Araona is a region belonging to the Bolivian Amazon that is inhabited by a few indigenous people who, at the beginning of the Spanish colonization of the Americas, collaborated with some Spaniards by showing them where the necessary rubber for their business was found.


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  • 1 History
  • 2 General Data
  • 3 Demographics
  • 4 Social Organization
  • 5 Relationship Terms
  • 6 Cultural aspects
    • 1 Life cycle
    • 2 Elder Gods
    • 3 Lesser Gods
  • 7 Land and territory
  • 8 Infrastructure
  • 9 Economy and productive activities
    • 1 Economy
  • 10 Environment and natural resources
    • 1 Habitat
    • 2 Environmental Problems
  • 11 Language
  • 12 Source


The first reference we have about araona, is mentioned living in the Madre de Dios River , documentation corresponds to the missionaries Franciscans Manuel Mancini and Fidel Codenach in January of 1867 (Armentia 1883 : 74). Despite that visit made at the dawn of the conquest of the North, it was not possible to reduce them to mission because of the difficulties and risk that their habitat offered.

When the conquest of the Bolivian North began, as a result of the discovery of the rubber band, in the jungles of the National Territory of Colonies, the Araona made up the largest and most expanded indigenous group in the region. Data offered by the industrialist Antonio Vaca Díez in “History of the Colonization of the Orthon River” ( 1888 ) show that this original town (Araona) populated most of the Bolivian rivers of the northwest.

Chronicles of travelers from that time coincide in pointing out that the Araona were located in different parts of the region. Some rubber manufacturers managed to make friends by offering them gifts of tools and other useful objects: In frank retribution, the Araona gave accurate news about the existence of the rivers where the wealth of rubber was found. (Newspaper La Gaceta del Norte Barracon Orthon 1887 .

During the time of the exploitation of the Syringa, the Araona and other indigenous groups were taken from their villages and taken to the barracks as free labor. There they were required to guide teams of rumbeadores to detect the rubber tree, as well as to hunt and fish for the “white” workers.

The current Araona survivors come from families that, separately, managed to escape from their captors who kept them in slavery, this approximately in the year 1910 . From that date until 1964 , the Araona lived as nomads, hiding from the rubber tappers in the territory between the Madre de Dios and Manupare rivers.

Members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics and the New Tribes Mission, made friendly contact with 31 Araonas, who were in the Yellow River (Jahuamanu) fleeing in fear of the whites and leading a nomadic life. In 1964 these institutions managed to group them around a nucleus on the right bank of the Manupare, for evangelization purposes.

General data

  • Total Population: 112 inhabitants
  • Ecoregion: Amazonica
  • Department: La Paz
  • Province: Iturralde
  • Municipality: Ixiamas
  • Community: Puerto Arjona
  • Language family: Tacana
  • Main activity: Forest gathering, hunting and fishing
  • Products: Chestnut, rubber, wood, fruits
  • Access Roads: Air and River


Although almost insignificant, there is a slight trend towards population growth, with a low birth rate, according to the following demographic data: in 1963 the inhabitants of Puerto Araona were 39, six years later they had 43, in 1975 they were 50, in 1994 reach 80 inhabitants, finally in 2003 there are 112 araonas.

Social organization

The social organization of the Araona is based on the monogamous nuclear family. The community was divided into two patrilineal, patrilocal and exogamic halves: Caviña and Araona. This clan organization referred almost exclusively to the marriage and residence of its members.

Participation according to age that is not formalized by any type of consensus is recognized in the Araona organization. A first bastard age ranges from birth to puberty, which is close to 12 years, here the child is considered totally dependent on the parents. Then there is the huaezacua stage, that is, from puberty until the moment he gets married (approximately 16 years old), young people at this age have some participation in the production, since they make their letter of introduction in search of their future partner or companion.

The full realization and participation of the Araona, occurs from marriage, when a family and social responsibility is acquired. Both women and men at this stage are considered mature in their actions.

The old age or babashodi age is what represents not only the realization, but also the absolute character of the organization. Aragon elders have the power of decision and their prerogatives are accepted in fact, at this age women have equal or greater influence than men in decisions and aspects related to the life of society (excluding religion).

Currently the Araona live in a settlement located on the left bank of the Manupare River. Their houses are built distant from each other, approximately 15 minutes. This causes it to be a dispersed settlement, where families are separated by the forest.

