Yuqui - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. As a band society with greatly reduced numbers, the Yuqui were organized in what appears to have been groups of individuals related through some original founding male or set of brothers and their slaves. Groups that fissioned in later years, events still recollected by the Yuqui, appear to have been formed along these lines. As the band became smaller and more isolated, intermarriage with close relatives became necessary, and even members of the uppercaste (saya) were forced to marry slaves ( enembaco ) in order to have partners. Within the band, households maintained discrete nuclear-family units. The husband was the dominant force in the family, but women also were able to exercise a certain amount of control through the withholding of sex, the threat of killing male children at birth, public humiliation, or by simply moving from the conjugal hammock to that of another male. The band generally traveled together, although at times individual families might separate for a few days to forage on their own. This type of separation occurred most commonly as the result of some dispute in camp.

Political Organization. The Yuqui show many of the egalitarian qualities of a band society in that leadership is, to a marked degree, consensual, at least for members of the upper caste. Slaves did not have the freedom to make their own decisions and their behavior was rigidly controlled. Moreover, the apparent tradition of having hereditary leadership pass through the male line gave these leaders ( papa ) somewhat greater power and influence than might normally be expected in a band-level society. At the time of contact and the death of the leader several months later, the missionaries selected and trained a new Yuqui leader. His power has not been successfully consolidated, and at least two additional potential leaders have emerged as the result of their abilities to deal with the outside world.

Social Control. Social control follows typical band-level organization in that it is fluid and informal. Gossip, humiliation, verbal and physical coercion, and withholding of food, sex, or other forms of gratification all enter into Yuqui forms of social control. Slaves were dominated from birth, and had little recourse but to accept their status in life. They performed most of the distasteful tasks around camp and were fed last and least. Slaves were reprimanded both verbally and physically. Wrestling by males and females remains an activity engaged in both for play and as a means of asserting dominance over an individual.

Conflict. Much of the daily existence of the Yuqui is marked by conflict, which as one Yuqui observed, in addition to resulting from stressed relations, may also be a source of entertainment. The Yuqui seem to delight in causing trouble for others of their group, often initiating problems by creating rumors about a person and then adding to the uproar as it spreads through camp. As a people who openly display emotion, the Yuqui usually confront an antagonist, guilty or not, with a great deal of arguing (with most of the remainder of the Yuqui standing by or taking sides), shouting, and crying, often culminating this display with a physical attack. These fights, in which both sexes may participate, may escalate to hair pulling, choking, scratching, and biting, frequently resulting in injury and profuse bleeding. The participants may ignore and avoid each other for days or even weeks, but eventually the propinquity of the group and the need to continue reciprocal obligations will bring the offenders together. In order to speed the process of returning the group to normalcy, a Yuqui may act as an intermediary, proposing an indemnity, usually food, to the wronged individual on behalf of the aggressor, which terminates the hostilities.

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