Cubeo - Sociopolitical Organization



Political, religious, and ritual life is dominated by the men of the group. People of highest status, like the elders of the lineage and the "elders" who operate as a sort of "council," are consulted and influence collective decisions. Although in communal work there is a leader who organizes collective labor, relations among the members of a group are egalitarian. Nowadays villages are organized into juntas de acción comunal (boards of communal action), headed by a chieftain, who frequently is also the person with the greatest traditional status. Other forms of Western organizations have also been introduced.

Political Organization. According to the order of birth, the adscription of relative rank among clans is assimilated to the sequence of body segments of the ancestral Anaconda. This adscription, which manifests itself only in ritual contexts and in the interrelationship of different ethnic groups, apparently corresponded to the internal distribution of territory, according to which the older members tended to live at the mouth of a river and the younger ones at its headwaters. In daily life, interpersonal relations mediated by respect between relatives are not expressive of subordination. More than exercising authority in the community, the chief has the role of organizer, master of ceremonies, and coordinator of daily activities. Organizations grouping together various communities of the same river axis have been superimposed on communities linked by kinship and marriage. These organizations, such as the Unión de Indígenas Cubeos del Cuduyari (Union of Cubeo Indians from the Cuduyari) and the Unión de Indígenas del Querary (Union of Indians from the Querary), are gremial in character and strive to readjust their relationship with the national society and the state.

Social Control. Religious and cultural beliefs about the order of society and the environment are the referents for legitimizing an individual's behavior. Rumor and scolding are direct mechanisms of social control. Occasional interpersonal disputes are mediated by the chief. Envy caused by another's inexplicable well-being, jealousy over material wealth, and disagreements over women's infidelity are resolved relatively quickly. In cases that are serious or occur repeatedly, death through "witchcraft" is frequent.

Conflict. According to presently stated opinion and mythical tradition, when the internal social order, territorial distribution, and the adscription of specialized functions were established, one segment usurped primogeniture. Since then disputes over traditional clan order have been frequent, but have not led to conflict. The Cubeo speak of intertribal wars with ethnic groups that occupied their territory and with neighboring groups that disputed their settlements. These wars later turned into battles of scorcery, which now have come to an end. The Cubeo remember cannibal warriors who came from Brazilian territory in historical times and whose fierceness forced the Cubeo to hide in the jungle for some time. Conflicts with Whites over the exploitation of indigenous labor during the rubber season still occur.


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