Pume - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Pume society is organized by family and residence only; there is no social hierarchy or class structure. Villages are composed of between four and thirteen nuclear family units, and residence in a village determined by kinship.

Political Organization. Villages are politically autonomous, each having a headman referred to as ote (old one). The headman lacks true authority since he cannot order or punish individuals; rather he serves as a focal point of information about villagewide events, such as seasonal moves, and acts as a social host to village visitors. Traditionally, headmen probably assumed their position through personal charisma as well as their social abilities. As the Pume come into increasing contact with criollos who do not speak Pume-mae, it is often the individual who speaks Spanish who becomes the headman. Recently, some Pume have been appointed by the Venezuelan government or have appointed themselves representatives of all Pume. Given the lack of a cultural precedent for such a leader, few Pume acknowledge the apparent authority of these individuals.

Social Control. Villagewide participation in most social and religious events provides the basis for community cohesiveness and orderliness in Pume society. The headman of a village does not impose social control, but individuals going beyond the norms of acceptability are jokingly jostled and pressured by their peers to conform.

Conflict. Interpersonal conflict among the Pume is rare and is generally avoided by not allowing the situation to develop. For example, to avoid having to give visitors bows and arrows (which are often in short supply), these items are hidden in the grass or forest beyond the village (once asked for, an item cannot be denied if it is visible). Physical injury resulting from a conflict is socially censured and causes great consternation among the Pume. Such an action is now generally attributed (often rightly) to getting drunk on commercially available alcohol, for which the Pume have a low tolerance; many Pume object to drinking commercial alcohol out of fear of its effects upon their behavior and community solidarity.

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