ETHNONYMS: Araibayba, Carabere, Guarasug'we, Guarayuta, Itatin, Moterequoa, Pau Cerna, Pauserna-Guarasug'we
The thirty or so Pauserna live on the left side of the upper Río Guaporé in the southeastern part of the department of Beni, in Bolivia (14° S, 61° W). The people derive their name from the fact that the pao cerne tree is abundant in their area. Only a few of the older people speak the Pauserna language, which is a daughter language of Guaraní and a member of the Tupí Family. The Pauserna's ancestors are the Guaraní, who came to the area to raid fringe regions of the Inca Empire. The Guarayu and the Pauserna once made up a single group; one part of that group, the ancestors of the Guarayu, was moved into missions, and the other part remained independent and is known as the Pauserna. Their first significant contact with Whites came in the 1880s, when rubber tappers came to Pauserna territory.
Originally foragers, the Pauserna have since become horticulturists. They raised a great variety of food and other plants available before contact but now have ceased raising manioc and have adopted the cultivation of rice and caripo (yams). Groups clear and prepare fields for planting. Men plant maize, and women plant manioc and assist in the harvest. Some also collect rubber and ipecac, which is used to make pharmaceuticals. The Pauserna once lived in multifamily dwellings but now live in single-family open sheds. Inside the house are food-storage platforms and cotton hammocks. For sitting, men have benches; women have mats. The Pauserna make and wear bark cloth and woven cotton garments but go naked in religious ceremonies. Women spin cotton thread using a drop spindle and a vertical loom. Pots are made with clay tempered with crushed potsherds.
Boys were often scarified and bled to make them strong. Girls were secluded for a month at puberty, fed a restricted diet, and tattooed on their arms and breasts. Cross-cousin marriages and those between a man and his sister's daughter were preferred. A girl or woman could not marry without the consent of her father and brother. Polygyny was common. Postmarital residence was matrilocal at first, and then neolocal. Pregnant women had to observe certain food taboos. Fathers observed couvade by remaining in hammocks for three days following the birth of their children—it was believed that a child's soul follows the child's father and might be injured if it exerted itself immediately after birth. The dead were formerly buried in graves, over which a hut was built; today they are buried in their huts, wearing their paint and ornaments, wrapped up in mats, and facing west.
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