Bugle - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Little is known about the relative status of women and men among the Bugle. Men meet outside their own homes for social purposes, whereas it is reported that women as a group do not do so. Men are dominant in the public arena, but evidence suggests that in the domestic arena men and women are equal partners in household decisions and that women (as well as men) own and control their own personal property, including crops and domestic animals. Social stratification does not exist, but some individuals (usually elder males) are more highly respected than others for their wisdom and decision-making abilities or for their control of special bodies of knowledge, such as traditional medicine.

Political Organization. Nothing is known about traditional forms of political organization among the Bugle. Political authority was probably kin-group based, as among the Ngawbe. During the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, it is reported that the Bugle accepted the authority of the Ngawbe governors, but it should be noted that the system of governors was originally a system imposed upon the Ngawbe by outside authorities. Since about the early 1970s, the Bugle have allied themselves with the Ngawbe chief of Veraguas Province, particularly with reference to relations with the national government. Local civil authorities called corregidores, who are appointed by the national government, are responsible for keeping order and settling local disputes. Corregidores frequently appoint subalterns, called comisarios, whose responsibilities are to keep order in their own hamlets.

Social Control. Adultery and robbery are punishable offenses among the Bugle. Until about the middle of the twentieth century, wooden stocks (presumably of colonial origin) were used as the common form of punishment. In disputes between individuals or kin groups, the protagonists meet, along with other members of the community, and attempt to settle the quarrel, with the local comisario serving as arbitrator. If a satisfactory resolution is not achieved, a similar meeting will be held with the corregidor serving as arbitrator. Individual skills and accumulated respect are better determiners of success in disputes that are arbitrated by corregidores and comisarios than is the force of authority that is attached to these positions.

Conflict. At the national level, there has been a long-standing and continuing conflict between the national government and the Bugle and Ngawbe regarding legal recognition of their lands as a reserve. Disputes between kin groups may also occur over land. Conflicts between individuals arise for a variety of reasons, and others become involved, in alignment with their kin (see "Social Control").

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