Huarayo - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Huarayo society was traditionally egalitarian, with men serving as chiefs of separate local groups. A man's status was based on his knowledge of the environment and herbal medicine and his ability to narrate myths; today knowledge of Spanish is also necessary.

Political Organization. Communities are linked primarily by kinship and marriage. The Peruvian Huarayo participated in the Indian unification movement and became members of La Federación Nativa de Madre de Dios (FENAMAD), which was established in 1982. Only since 1987, however, when FENAMAD became a component of the Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Perú (CONAP), have the Huarayo (on the Rio Tambopata) been represented on the committee and become active.

Social Control. In the past, masato-drinking bouts were common. They provided an opportunity for general release of suppressed aggression, especially between men, who settled their disputes with violence or combat. In cases of adultery or a rape inside a village, the matter is settled publicly. In such a case, nearly all adults give their opinions. The opinion expressed by the majority is used as a recommendation, not an order.

Conflict. In the past, raids and wars among the local Huarayo groups were very frequent. The main purpose was stealing women. The men were killed, and women and girls were raped. Huarayo also fought with Atsahuaea, Iñapari, Arasairi, Piro, Mashco, and Toyeri groups. Although Dominican missionaries worked in the Huarayo region in the twentieth century, their influence was meager; the Huarayo were warlike even in the 1920s and 1930s. The death of the missionary Manuel in 1926, caused by the Huarayo Shajaó, is often mentioned. In this case the Peruvian army intervened, and the offender was punished. Shajaó was imprisoned in Cuzco, where he died in 1942. Missionary activities eventually helped end raiding and alleged cannibalism. The Adventists began to operate in Palmareal in 1962 after an epidemic of smallpox and measles decreased the number of inhabitants from 250 to 80 people. Bolivian rubber tappers ( caucheros ) have raided Huarayo territory.

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