Panare - History and Cultural Relations

Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Panare were confined to the upper Río Cuchivero, but then they began to expand to the north and west, occupying the territory of other indigenous groups that had become extinct. In doing so, they came increasingly into contact with criollo peasant agriculturists and cattle herders who were moving into the area as well. Until the 1960s, however, this contact had relatively little cultural impact on the Panare. Although they traded actively with the criollos, there was virtually no intermarriage and very few Panare learned to speak more than a few words of trade Spanish. No Panare would willingly work for a criollo master. Since that time, both the number and sophistication of the local criollo population have increased greatly following the building of new roads into the area and other developments in the local economy, including the discovery of rich deposits of diamonds and bauxite. At the same time, the area has been penetrated by missionary groups, both Catholic and evangelical. As a result, although most Panare communities continue to resist intermarriage and other forms of social and economic integration with the criollos, many groups have now abandoned traditional forms of dress and settlement. In the evangelized communities, traditional forms of belief and ritual have disappeared, and in most other communities they are becoming increasingly attenuated. Only in the upper Cuchivero, among the most isolated communities, do they remain strong. This is also the only area in which relations with other Indians remain significant. Here, the Panare communities are in regular contact with neighboring groups of Hoti.

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