Huarayo - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Some of the Huarayo are mainly involved in hunting and fishing, although the number of those who practice slash-and-burn horticulture is increasing. The chacras (fields) in which they raise plantains, sweet manioc and some maize, sugarcane, and rice, are located on the opposite river bank. In the village, they grow guayaba- fruit trees. The traditional exchange relationships between kin still function. In order to marry, a young man has to serve his parents-in-law for several years and provide them food.

Industrial Arts. The Huarayo never manufactured pottery; vessels were made from calabashes, Brazil-nut shells, and reed paca (especially for cooking small fish), or aluminum wares brought by Whites were used. In the past, the Huarayo produced stone axes, wooden knives, and long sleeveless shirts ( cushmas ). The fabric for cushmas consisted of bark beaten to the required shape with wooden clubs. The shirts were decorated with patterns such as zigzags, jaguar patches, and bird footprints using the red pigment achiote (Bixa orellana ). Today, however, all Huarayo wear ready-made clothes obtained in exchange for game and skins. Men still manufacture wooden objects such as mortars, paddles, rafts, canoes, cooking utensils, and bows and arrows. The women are skillful in making baskets, fans, and mats using different plaiting techniques—lattice weaving, twilling, wickerwork, and checkerwork. The materials mainly used are isliana tamische ( Carludovica trigona ) and shapajá-palm ( Sheelea werberbaueri ) leaves. Formerly, the production of cotton fabric (e.g., for hammocks) was also a woman's task.

Trade. The chronicles mention Huarayo trade with the Inca. Today the Huarayo in Palmareal occasionally exchange goods when frontier guards or traders visit their village. The Huarayo do not trade among themselves anymore because of the considerable distances between settlements. Only on rare occasions does a motorboat come with Huarayo visitors from Bolivian Riberalta.

Division of Labor. Hunting with bows and arrows or, rarely, with stolen shotguns is strictly a men's task, as is fishing, except in the case of fishing with barbasco poison (e.g., Tephrosia cinerea, Lonchocarpus nicu ), in which women also participate. Gathering wild fruits and catching small animals is women's activity, but men collect Brazil nuts and honey. In agriculture, men and women work together. Men do the heavier jobs (preparing chacras, felling and burning trees, carrying loads at harvesttime, and the like). Women take part in planting and harvesting. They also care for the small children, cook, wash, and do all the housework. For a fee, men roast and smoke meat or fish, manufacture weapons, and build houses and canoes.

Land Tenure. Men are responsible for preparing the chacra; it is then given to women for use as property.


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