Maká - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Maká have traditionally been hunter-gatherers, although there is an elementary form of agriculture (especially of pumpkins) which, on the basis of its distribution and other characteristics, is probably very ancient. The main game animal was the rhea, which was caught using techniques of game starting and camouflage. Gathering was no doubt the most important traditional source of subsistence, based on the exploitation of the immense resources of the Chaco forest. Nowadays, the Maká have integrated into the market economy and live principally from tourism, selling handicrafts, and charging fees to pose for photographs for international travelers who visit Asunción del Paraguay. It is fairly common for the Maká to go into the interior of the Gran Chaco in small groups for long periods of time, however, to return to their traditional form of life and to obtain ostrich feathers and animal skins, which they trade in Asunción.

Industrial Arts. Ethnographically, the Maká are central chaqueños , that is, they share with the Mataco, Chorote, Chulupí (Nivaklé), Toba, and Pilagá a considerable number of cultural values that are typical of hunter-gatherers. Some handicrafts have been replaced by industrial items. Nonetheless, the Maká conserve a rich traditional ergology, which must not be confused with what they fashion for the tourist market. The latter items, in contrast with the former, lack originality, functionality, and chromatic exuberance, and are made of nontraditional materials. Typical are grotesque small bows and arrows (40 to 50 centimeters), wrapped with cotton strings of the brightest contrasting colors possible. The Maká also make small bags and hair bands woven from cotton thread, in which the colors of the Paraguayan flag prevail.

Trade. Ancient forms of trade in the northern Chaco involved the circulation of bead necklaces, tobacco, and iron arrow points.

Division of Labor. Hunting, fishing, and collecting honey are male activities, whereas gathering and weaving are female tasks. Agriculture is the patrimony of the old men, whereas the harvest—incorporated with gathering—is performed by women.

Land Tenure. Traditionally, land for hunting, fishing, and gathering was established for each band, although there were continuous inter- and intraethnic conflicts regarding it.


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