Chimane - History and Cultural Relations

In what are called "Bosques de Chimanes" (Chimane forests) between the villages of San Ignacio de Mojos and San Borja there are large expanses of embankments that connect the artificial mounds of what were once elevated fields. The ancestors of the Chimane presumably were involved in the construction of these earthworks. Archaeological remains, particularly well-fashioned and painted ceramic figurines, are believed by the Chimane to be their ancestors and are carefully kept by the shamans. A number of material, social, and religious items in Chimane culture suggest the existence in pre-Columbian times of trade relations with the Andean world. Efforts by Dominican priests toward the end of the seventeenth century and by the Franciscans in 1840 to found missions among the Chimane failed.

In the 1950s the Redemptorists founded a mission on the Río Maniqui, in a place called Cara Cara. Ten years later this mission was moved to the Río Chimane, a tributary of the Río Maniqui, and named Fatima. Nowadays there are also missionary posts of the New Tribes Mission on the Río Maniqui. Even though the Loma Santa messianic movement headed by the Mojeño (Arawak speakers) had no impact on the Chimane as a people, the Loma Santa—which persists to the present and is relocating some 12,000 to 15,000 native peoples of the Mojeño, Yurakare, and Mova groups—has resulted in a reordering of the traditional habitat of the Chimane.

In their search for a terrestrial paradise, many members of the above-mentioned groups have settled in Chimane territory and have intermarried with the Chimane. In fact, marriages between the "seekers" and the Chimane are common. Interethnic relations have had a positive impact since in the process various indigenous peoples were brought together to deal with the conditions that were being forced upon them from the outside, including cocaine trafficking. To cope with the conditions created by the new relationships, the Chimane have endeavored to recover their culture. They have joined the Confederación Indígena del Oriente Boliviano (Eastern Bolivian Indigenous Confederation, CIDOB), which is a member of the Confederación Indígena de la Cuenca Amazonica (Indigenous Confederation of the Amazon Basin, COICA).

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