Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Pemon are slash-and-burn cultivators, fishers, hunters, and gatherers of wild fruits and insects in season. Bitter manioc, peppers, and a leafy vegetable known as aurosa are the mainstays of the Pemon diet. Yams, ocumo, batata, bananas, plantains, maize, pumpkins, and sugarcane are secondary food crops. Cotton is still grown for hammocks. Tobacco growing has diminished because of the increased availability of commercial cigarettes. Fish, the bulk of daily protein intake, are taken with hook and line, fish poison, and weirs. Hunting, formerly less important, is now done with single-shot shotguns; game includes tapir, deer, peccaries, pacas, agoutis, and birds. Palm fruits, flying ants, and certain larvae are gathered and eaten. Gourds are raised in the fields alongside food crops and are used for water and manioc-beer containers. Money made in the alluvial diamond mines or at mission labor sites has produced a partial cash economy of small purchases alongside traditional subsistence patterns.
Industrial Arts. Pemon make decorated basketry, clay bowls, wooden dugout and bark canoes, paddles, and bows and weave hammocks and baby carriers. They make necklaces from trade beads and weave small fish scoops from twine.
Trade. An extensive long-distance trade network links the Pemon with neighboring tribes and involves direct exchange of shotguns, blowpipes, manioc graters, bowls, and bead necklaces, among other items. Pemon have managed to mesh cash purchases of outside goods with traditional exchange at fixed rates, thus keeping all Pemon in the network whether or not they have cash.
Division of Labor. Work roles are sex-specific, but overlapping. Men hunt, fish, weave baskets, cut fields, build houses, gather wild foods, work for pay in mines and missions, and go on trading expeditions. Women cook, tend and harvest fields, make manioc beer, fish, gather wild foods, weave cotton articles, assume primary responsibility for children, and also go on trading expeditions. Pemon perform a wide variety of wage labor in Santa Elena and at a number of tourist sites.
Land Tenure. Every Pemon family has usage rights to the fields it cultivates, and when fields go fallow and return to secondary forest, the land reverts to the community at large. Family groups tend to fish and cultivate within a two hours' walk of their settlement, and Pemon would not think of fishing near another's settlement without first informing their neighbors. Hunting, singly or in groups, is done far from settled areas, and no specific rights to hunting territories exist.