails. The palisades had loopholes for use by archers. Soldiers carried shields made of reeds held together by cotton threads. Villages were independent of one another, and a chief in one village had no authority beyond its boundaries. The chief ( arama ) passed his office on to his eldest son, if that son had been born to the daughter of a chief. The people gave the chief whatever he wanted and carried out his orders quickly, even if they involved killing one of their own number. However, the chief's authority was curbed somewhat by an older man who was selected annually and who counseled him on his duties and warned him against abusing his power.

The Baure were horticulturists who grew a variety of plants, but they also foraged for wild fruits, especially palm fruits. They hunted as well. When they caught a jaguar in a pitfall, the chief had the privilege of killing it. Jaguars had great religious significance for the Baure and were the object of cult worship. Men wounded by jaguars became shamans with special powers and worked to protect the village from jaguar attacks. Those who killed jaguars enjoyed special prestige.


Bibliography

Boom, Brian M. (1987). Ethnobotany of the Chácobo Indians, Beni, Bolivia. Bronx, N.Y.: New York Botanical Garden.

Key, Harold, and Mary Key (1967). Bolivian Indian Tribes: Classification, Bibliography, and Map of Present Language Distribution. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguisitics of the University of Oklahoma.


Lettres édifants et curieuses, éscrites des missions étrangères, par quelques missionaires de la Compagnie de Jesus (17801783). Vol. 8 of 26. Paris.

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