Relationship Terms

Kinship relations are characterized, in addition to belonging to the clan, by the “extended” family, through ties. The word doemetsecana is used to refer to all family belonging. The meaning of this term has a globalizing character such as: “those who are with me”.

  1. Kinship Terms for Individuals of the same Clan as the Ego (Based on the work done by Donald Pitman and Dean Arnold on the Social Organization of the Araonas [SIL- 1975 )

Tadi Father Mama Elder brother of the male Mamazao Younger brother of the male Dodo Elder sister of the female Sister of the Edoe female Younger sister of the Noo female Elder sister of the Nolipi female Younger brother of the Nene female Sisters of Father Onecua Children of the female’s brother Doemetae a) Brother or sister of the same sex as “I” b) Brother or sister of the opposite sex as “I” c) Sons or daughters of paternal uncles of the same sex as “I” d) sons or daughters of uncles parents of the opposite sex as the “I” e) All people of the same clan

  1. Relationship Terms for Individuals in the Clan Opposite to the Ego

Huadi a) Mother b) Any woman from the opposite clan c) Used by women for any woman from the opposite clan.

Cuala a) Mother b) Any woman of the opposite clan c) Used by women for any woman of the opposite clan, including mother and wife. d) Used by women to refer to the mother or older women of the opposite clan.

Boi: used by the male to refer to the wife of the opposite clan or a woman of the opposite clan who is a potential wife.

Jojo: reference of the male for any man of the opposite clan except maternal grandfather and the male children of his daughter. They also use women for any male from the opposite clan, except their male child and maternal grandfather.

Iñi: name that women give to their husband of the opposite clan or any potential husband man.

Huahua a) Sisters of a person’s mother b) Daughters of the father’s sisters (daughters of maternal aunts) c) Daughters of a person’s sisters.

Bacue: daughters of a woman’s mother’s brother

Babadi: grown son of a woman

Zacui: used by man to refer to a potential son-in-law.

  1. Relationship Terms for Individuals of Any Clan

Anodi: Daughter Todio: Young son Otse: Grandson or granddaughter Year: Paternal or maternal grandmother Babashodi: Paternal or maternal grandfather

Most of the terms used, apart from the specific meaning, also have another meaning by broader extension. The suffix cata is added to particularize the specificity in kinship. The intensity of kinship relationships is commonly indicated by esi (major) or lipi (minor).

Cultural aspects

Before contact with the New Tribes mission and the Summer Institute of Linguistics, the Araona lived in very large common malocas; the men wore shell earrings for their noses and had long braided hair, the women were skilled manufacturers of cotton fabrics and tree bark, also crockery of different sizes; today only a few old women are engaged in these activities.

In Aragon society, participation in culture is general. Differences can only be seen in relation to sex, since the condition of a woman or a man differentiates a certain role and special activity. Women participate in culture from a more domestic condition, while men have an insertion of greater socio-political transcendence.

There is little division of specialties, normally all the members of the Araona community know how to do everything, so that semi-specialists arise such as the “shamans” considered carriers of the magic level of the world, “armists” who make the best arrows and bows. . Also the physical build determines a special participation, since the strong become natural leaders.

The norms of behavior are governed by community consensus and become absolute to the extent that they are consciously accepted. The positive guidelines are the result of coexistence and the constant concern of the Araonas for the welfare of all; negative guidelines have a mythical relationship, they think that they were given by the ancestors as indissoluble norms.

For negative norms that in any case acquire a religious significance, there is an obligation on the part of individuals. However, there are infractions, the consequences of which is the action of the community in an isolation of the offender, or the fear of the same to the direct action of the gods and supernatural forces.


Pregnancy And Childbirth: Women find they are expecting family when their menstrual flow stops. From this moment the future mother enters a stage of restrictions and the prohibition of eating certain foods considered taboo is imposed.

The pregnant woman removes the ornaments that she usually wears on her neck and body, but still keeps her ordinary clothes. Sexual relations between the couple are cut off immediately, as continuity could have negative consequences against the child in the gestation process.

Before giving birth, the husband builds a small house made of “motacú” leaf, fenced in the contours and with a large door called “nahuiletae”. House that serves as a place where the woman will deliver. The mother is ordinarily assisted by her mother or daughter, or in the absence of these she is helped by an elderly woman from the settlement.

