ArticlePDF Available

The Putumayo Indians and the Rubber Boom

Authors:
13
Abstract: is article approaches the Putumayo Indians
memory of the Rubber Boom, in the voice of the Muinane
group coming to grips with their painful memories of that
violent past, and in the recent initiative of the Colombian
government to declare the reconstructed headquarters of
the Peruvian Amazon Company in La Chorrera as an
‘Estate of Cultural Interest’. is memory is represented
by Indians in the double image of the Basket of Darkness,
which holds the memories of violence, and the Basket of
Life, which holds the seeds of the future looking forward
to the growing of new generations and leaving behind the
dangerous memories of violence and sorcery of the past.
Keywords: Rubber Boom, Muinane Indians, Putumayo,
Roger Casement, Casa Arana, Memory
In the reports, narratives and testimonies of the Casa
Arana period in the Putumayo region, Putumayo
Indians speak with their bodies executed, mutilated,
tortured, raped and exploited by rubber barons, as has
been documented in horrifying detail by Casement,
Valcárcel, Hardenburg, Saldaña Roca and many
others. In all those tales, they are not actual subjects
but objects of compassion, fear or observation; noble
savages for Casement, treacherous and savage for
Robuchon, cannibals to be civilised for Casa Arana,
and objects of ethnographic description for Robuchon
and Whiffen. In all of these cases Indians do not have
voice but are the objects of disputes among Whites. I
want to bring Indians’ ways of dealing with memory to
the foreground and move to the background the usual
literature.
Indians nowadays refer to the memories of the
rubber boom as belonging to what they call ‘Basket of
Darkness’. In contrast to that obscure basket of bad
memories, they speak of a ‘Basket of Life’, where the
seeds of the future are placed, looking forward to the
growing of new generations and leaving behind the
dangerous memories of violence and sorcery of the
past. I explore below this powerful double image of
Indians’ memory and think it is fit to parallel Roger
Casement’s legacy. What does it reveal to the workings
of memory and the representation of history? What is
the truth to be sought in the past?
I begin by approaching the Putumayo Indians,
in the voice of the Muinane group coming to grips
with a painful memory and in face of new changes and
challenges at the end of the twentieth Century.
e Muinane Indians Healing the Memory of
the Rubber Boom
In May 1993, a group of Muinane people were getting
ready to set off to visit their ancient territories. ey are
the descendants of one of the peoples that were nearly
exterminated by the Casa Arana and the Peruvian
Amazon Company at the beginning of the twentieth
century. e meagre remnants of their formerly
numerous population had resettled further north,
beyond the edge of what had been their ancestral lands,
which remained nearly uninhabited for many decades.
e impact of the rubber industry and the Casa
Arana regime on the Putumayo Indians was enormous.
e total Indian population was reduced to perhaps less
than a tenth between 1900 and 1930, and the surviving
ones were forcefully resettled on the Putumayo River
and further south. A few managed to escape north or to
hide in the forest. eir social, political and ceremonial
organization was severely shattered, and their territory
was depopulated, as the forest regrew in what had been
a densely populated region. In 1908, omas Whiffen
(1915) calculated 46,000 as the total population of the
Putumayo Indians and 2,000 as the population of the
Muinane tribe. By 1993, the Muinane census did not
reach 150; these were the descendants of the barely 20
Muinane men and women who managed to survive
the Casa Arana regime (Echeverri 1997). ese rough
numbers just serve as an indication of the degree of the
catastrophe these peoples endured.
In the 1980s, the Colombian government
officially granted the indigenous groups of the region—
Witoto, Bora, Muinane, Miraña, Ocaina, Nonuya and
Andoque Indians, the descendants of the peoples who
were Casa Aranas labour force—the legal property
of the territories they now occupy as well as their
ancestral lands in the hinterland. is huge expanse
of land—about six million hectares—coincides with
Julio Cesar Aranas rubber territories. is new Indian
reserve was named Resguardo Predio Putumayo. e
Muinane Council of Elders—formed by the chiefs of
the four main clans—decided in the early 1990s that
the re-appropriation of the ancestral territories was
necessary to reassert their political autonomy, now
formally recognised, and to work towards their social
reconstruction.
e Muinane elders in 1993 were the children of
those who had directly suffered the slavery and slaughter
under the Casa Arana regime. ey were born after the
rubber boom had ceased and only the oldest ones had
first-hand knowledge of the places where the ancient
people used to live. ey grew up looking away from
those stories and those places, finding a way of life on the
banks of the Caquetá River, trading timber and game
with White people and sending their children to the
Catholic boarding school. ey grew old far from their
land and from the horrifying stories their own parents
told—and remained disturbingly connected to them.
e Putumayo Indians and the Rubber Boom1
Juan Alvaro Echeverri*
*Correspondence: jaecheverri@unal.edu.co
14 Irish Journal of Anthropology Volume 14(2) 2011
e ancestral territory of the Muinane is
located at the centre of the Resguardo Predio Putumayo.
is territory was known to the elders in words and
memories, but they had not returned to it since their
childhood. In the 1990s times had changed. ey had
their territories legally titled and a new generation, for
whom these stories were distant, had grown up after
them. eir children were intelligent and able, had
gone to school, and wanted to know. e banks of
the Caquetá River, where they had lived for decades
and where they had raised their children, was a foreign
land where their ancestors used to go to get fish and
stones, but not a place they used to live. e rocky
outcrops which mark the Caquetá landscape are the
lodges of mythological beings, carriers of evil powers.
