THE MACHIGUENGAS LEARN TO READ
The man they called cruel was the foreman of a boss. He lived in our area: that’s how he managed to capture my father. He was a bad man who kidnapped people. He was going to hunt them and bring them to the skipper at gunpoint. When capturing them. I hit them. Then he muttered them together and took them from their homes to the boss. I went to the headwaters of Mantaro Chico and Picha and made my countrymen suffer a lot. He even killed some. If the women walked slowly because they were carrying children in their arms. He took their children and threw them into the river. When he lived there was a lot of suffering. Story of the Mantaro Chico, 1968
A long time ago I did not live here; I lived in the headers. Today is different. At that time they conspired to sell us; today that is over. I’m not afraid anymore; we do not have to flee to the mountain when a white person arrives. Ahucia House 13, Shivankorcni, 1992
The machiguenga ethnolinguistic group of the south jungle of Peru has an estimated population between seven and ten thousand inhabitants and belongs to the Arawak Maipuran linguistic family. They live scattered in the eastern foothills of the Andes along the small rivers that form the basin of the Urubamba River, in the province of La Convención, and the tributaries of the Manú River, department of Madre de Dios. They occupy an approximate area of 200 kilometers (from North to South) for 400 kilometers (from East to West). According
Baksh (1984: 24) the population density is less than one person by two and a half square kilometers; But even so, the Machiguenga continue to be one of the most vital aboriginal groups in tropical America.
The purpose of this work is to detail the development of the events in the bilingual education program among the Machiguengas.1 First, we will present a chronology of the facts, because it is not possible to understand a literacy program outside of its context. At first sight, this chronology has the appearance of being a simple relation of communal development efforts; however, it is now seen that the denials made – with the hope of providing the machiguengas with survival mechanisms – have acquired an important role in creating uses for the written language and thus have formed a basis for the development of the reading-writing. In the second part we will describe the efforts made in relation to literacy
and the education.
Machiguenga territory covers three different geographical areas. The southern sector, the most mountainous, known as the Upper Urubamba, is separated from the northern region of Bajo Urubarnba by a chain of steep hills and the Pongo de Mainique, which has impeded contact between these two divisions of the ethnic group. . To the east, a second chain of hills, which forms part of the continental dividing line, separates the populations of the Upper and Lower Urubamba from those of the Manú and Madre de Dios regions. The rivers of the three areas are separated by hills covered with dense vegetation. Some rough trails connect the rivers and some of the communities, but the inhabitants prefer to travel by river in canoes and, when there is fuel, in boats or motorized canoes.
1 Many of the data presented here appear in the paper “Leuping into the space age: Community devclopment among the Machiguenga”, by P. Davis, W. Snell and B. Snell, which was presented to the Conference on Intercultural Communal Work ( Intercultura! Community Work), Dallas, TX, May 1992.
The main rivers and their tributaries meander through the jungle in great curves. They are known for being torrentosos, for their swirls and dangerous cachuelas. Sometimes, in the growing season, it is impossible to travel. During the summer – dry weather – it can also be difficult and even impossible to travel due to the lack of water. Due to these geographical characteristics, the area has always been remote and difficult to access. Communication with Pucallpa is easier from the Lower Urubamba region – about 450 kilometers by plane and 560 kilometers by river – north of the Machiguenga territory. Pucallpa is the commercial and political center of the neighboring department of Ucayali. The trip downstream to Pucallpa by motorized boat takes four to ten days. The return trip takes from ten to fourteen days, depending on the speed of the current. The nearest intermediate towns offer only partial services. In the Upper Urubamba, one arrives from the Pongo to the border village of Kiteni in approximately five hours of trip upriver, in a 40 HP motor boat. From there to Quillabamba, capital of the province, it is a day of hard journey by truck. In one more day of travel by train one arrives at Cusco, capital of the department of the same name. The distance and the dangers of the trip have frightened the outsiders, so the Machiguenga, especially those from the Lower Urubamba, have lived very isolated. Until recently the region did not have public services, even today there are very few.
2. SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
As is typical of the isolated Amazonian peoples, the Machiguenga have practiced subsistence activities: fishing, hunting, gathering and slash-and-burn agriculture, which – according to their own statements – have met their needs satisfactorily. Rosengren (1987), who conducted a study in the Upper Urubamba region, describes this society as highly atomistic and amorphous ,They do not live in nuclcadas villages and they have no notions of territoriality. They are not divided into clans, lineages or other segments. Your company is structured . without precision and are, in general, individualistic. People are not organized in hierarchies of any kind, (Roscngrcn 1987: 3) Rather, they fit within the classical definition of an egulitary society (Rosengren 1987: 4) “[…] in which there are as many prestigious positions in any age-sex degree as there are persons capable of occupying them” (Fried 1967: 33). ).
Knowledgeable experts of the forest, good workers and honest, Rnachiguengas are, however, shy people who tend to maintain a high level of intimacy and interdependence among the spouses and a low degree of aggressiveness or warlike spirit in social relations (Johnson 1978: 285-286). Courtesy is highly valued and barter is an important aspect of interpersonal relationships (Baksh 1984: 58). A complex set of variables governs the domestic relations linked to the exchange (Johnson 1978: 11). Both men and women adapt perfectly to the environment and have well-developed strategies for obtaining wild foods (Baksh 1984: 63-117). Traditionally, men are skilled farmers with an efficient and non-destructive agricultural system (Baksh 1984: 140). In 1992, skills in weaving, basketry, making arrows and bags of plant fiber, building houses and canoes were still in force; some still practice pottery. There is also a wide repertoire of oral tradition and knowledge about herbs and medicinal plants.
Rosengren (1987: 36-51) details the contacts of the western world with the Machiguenga from the references in centuries-old chronicles of soldiers, priests, missionaries, adventurers and explorers who were the first to arrive in Machiguenga territory. Zarzar (1985: 224) cites old stories that tell of incursions by their piros neighbors; however, few reliable data were recorded until the mid-nineteenth century. After the Spanish conquest, the group was passive and not very visible to the travelers who passed through its territory, preferring to hide and not confront outsiders. It was he read the bark of the cinchona or chinchona tree-the basis of quinine to treat malaria and yellow fever-for a few decades after 1850, but its importance declined with the onset of rubber fever around 1870. During that period The practice of capturing the natives as slaves for forced labor in the extraction of rubber was generalized throughout the jungle. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of machiguengas died as a result of ruthless treatment, epidemics and suffering. Many were kidnapped as slaves; others, in an attempt to avoid contact, fled to the headwaters of the rivers. During the period that followed the rubber rush, some haciendas were established in the Machiguenga territory in which the Machiguenga themselves were the exploited work force. Spanish Dominican missionaries arrived in Machiguenga territory of the Upper Urubamba at the beginning of the present century and, with time, they established four missions -Quillabamba, Quellouno, Chirumbia and Coribeni- where there were schools attended by many Machiguenga children. The result was a certain degree of literacy in Castilian and of acculturation to Western society; although a leader expressed -in the mid-sixties- the author was concerned about the low level of retention. Today, of these four Dominican missions, only the mission and school of Quillabamba remain. After 1952, two other Dominican missions – Timpia and Kirtigueti – were established in the territory of the Lower Urubamba. Although the areas around the missions have been strongly influenced by their presence, there are large areas that have remained isolated without any contact. Colonization, especially in the Upper Urubamba, has thrived in the last thirty years, since the Penetration Highway from south to north has reached almost to the point that separates the territories of Alto and Bajo Urubamba. At the end of the seventies and beginning of the following one, oil exploration had penetrated the Machiguenga territory of the Lower Urubamba in all directions, resulting 2 It should be noted that many Quechua and mestizo settlers arrived before the road was built.tundo in the discovery of important reserves of natural gas in the north side of the mountain range.