The umbilical cord is cut with a piece of the bark of tacuara (similar to bamboo) that seems to have certain medical properties, since there are almost no known subsequent infections in the child or in the mother.

After the delivery, the mother remains locked up at home for a few weeks, unable to go out to do any work that is not related to the care of the child. They do not receive or want visitors when there has been a birth.

First Stage of the Child: From the moment of birth until almost six years of age, the care and education of the child is essentially the task of the mother. The Araona woman constantly carries her son with her in a lifting girdle called ona, she pleases all the whims of the child, she breastfeeds him at any time and place.

Most of the day, the child is carried in her arms. The moment the little one takes his first steps, he begins to be cared for by his older sisters. Around six years of age, when the child already has certain knowledge of life, the father makes him a bow and arrow to be able to fish and hunt when he is a boy, takes him with him and helps when he goes out to the mountains to get meat and fruits. At this age is when the Araona has a direct relationship with the productive activity. The little woman continues to be dependent on the mother with whom she stays at home to help prepare meals, gather firewood or harvest the chaco.

The name of the children is only applied to them at two or three years. There is no ceremony or party related to this event. The common names given to the Araonas come entirely from ancestors or important people of their culture. There are exceptional cases of names taken from natural phenomena for example: Beni (wind) and Badi (moon). Almost all carry a nickname or nickname by which they are most often called.

Puberty: The entrance to puberty is marked by the initiation of the religious rite in men and by the beginning of the menstrual period in women. These events are not important, since they happen within the daily framework. The permission of the pubescent in rituals to their gods is matters determined by the elders and the Shaman. The new element that is introduced in the condition of puberty is the qualification as a future husband or wife. Puberty marks the possibility of marriage and therefore of coming of age. The age when this happens is fifteen for men and thirteen for women.

The pubescent from an early age are motivated by sexual attraction. They talk about the girls and women of the village frequently in groups and they feel the possibilities of finding their future companion. The young Araonas are allowed to speak in front of their father and mother issues related to sex and others that in other societies are repressed.

Marriage: The marriage practice in the Araonas does not acquire a religious dimension. There are no known myths or rites that express or justify the union of a couple. Marriage is fundamentally a civil act and of mutual convenience; the community as such does not have a direct impact on the marriage, although it can be seen that the old women of the village greatly influence the union of the young men.

There is no known special feast for the marriage. This results from the convenience of the young suitor with the father or the mother of the girl, when the intended is minor and directly with her if she is an adult, single or divorced. After making the arrangements, the new couple goes to live independently in their own house that is built during the “courtship”.

The newly married couple begins to act economically with some autonomy. The ideal marriage between members of different clans; but at present this is difficult due to the scarcity of women in the Caviña clan. This interclanic exogamy favors the men of Caviñas, who can more easily choose their partners among the young women of the Araona clan; not so the Araonas men, who due to the small number of Caviña women, have many cases in which they violate the rule and marry a woman of the same clan.

Marriage between siblings is allowed, although not institutionalized, some isolated cases are known. The prohibitive practice of incest escapes their social organization, due to the need for reproduction in the face of their tiny population. The shortage of women in the town causes serious social and organizational problems, since it is customary for men to take women away from each other or forcibly dispute possession of them.

Polygyny is relatively practiced by the Araona; But because of how difficult it is to maintain many wives and given the small number of women, only cases of bigamy are currently known. When the group was larger and with more developed social organization, it is possible that polygyny was common. Today having more than one wife means that a man has to produce with a surplus and in a sustained manner, since in his tradition the idea of ​​the accumulation of wealth, capable of generating capital to ensure a future “idle” life, is lacking.

As marriage does not have a mythical – religious character, the practice of divorce is common. When there is no understanding between couples or there is infidelity on the part of the woman, the Araonas choose to separate, with the same ease with which they joined, each one following his life freely. If they have children, the paternal grandparents usually take care of them.

In the Araona culture it has not been possible to identify homosexual practices, both in men and women. It is possible that in earlier times there have been manifestations of celibacy among Araona shamans and priests dedicated to religious worship (cf. Labre Expedition).

Elderly and Old Age: Also called in the Araona babashodi language, it is a stage that implies the realization as a biological entity in addition to the total character of the organization.

