Amuesha - Orientation



Identification. The name "Amuesha" is derived perhaps from aamo (capybara) and - esha' (classificatory). Formerly, many of the group used it to refer to themselves, but today they prefer "Yanesha'" (we people).

Location. The Amuesha traditionally occupied the region in the high central jungle of Peru between 9.7° and 11.1° S and 74.6° and 75.6° W in the present-day departments of Junín and Pasco, along the valleys of the upper Perene and Pozuzo rivers, the headwaters of the Palcazu River, and the southernmost headwaters of the Pichis River. Today their territory is between 9.7° and 10.8° S and 75° and 75.6° W. This reduced territory is also occupied by thousands of colonists.

Linguistic Affiliation. Recent studies demonstrate that the Amuesha language is a member of the Maipuran Arawakan Family (i.e., mainstream Arawakan, rather than an isolated branch of the Arawakan stock, as it was previously classified). The confusion in classification arose in part because it contains dozens of Quechua loanwords; many loans from Panoan languages; and numerous old, completely assimilated Spanish loans, as well as new Spanish ones. There are a few regional dialectal differences but they do not impede communication.

Demography. Epidemics in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth reduced the population to about 3,500 in 1950. A conservative estimate of the population in 1989 is 7,000.


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