4. BEGINNING OF THE LECTURE-WRITING
In 1946 linguist researchers from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) began studies of the languages of the jungle under a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education of Peru. Two linguists -Ellen Ross and Lulu Reber- elaborated a tentative alphabet of the Machiguenga language and began the grammatical analysis. Wayne – known in Peru as Walter – and Betty Snell succeeded them in 1952. At that time much of what is known today about community development had not yet been formulated; therefore, the knowledge that we currently have was not available to the Snell. However, young linguists soon had to face an ethical dilemma. They worked among a group that was almost entirely monolingual, but whose isolation would not continue for long. Although the Machiguenga were skilled in their rich and complex culture, they lacked the knowledge and technical skills, the knowledge of Castilian and the customs of the outside world that would allow them to survive epidemics and defend themselves against the inexorable invasion of change. cultural event that would arrive. For the Snell, making knowledge available to the ethnic group of the majority society and act as intermediaries helping them to face the outside world could present great difficulties. The Machiguenga would experience changes and not all necessarily positive. The Snell would carry responsibilities that would expose them to criticism, but doing nothing would leave the Machiguenga exposed to exploitation. The Snell began to do everything possible to alleviate this situation. Teaching adults to count money – something that could be done even with minimal knowledge of the language – was one of the first steps. However, it is important to understand that the motivation was not the devaluation of the Machiguenga culture or a desire to “Westernize” them or “modernize” them, nor was it subtractive – to eradicate traditional customs in order to “civilize”. His actions
they were simply of an additive nature: to help Machiguenga acquire skills with which they could relate to the majority society and participate in the control of their own destiny. The Snells did not have the option of choosing whether or not to introduce literacy or how they should do it. A few months after having begun to study the Machiguenga language, the Peruvian government decided to establish bilingual schools. However, as far as possible, both in education and in community development, SIL members presented the alternatives and encouraged Machiguenga to make their own decisions. Subsequent events were the result of those decisions. The Snells were concerned about the preservation of culture, which
They evidenced through their investigation of language, customs, legends and crafts. When the Ministry of Education asked ILV members to participate in the development of school texts for bilingual schools, the Snells worked as quickly as possible to finalize the elaboration of a practical alphabet based on Machiguenga’s sociolinguistic reality. Then, as they collected folktales, they used some of them in literacy books and advanced reading materials. Male and female Migueiguengas attended training courses for bilingual teachers, organized by the Ministry of Education. Gradually, as their students learned to read and write, they could also learn new skills such as grafting fruit trees, basic health care, mechanics, carpentry, and small business and sawmill management. Little by little they became familiar with the western systems of organization in force in Peru.
At the same time, ILV linguistic researchers were apprentices who relied on patient instruction from their hosts to learn the language, expressions of courtesy, beliefs, survival skills, the use of edible and medicinal plants, and everything necessary to develop within the machiguenga community. Over time strong ties of friendship were forged and learning was always reciprocal. The Snells, after only six months of language study in the Machiguenga language, began to prepare books for reading instruction in that language. 1954: Education. The first Machiguenga who applied for teaching, some of whom could barely read and write, received elementary instruction in teaching methods for eleven weeks. Immediately after the course, the first two bilingual Machiguengas schools were established in Etariato and Pangoa. The quality of the training improved little by little; the number of teachers and schools increased until, in 1990, the Machiguenga teachers of that first group had retired and had been replaced by thirty new teachers, many of whom had finished secondary instruction. Health: The Machiguenga were experts in the use of medicinal herbs; but, despite this, they suffered from diseases that the plants could not cure. The Snells treated patients for free, promising to help them in community development programs so that in the future they could buy medicines. This helped to establish friendships, provide health services. very necessary and familiarize the people with procedures in force in the majority society. Some preventive measures, such as boiling drinking water and covering food to protect them from flies, could also be transmitted both verbally and through example. Towards the end of the fifties, instruction was given about first aid to teachers during training courses. Basic health care as well as prevention lessons were at the school level. Later on, the communities had health promoters trained in ILV programs and the Swiss Mission in Peru (MSP). Formation of communities: As the news about the schools spread, 4 the Machiguenga became interested in the protection
4 The Machiguengas, traditionally. they do not live in villages and towns but in groups formed by a family. cron that, intuited, formal education could provide. The knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic would protect them from exploitation by unscrupulous merchants. Knowledge of Spanish would help them communicate with visitors and the outside world. As the teachers received training and offered their services, the Machiguenga began to form communities so that their children could receive an education. Originally, the Ministry of Education required a minimum of twenty-five students enrolled in a community to establish a school and appoint a teacher. Later that number rose to forty.
