Achagua. It is an indigenous people, who until the 18th century lived in the Casanare, Meta and Apure river basin and from which the community of the Umapo reservation, in the Colombian municipality of Puerto López and some families in “La Hermosa” ( Casanare).
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- 1 Geographic location and population
- 2 Ethnohistory and archeology
- 3 Social development
- 1 Housing
- 2 Socio-political organization
- 4 Economy
- 5 Sources
Geographic location and population
The achagua were scattered in some savannas of the Meta river between the Casanare river and the Ariporo river. Currently they settle in the resguardos de la Victoria -Umapo- and in the resguardo del Turpial, jurisdiction of the municipality of Puerto López, department of Meta, where they coexist with the Piapoco.
The estimated population is 283 people, spread over a 3,318 hectare perimeter.
Ethnohistory and archeology
The chroniclers of the 16th and 17th centuries mention them as specialists in crops and commerce and executors of exchange networks. It is possible that the raised fields for cultivation that have been found in the llanos of Colombia and especially in Venezuela , have been owned by Achagua groups.
The literature also mentions that occasionally their transhumance was due to fear of incursions from the Caribbean that went up the Apure and Sarare rivers. A manuscript – not of very clear origin – refers to the warlike and military power of the Achagua. Its veracity is not very defined because it is dated 1520, a date on which no European had yet reached the plains.
“This was one of the sedentary groups that managed to survive”
(Mora, S., 1986 )
and perhaps for this reason – together with the Sáliba, Yaruro, Taparita – they became part of the new Llanera ethnic group .
However, because they were merchants, they also had special relationships with ribe groups that came through the Orinoco. The Achagua were located at the time of the conquest in the region called Great Ayrico or Ayrico —which means great forest— corresponding to the area between the Vichada and Guaviare rivers; however, there were also Achagua groups in the Llanos de Casanare, in the Llanos de Barinas, along the Apure River and also in Barraguán (area corresponding to the Orinoquense Andén). They occupied the regions around the rivers Uva, Iteviare, Vichada and Amanavení. Groups that spoke the Achagua language were even identified in the Ariari River, as is the case of the Churrota.
Achagua group of the Orinoquia region
The Achagua, one of the most numerous and representative groups of the Orinoquia region at the time of the conquest, occupied a wide area that extended from the States of Falcón , Aragua and Coro in Venezuela, to Colombian territory. According to ethnohistoric sources, groups in the region developed commercial forms of exchange. In particular, the Achagua created reciprocity and cooperation mechanisms that allowed them to exploit, together with the Sicuani and other peoples, different microenvironments.
The chroniclers describe among their products for commerce, the barbasco – paralyzing herb for fishing -, ceramic pots, honey and turtle oil. They specialized in the manufacture of quiripa, shell strings that functioned as currency. From the 18th century on, they have been strongly affected by evangelical missionary activity and by the expansion of colonization. Despite the process of cultural re-elaboration and appropriation of new elements, rituals are preserved in which psychotropic plants are used, essential for their ceremonies.
In the Achagua groups a type of family organization prevails based on the authority of the father-in-law. The production and consumption unit and the residential unit are generally made up of an adult couple, young sons and daughters and married daughters, with their respective families. With the growth of the group, the sons-in-law tend to build separate houses.
They have a Dravidian kinship system, where they classify the members of the community, and in general of the ethnic group, into two fundamental categories: that of direct blood relatives such as parents, brothers and children, as well as uncles, brothers of the same sex that the parents, brother of the father and sister of the mother and whose names can be translated as “father” and “mother”, respectively; the parallel cousins, children of the father’s brothers and the mother’s sisters, are assimilated to the brothers, and the nephews and nieces, children of brothers, are associated with their own children.
In the category of allies, the brothers of the mother and sisters of the father are considered, who are both in-laws and mothers-in-law, since they are the parents of cross-cousins or virtual husbands and wives. In the lower generation, the sons of the sister for a male ego, and the sons of the brother for a female ego are regarded as sons-in-law and daughters-in-law who are already effectively the ones who marry the sons of ego.
The current economy of the Achagua is centered on horticulture and cattle raising . Its main crops are still cassava and corn ; in the summer time , they hunt and fish . As a complement to these activities, they are engaged in wage labor in herds and in the manufacture of budares and hammocks for sale.