Mashco - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The communal house or local group belongs to a regional faction made up of several house communities, as, for example, among the Wachipaeri of the Kosñipata Valley. They are divided into four local groups, corresponding to the cardinal directions, and recognize a regional chief. Leadership was based on kinship or valor acquired in battle. Each faction constitutes a cultural and political community within clearly stipulated territorial boundaries. The cultural homogeneity among factions is manifested in a common language with minor dialectical differences.

Political Organization. The Mashco are conscious of their ethnic identity vis-à-vis other Amazonian tribes, but they do not recognize central authority, and expressions of political solidarity are accidential as, for instance, in wartime, when the entire faction organizes to pursue a common goal. Local chiefs become subordinate to a regional chief. Social stratification is dual: the chief ( wantópa ) together with people of high respect ( warn ) form an upper social level and the inferiors ( wanámba ), a lower social level. For example, the wantópa of a herd of pigs is the one who directs them; the members of the herd are wanámba. This social paradigm, as expressed in myth, is common to all Mashco factions and applies to the animal and human worlds.

Social Control. Even though chiefs exerted social control over their respective communities, the shamans and "dreamers" were more important overall. Indeed, both announced the likelihood of war, exposed witches and other harmful people, and pointed out cases of adultery and other events that affected life in a communal house.

Conflict. The Mashco have historically demonstrated great bellicosity. Periodically, and at a certain time of the year, they engaged in repeated fighting with adversarial factions.


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