Life in community inevitably engendered new pressures. ‘ It would be advisable that, as far as possible, education be imparted first to adults – if it is necessary for unaccustomed persons to live together form communities- and take measures such as maintaining a certain spatial distance and wooded areas between the houses to relieve pressure. However, the best effort was made, and it was the Machiguengas who chose the common settlement model in Peru: they built their houses in rows on the margin of the river or along the landing field. They also chose the names of their communities. Many of these were named after the rivers or streams where they were located; others were given names in Spanish. To alleviate tensions during weekends and vacations, villagers sought to visit the most remote farms, fish, hunt or collect wild food. When the teachers learned how to give first aid and received basic medicines, the villagers realized that in the communities where there was a school, the death of the patients was not as frequent as in the isolated settlements. The Machiguenga began to mention this fact and the educational opportunities as reasons to remain in the community.
Some cases come to mind: The Snell, in one of their first investigations, discovered that on average a woman had up to ten children, seven of whom died in childhood. Twenty years later, after the arrival of antibiotics, the it was said that they ate land-safe signs of parasitosis-as well as a high number of cases of malaria. The people longed to free themselves from these and other diseases, so most of them were even willing to take Epsom salt, which, at that time, was part of the treatment of parasitosis. 1965: The Davises begin an annual tour) through the communities. During
The following seven years, in cooperation with Jos Sne11 and Jos Fried -although the complexity of each project varied according to the time it had been underway and the degree of success with which the technology had been transferred to Jos Machiguengas- its responsibilities were the following: l. Elaboration of school texts: For all the subjects of the curriculum.
2. Health care: EJ health care understood what following:-Tratamicnto of Ja parasitosis for everyone in each community.
-Control of epidemics. In 1965, ten percent of the population of two communities died in a measles epidemic, despite having received intensive day and night care and three express flights from Yarinacocha that brought medicines.
– Immunization for all against measles, yellow fever, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, the series of DTP vaccines against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. The Ministry of Health carried out the vaccination against smallpox.
Daily medical attention according to a schedule.
-Arrangements for emergency flights.
-Attention to patients in their own home.7
3. Informal census: Harodo Davis assumed the responsibility of ascertaining the name and paternal and maternal names of some two Machiguenga who were living in the communities with the
7 On one occasion, the Daviss simultaneously treated five patients with pneumonia and another who had had eye surgery. Many other patients needed weeks and even months of care; all the SIL team participated in this attention.
that the SIL had contact. Traditionally, the Machiguengas used kinship terms instead of names, but for school records and land titles, giving the full name was a requirement. By ignoring the practices of the outside world, teachers had assigned different Hispanic surnames when enrolling children from the same family. As a result, the ties of blood kinship were in serious danger of being confused and of being lost. In addition, the Machiguenga legacy was not reflected in the practice of naming names. In a series of community meetings, parents evaluated the alternatives and chose the names that were satisfactory to them. Gradually, teachers and leaders came to understand the importance of all family members having the same last name.
