Guarijío - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Guarijío beliefs reflect the influence of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Jesuit missionaries. Life is regarded as vital breath. Death is seen as natural or as unnatural (caused by witchcraft, accident, or illness).

Religious Practitioners. When an illness fits into a native category, the Guarijío do not seek a doctor but turn to a shaman, who can divine the source of the illness by looking into smoke. Shamans perform cleansing rituals and cure with natural remedies.

Ceremonies. Among the most important Guarijío ceremonies are Cabapizca, Tugurada, and Cabos de Año. The feast of Cabapizca is performed after the harvest as a sign of gratitude. The Tugurada can be performed at any time of year to ask for rain or to fulfill a promise. Cabos de Años, also called Velaciones (Vigils), is held to honor a deceased member of the community. For a man, it commemorates the anniversary of his death each year for the three following years. Four anniversaries are celebrated for a woman.

Arts. The Tugurada is a dance performed by two lines of women who take several steps forward and, at certain intervals, turn around. Music is performed on the harp and violin, instruments the Guarijío make and use in ceremonies and festivals. Fiestas always include harp and violin music or gourd-rattle rhythm percussion. The native rhythms have a sonority that translates easily into movement.

Dance is the central event of a fiesta. Through dance, musical sounds are given bodily expression, as the dancer tries to represent physically or reinterpret the meaning of the musical forms.

The dance performances establish an imitative harmony between bodily and verbal forms of expression. It is a symbolic form portraying dramatic events that hold the attention of the audience. The mood of the dances is lighthearted. There is a constant attempt at comedy. Characters appear in one or another dance session until a full inventory has been attained: the faithful horse, the wheel, the turkey, the crow, the owl, the cow, the mapurapi, the wolf, the bull, the wasp, the priest, the donkey, the watchman, the dawn, and the saints.

Tuburi and Pascola are two styles of dance that are danced together in the Cabapizca fiesta. A singer (maynate), accompanied by a gourd rattle, directs the Tuburi. A group of women dance before the singer. When there are moments of silence, the women turn toward a wooden cross. The maynate narrates stories about people, animals, and things (which are alive in the Indian worldview).

The dance called the Song of the Iguana, or the Canary, opens all fiestas. Suddenly five Pascola dancers ( pascolas ) appear straddling a pole, performing all kinds of clownish pranks, especially of a lewd nature. They genuflect and cavort behind the head fiestero, antics that do not fail to make the public laugh. The musician's harp becomes a lewd object equated with woman, fertility, the iguana, and so forth.

One of the pascolas puts his hand into the hollow of the instrument and then licks his fingers and says:

        "Oh, darn, this's good."
"What is it, brother, what does it taste like?"
"Tastes like biscuits...."
"Hohoho, mus' be good."
"Yes, like biscuits and chocolate!" (laughter)

Insistently the pascola repeats this remark, and then the iguana bites him—that is to say, a musician burns his hand with a cigarette. The play continues in this fashion until the dancers have made a complete round.

In the Turkey and the Crow, before an improvised altar occupied by the images of the village saints, the pascolas arrange a pile of earth in which they plant a "milpa." The pascolas again surprise the public, this time carrying between their legs a handful of blue woolen cloth with which they simulate a turkey's tail. The imitation is well done and is accompanied by the typical sound made by this bird. The wild turkey goes through a transformation as his song changes into a kind of caw. Later in the play, a watchman is contracted by a landlord to watch over the "crops," but (how unusual!) he likes beer. Some of the crow's accomplices take advantage of this circumstance: they distract and deceive him and get him drunk; then they steal the maize. The watchman has to be dismissed.

Medicine. Three specific types of medicine are practiced: popular medicine, which makes use of patent remedies; traditional medicine, which includes traditional treatments and herbal remedies; and scientific medicine. Sorcery continues to be seen as causing illness and death. The traditional concepts of health and illness have a magico-religious component that is not addressed by the newly introduced Western medicine. People go first to a native curer, then to a doctor if that does not work. Western ideas of organic illness have been introduced through the health programs of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista and the Seguro Social.

Death and Afterlife. When a Guarijío dies, a vigil is held before the burial, and, eight days later, a fiesta is organized by his or her relatives. It is usually a Tugurada. After a year, within a complex ceremonial and religious framework, a Pascola is organized in order for the deceased to ascend into the skies. Some believe that the soul will enter the body of a bird or will roam places it used to visit, which can bring illness and misfortune. The Guarijío do not dress in mourning garb because wearing black clothing will keep the deceased from going up into the sky.

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