Pume - History and Cultural Relations

The first record of the Pume by the Spanish explorers of the New World dates from 1589. In northern South America, the history and presence of groups such as the Pume that belong to independent language stocks remain enigmatic since Arawak-speaking groups were culturally and numerically dominant at first Spanish contact in 1498. Jesuit missionaries established the first Catholic mission among the Pume in 1739 by militarily confining the essentially nomadic Pume to a mission site. Between 1767 and 1800 Capuchin missionaries following the Jesuits' steps after their expulsion from Spanish dominions established several more missions in the Llanos that included Pume in their congregations. The Venezuelan War of Independence (1810-1820) caused an 80 percent drop in the criollo population in the Llanos of Apure. There followed a 100year period during which the area stagnated economically, and there was little contact between Pume and non-Indians. During the 1930s the first neocolonial cattle ranches were established along the Río Capanaparo, marking the beginning of the modern economic development of the area. At present, all Pume villages, no matter how remote, come into occasional contact with criollo ranchers, and many Pume work as migrant laborers during the dry season. The Venezuelan Office of Indian Affairs maintains four field offices among the Pume that are meant to provide technical, educational, and medical assistance to them.

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