Afro-Hispanic Pacific Lowlanders of Ecuador and Colombia - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The political economy of western Ecuador and Colombia responds to booms and busts, brought about by sporadicity of requirements for certain products sought by world markets. The fundamental survival plan in Afro-Hispanic culture involves the maintenance of an exploitable set of dyads. These dyads form into families and kindreds, and out of these ramify networks. Networks are manipulated by brokers who make contracts with people outside of the culture area to the benefit of those inside. Action-sets are formed by network brokers to exploit short-run profits, such as those from cutting timber and floating it to a buying station. Sustained success as a network broker leads to the formation of stem kindreds, which are units that endure symbolically as a "family enterprise." Strategies of adaptive mobility in the Pacific Lowlands Culture Area involve peasant strategies, according to which short-run subsistence activities are maximized; proletarian strategies, according to which short-run capital-gain activities are maximized; and entrepreneurial strategies, according to which short-run and long-run risks are taken for economic mobility that involves the discarding of genealogically based social capital bound to the kindred system. These three strategies of adaptive mobility coalesce into a mobility system that is diagnostic of the entire culture area. This system is depressed and marginalized by a strong system of pervasive racism that prevents Black people from occupying the same roles as lighter-skinned people in the towns and large towns of the region.

Political Organization. Political organization follows the national system of Ecuador and Colombia, except all favors go to those who are non-Black and non-Zambo. To be Black in this Black area of Afro-Hispanic culture is offensive to those who control the political apparatus of the expanding nation-state in its frontier territories.

Social Control. Women and men talk about misdeeds and social transgressions, not to arouse the ire of those talked about but to exercise a system of managed social relationships through discourse about unacceptable conduct. Such gossip can expand into accusations of witchcraft against a closely related person or persons suspected of harboring hostile feelings against one afflicted by illness, or by a woman toward another woman said to have enchanted her husband or lover. Female and male curers exercise social powers through the manipulation of ritual items. They may identify people of evil intent as agents of witchcraft, and they may also ensorcell a man who has left a wife or lover for another. Such curers may also ensorcell one whom consensus reached through gossip declares to have violated rules of reciprocity.

Conflict. Men may come into physical conflict over land disputes, disputes over women or property, or over issues with origins in old family vendettas; when this happens extreme violence erupts and death may result. Such conflict is highly undesirable in that it is thought that the mundane and mystical heat so generated endures in a community through the medium of angry spirits and unappeased souls. Overt conflict between women is often resolved in a heated argument, which may, rarely, be accompanied by physical confrontation. Conflict is usually covert, through accusations of sorcery and the application of invidious sanctions.


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