Marubo - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Subsistence slash-and-burn agriculture dominates the Marubo economy; sweet manioc, bananas, and maize are the main staples. The cultivated palm Guilielma speciosa is valued for its edible fruits and is also used for its strong black wood and to make beer. Hunters using firearms, and helped by dogs, generally return with meat. The most frequent game are wild pigs ( Tayassu ) and two species of monkeys ( Ateles paniscus and Lagothrix sp.). Tortoises ( Testudo tabulata ) and turtles ( Podocnemis unifilis ) are kept in "corrals." The dry season is the best time for hunting the rodent Cuniculus paca and for fishing activities, with hook and line or with poison. Wild fruits from the palms Mauritia sp., Oenocarpus bacaba, Euterpe edulis, Oenocarpus bataua, Orbignia speciosa , and Leopoldinia piassaba (this could be Attalea funifera ) are important foods.

Industrial Arts. Beads, pottery, cloth, and basketry are the principal items produced. Beads are produced by breaking and piercing snail shells, putting them on strings, and then polishing them. These are used as body ornaments. The strings used for beads and for hammocks are made from Bactris setosa palm fiber. Pottery includes small bottles to store the vine Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca) juice, dishes for eating and drinking, jugs for carrying and keeping water, and big pots for cooking and making beer. A simple loom tied to a pole and to a woman's waist is used to weave thin bands and a very small skirt. There is no metalwork.

Trade. Trade with other Indian societies is nonexistent but with Whites it is very important. The Marubo earn some cash or obtain White items by working for missionaries or by extracting rubber and wood and raising chickens (and sometimes pigs) for the riverboat traders. The selling of artifacts to the shops maintained by FUNAI for this purpose is sporadic. Some Marubo men borrow merchandise from White traders and lend them to other Marubo, who must pay rubber or wood to the lender; the latter transfers these forest products to the White creditors. Thus, some Marubo have become middlemen in the Amazonian commercial system.

Division of Labor. Division of labor is based on gender only. Men hunt, fish with hooks, clear wooded areas for new gardens, and do some kinds of agricultural work, such as planting bananas or storing maize in the dwelling hut. They build houses, make certain kinds of baskets, and sing curing chants. Women cook, make beer, care for children, draw water from streams, make pottery and beads, weave, and collect wild fruits and do other kinds of agricultural work, such as the gradual harvesting of manioc and bananas. Men and women together poison the streams for fish and harvest the fruits of the cultivated palm. There is at least one part-time specialist, the shaman.

Land Tenure. Land is owned collectively by the society as a whole or perhaps by each local group.

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