It is necessary to give an explanation. Smith (1950: 61) and Murdock (1960:
132 and 1946: 124) postulate the universality of personal names. However, in thirty years of research, the Snells found no evidence that names-except for some, usually derogatory, nicknames-formed part of the traditional Machiguenga culture (Snell 1972). My investigations have confirmed this conclusion. Around 1967, Haroldo Davis visited a remote community at the headwaters of the Manú River. On his return to the community of Tajakorne, one of the men who had moved from that community to Tayakome the previous year visited him obviously concerned about the health of his elderly father. Was he still alive? I had seen.
Had he sent a message for his son? The next fifteen minutes were of absolute frustration, because although Davis wanted to calm him down, our Machiguenga friend could not identify his father but saying that he was very old, had dark hair, dressed as a cusma and was a relative of other men and women. , all with the same characteristics. They could never confirm if Davis had seen the man in question, although his son did his best to describe it. The incident convinced me that traditional Machiguengas did not use personal names.
Since the use of names was not common, it was difficult for people to remember the names they had chosen. Our visitors often asked: “How do I get out?” Or “What name did we put on my baby?” For some who had adopted the habit of Schoolchildren writing practice seen from a prickly pear plant
changing their names repeatedly, it was also difficult for them to accept the idea that, once a name had been chosen, it must be permanent.4. Adult education: Adults were taught to know the proportional value of the notes and coins of the Peruvian monetary system, as well as the fair price of the products.S. Economic development: The generation of economic income supposes the search for sources of profit for the people or incentives for agriculture as well as the production and sale of handicrafts. Attempts to accelerate spinning using the spinning wheel failed because an appropriate spinning wheel could not be found and women could handle sitting on the floor – as they usually do – and not in a chair. The promotion of economic development also involved finding markets and training those in charge of community stores.
6. Training: The training task involved the selection of suitable candidates for courses in agriculture, commerce, carpentry, wood extraction, mechanics, health and pedagogy. Once they started working in their communities, they had to be supplied, supervised and encouraged. In the workplace, you had to identify problems and expand your accounting skills. At the beginning, SIL members selected those who should receive training; but, in the mid-seventies, they were chosen by the community council, which also had to provide financial support and give a letter of recommendation to each of the students sent to the training courses.
Most of the complementary education to formal training was carried out informally during the visits of the advisors to the communities. Much of this teaching may have seemed so casual that it could be considered insignificant if one does not take into account the fact that every new concept is gradually absorbed and demands a lot of reinforcement. The advantage of machiguanga training is that you rarely do anything privately. There are always curious observers. This gave an opportunity to share knowledge with many, even if only one person performed the task.
7. Staff training: Teaching guides were prepared for the teacher training courses held at headquarters. Other training cycles were carried out in the machigueng communities. At the request of the Ministry of Education, SIL staff provided supervision in the community and logistical support for teachers. This involved coordinating flights and transporting school supplies
and medicines between Yarinacocha and the communities.
8. Requests for land titles: By law, the native peoples could request as permanent territory of the community ten hectares of land for each member over five years. Although this was not enough to sustain their semi-nomadic life, considering the number of settlers that would arrive in the area, it was urgent that the Machiguenga communities mobilize quickly to request these titles. However, for isolated and virtually monolingual communities, the preparation of the application documents was an overwhelming – and even impossible – task without much technical and economic support. The requirements included the following:
-A census of the entire population:
-two visits (by light aircraft) of an expert surveyor to each community to measure the land and establish the boundaries;
-a request on sealed paper, well written in Spanish;
-sketch with written instructions in Spanish.
Harold Davis invested a lot of effort, and even his own money, to be able to deliver in 1971 the complete applications of all the Machiguenga communities supported by the SIL that had not yet received title deeds.
Changes in the laws made it difficult for the Machiguengas to
Keep your property titles. It is said that the communities of Camisea and Shivankoreni received land twice, but lost titles due to these changes. AJ finally received a third title during the Agrarian Reform of the government of Velasco Alvarado.
9. Construction of landing fields: The schools had to be supplied by means of small planes that required landing fields.