Upon reaching this biological phase, Aragon elders acquire a different social status in relation to others, since they have decision-making power and their prerogatives are immediately accepted. On the other hand, the elderly women who have an influence equal to or greater than men regarding decision-making and aspects concerning the life of society; they are not taken into account in the religious sphere.

Death: Life for the araona is a being present in the world created by the gods. It is the constant struggle to face earthly adversities, so the advent of death brings grief and at the same time fear in the indigenous community.

If a person dies, all the family members cry a lot. It is customary for the head of the family to cry in all the places where the deceased used to stop (hunting and fishing places and work places). Death is generally attributed or blamed on the spells of enemy people in the community. Once when a father lost his daughter, he cut down a considerable amount of chestnut trees as revenge against his neighbors, who according to his way of thinking, were blamed for the death. The chestnut constitutes one of the main family diets.

The burial is carried out after the person dies, without any kind of wake. When you see a dying person with a certain possibility of dying, you begin to dig the well, they do it in the place where the person used to sleep. The men put the corpse bundled in tree bark and the women in their skirts and place them in a fetal position. Along with the body they also bury the belongings of the deceased, such as ornaments, weapons, utensils, etc. If a person dies, when he is far from his village he is transported to his home to be buried.

After the funeral, the relatives leave the house and move to a newly built one. The old house is fixed and remains like a kind of mausoleum for a month, after time they burn it and forget about the place.

According to traditional belief, the spirit of the dead wanders aimlessly through the jungle, especially the places where it used to stop. This spirit takes revenge for the jungle, especially for the places it frequented, it takes revenge on the enemies it had in life, so long after a death, the Araonas take care not to move away from the village for fear of this curse.

Until a few years ago, the Araona performed annually in the Babatae a religious ritual dedicated to their dead and their God “Baba Sicuasi”, to appease their anger and avoid misfortunes; They danced and offered fresh food to the spirits and the gods. Religion and mythology

They had a diversity of divinities linked to various activities, they also believed in divinities linked to death and who were concerned with the health of the human group.

The most important religious ceremonies were held in the men’s maloca, which was divided into two sections: one for objects that represented the different deities and the other for paraphernalia such as a machete or wooden knives adorned with a feather. tacuara tubes, feather crown, etc.

Religion is present in practically all the instances of Aragon society. There are no categories that are not under the influence of the transcendental dimension. In religion is the link that unites life with myth, man with the Gods.

The Araonas live in fear of the punishment of their gods, since any act or crime committed is thought to receive the punishment of their divinities. A part of the Baba (gods) are considered as beings of evil and revenge. They attribute the possibility of damage to any rare natural phenomenon, and they also find evil spirits or jichis in all trees and animals.

In the religious practices of the Araonas the participation of women is prohibited, they cannot know the names of their gods, nor participate in the ceremonies destined for them; the ritual character is only attribution of the males.

According to Aragon mythology, Baba Bizo and Baba Jote, created man and woman from pieces of branches that fell from a strong wind, becoming men the first and women the last, from the leaves that were scattered at the time came the birds and birds.

The anta was created from clay and resin from the syringa plant; the troop pig was made from vegetable resins (tadada and selena huini), the monkeys, turkeys and toucans from bundled vines and the reptiles were made from blood. The creator of all animals was Baba Jote.

It is attributed to a small being named Nizo, the creation of the jochis and squirrels. These small animals have a symbiotic relationship with certain poisonous reptiles.

The Araona religion has many gods according to their material and existential needs. They consider that all life is governed by the action and presence of the divinities, whether they are good or evil.

Elder Gods

Baba bizo Good God

Baba Jote Creator God

Baba Sicuamala God of Time

Functional Gods

Baba Zoto Tiger God (of evil)

Baba Tsaja God of Sowing

Baba Ehuoho God of Purification

Baba Huotesa God of Destruction


Lesser Gods

Baba Sicuasí God of the Dead

Baba Dotsi God of Birds

Baba Tsicuamama God of the Jungle

Baba Huabo God of animals

Baba Isahua God of the Swamps

Baba Manu God of Rivers

There are sacred places and objects destined for the rituals that are done to the Gods. The Babatae is the temple where only older men can enter; There they dance and perform religious songs, which sometimes have therapeutic functions.

There are also rites that are performed in the jungle, in places where a spirit has been seen to manifest. Normally large trees are the carriers of these jichis, so it follows that size is also related to magical aspects.

One of the rituals practiced is that of purification. When a stranger arrives in the village, the men begin to chew leaves, the same leaves that are blown on the visitor’s face. This is intended to ward off evil spirits that may be brought in. According to mythology, when the Araona die, their soul begins to dwell in the treetops, there is a place deep in the earth where they remain eternally.

Land and territory

The Araona have access to a wide territory, the same one that is being affected by the invasion of logging companies and people dedicated to the collection of Brazil nuts. They have 95,036 hectares of titled land.

The Araona Indigenous Territory was titled in 1997, however its organization is managing the expansion in the perspective of carrying out natural resource management plans. At the edge of their lands is a crater that is being investigated by a team of NASA scientists, and that is presumed to have been caused by the fall of a meteorite.


They do not have a Sanitary Post

Economy and productive activities


Araona’s economy is subsistence, the majority of production is dedicated to internal consumption, because they have little exchange with other indigenous groups or white people.

The annual cycle is organized in seasons, the first one begins in the month of May until August where the main activity is destined to hunting and fishing; from August to October it is time destined to the sowing of the chacos; and the period from November to April is used for the collection of wild fruits, especially chestnuts. This whole cycle of relationship between man and nature is complemented by a deep knowledge of the forest and its resources, which regulates the mobilization of the group in function of a rationalization of the territorial space.

The sowing system used by the Araonas is “slash, grave and burn”. They cut the plants and let them dry for a while, then set them on fire. Once the chaco has been burned, the planting of cassava, plantain, corn and rice begins. Their cultivated plots are relatively small and they prefer to locate them in areas where motacú plants grow, as they consider them the most fertile lands.

They use many resources to harvest or ripen the fruits; for example, they dig wells in the middle of the chacos where they introduce bananas and bananas in bunches, in order for them to ripen quickly.

The main source that supplies the araonas with the necessary food is hunting. Every man spends a lot of time getting animals from the “bush”. They know perfectly how to imitate birds and animals; they accurately recognize the tracks of various animals and dedicate themselves to gathering to alternate their diet: This last work is carried out almost exclusively by women and children. They go out every morning in search of almonds, majos, motacú etc. and they return at noon with a good quantity. Another thing they take advantage of is the honey they extract by knocking down trees where there are hives and cutting their bark.

They commercialize the chestnut, the same that is sold to merchants and rescuers who take the product to Riberalta, where it is benefited for export.

Environment and natural resources


The Araonas currently live in an area of ​​territory between the Manupare and Manuripi rivers, delimited approximately by the 12º and 13º latitude South and by the 68º and 67º West longitude meridians.

The territory where they settle has abundant rivers and curichis that offer the araona, reference points for the supply of food. The internal routes of displacement are the paths made through the forest, which constitute perfect networks of social interaction. Given that the habitat is located in forests little intervened by the action of society and the State, the araona has infrequent contact by land with the regional population. The only possible means of connection and contact with the non-indigenous population is the Manupare River, a tributary of the Madre de Dios, in whose final route is Riberalta, the largest population in the northern Amazon of Bolivia.

The climate of the area is characterized by having a dry season, which begins in the month of May until October, and another that goes from November to April, which is “rainy”. During dry weather there are sporadic cold fronts called “surazos”, where the temperature drops to a few degrees, completed with a considerable level of humidity. Winds run at an average of 50 km per hour.

Throughout the region there are toponymics of Araona origin, mainly from rivers. The safe expansion of the Araonas throughout northern Bolivia and part of Brazil and Peru. It can be verified by the hydronymies existing in the entire Amazon region of the country.

Environmental problems

The habitat of the humid tropical zone of the Araonas, presents a high biodiversity both plant and animal, however, it is being threatened by the irrational exploitation of wood, by companies from Santa Cruz, Pando and Riberalta and the chestnut by settlers from the region.


The Araona language belongs to the TACANA linguistic family, along with Cavineño, that ejja, maropa and tacana itself. A notable feature of Araona speech is the relatively low tone of voice, it can be said that they almost whisper.

Usual Phrases:

Hello! Midya sha!

How are you? Midya tso suipa dyatsio?

I’m fine! Jaihue sahua


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