Further south is the ‘Land of coolness’, the area where
the places of the malocas (longhouses) of their forbears
rested abandoned, the land that had been deprecated
and ravaged, and from where they had been expelled
and exiled. It was their territory, a word in English
(or Spanish or Portuguese) that barely translates the
meaning of the Muinane concept: it is not just a tract of
land that can be mapped or legally titled; this territory
is the inscription of life and memory on the land—
and this life and this memory had remained amputated
since the times of Casa Arana, and the events Roger
Casement and others denounced and publicised, but
that for the Indians had remained unhealed.
e children of Casa Arana were now elders
and they needed to recover that life and that memory
they had been unwilling to face for decades. e
necessary step was to revisit the territory and to face
its memories. At that time, I did not fully grasp the
meaning of the decision they took to go and visit the
old places. ey stated that territory was the basis of
their education, their government, and their social and
ritual organization, and that they needed to go there
with their children to show them and retrieve the
thread of their life.
And then they started off their journey to the
ancient land. e group was formed by three elders
of three of the surviving clans (Pineapple, Worm and
Drum), and nine boys, three of each clan. ey headed
first to the ancient territory of the Pineapple clan, and
Chucho, its elder, led the group. On May 27 1993,
after five days of trekking into the uninhabited forest,
they got to the Manioc creek, a small stream on the
Cahuinari River basin, not far from where once stood
the Casa Arana section of Matanzas, now covered
by forest regrowth. It was in Matanzas where Roger
Casement met the notorious Armando Normand:
‘. . . with a face truly the most repulsive I have ever
seen, I think. It was perfectly devilish in its cruelty and
evil. I felt as if I were being introduced to a serpent’,
wrote Casement in his journal (Casement 1997:
256). e Muinane remember Normand as ‘Noroba’.
Matanzas means literally ‘slaughters’ or ‘massacres’ and
the atrocities that happened there were exhaustively
documented in Judge Carlos Valcárcel’s (2004: 259-
289) book and reported by Hardenburg (1912: 23),
in Casement’s journal (1997: 253-266) and by many
others.For the Muinane, the place of Matanzas is
known as ‘Hill of the Wild Cacao Tree’. ere lived
Chucho’s granduncle, who had the name of Jeevadeka
(Flower of Parrot Pineapple), a chief of the Pineapple
clan of the Muinane. e Muinane tell that Jeevadeka
died under the hands of Noroba, who hung him from
a pole by his ear piercings.
e group camped a few hours away from the
old, haunted site. At night, Chucho spoke and the
youngsters recorded his speech on a tape recorder. In
his speech, Chucho did not address his fellow elders
or his sons and nephews; he addressed Jeevadeka. He
spoke like this:
We have truly arrived to the place of the
ordeals; we arrived to Manioc Creek, to the
Hill of the Wild Cacao Creek [Matanzas]. Your
grandchildren have arrived for you to meet
them; you do not have to mistake them, as if
they were other people. Do not be upset, stay
calm. Here are your grandchildren. We know
nothing about those who killed you, about those
who did all those things to you. You are the ones
who know. Now we are a new generation, and
here are those who were born after me, and I
am guiding them. We came here to heal these
children. Here is our chief Jeevadeka. We know
nothing of what happened to you. So it is. If
we knew, we could speak about that. You came
to end your life here. I am showing it to your
grandchildren. I am heading them together with
my brother. So then, do not take us for strangers.
We came here to heal ourselves. is is what we
are telling you. at is it.
e next day, by noon, they arrived at the place where
Matanzas once stood, now covered with forest. ere,
Chucho spoke again:
Here, grandfather Jeevadeka, you lived and you
are. We are your grandchildren and we have
arrived. Up to this place we have reached and
we are stepping on this spot. Are you there?
We have arrived well, in good heart. Here we
are; we are the bones of yours. We are coming
back, your grandchildren that were born after
you. We mourn and remember you, who are
here. en, for that reason, I myself Kigaibo
[Sour Pineapple], your grandson, have arrived,
together with people of the Drum clan and
the Worm clan. We are with these, our young
people, for you to meet, and we come in good
manner. We come to seek the good words that
you have: the word of life, the word of coolness,
the word of nurturing. You ought to give us
those words. We are cleaning up on top of you.
Irish Journal of Anthropology Volume 14(2) 2011 15
We thought we were alone, but we are not alone,
you are here. at is why we came, we have
reached to you. is is what I am telling you.
I was very struck when I helped Chucho’s brother, Jorge,
to transcribe and translate these recordings upon their
return from their trip. Chuchos address to Jeevadeka
begins by avoiding any reference to the violent events
of the Casa Arana period: ‘We know nothing about
those who killed you, about those who did all those
things to you’, he says. Chucho seeks to heal, not to
remember, as if invoking the violence of those days
may attract danger. He rather focuses straight away
to the young people in the party, and takes care that
Jeevadekas wandering spirit will not mistake them for
other people. Chucho is well aware that nowadays they
all look very much like the Peruvians and Creoles who
enslaved and murdered their ancestors. ey now wear
clothes and boots, carry machetes and shotguns, eat salt
and ‘smell of onions’, as they say.
Chucho’s way of dealing with the past when
addressing Jeevadeka in this point of the territory is
profoundly historical precisely in the fact that he avoids
remembering. Instead of looking back he looks forward;
not to the dead but to the living—and he addresses
Jeevadeka as if he were alive. He acknowledges the past
of killings and slavery by avoiding its memory, and he
acknowledges the changes that came about afterwards
by stating that no matter what they may look like, they
are Jeevadekas grandchildren who come to pay a visit.
Chucho’s generation had been unable so far to deal
with any of this. None of them felt able to go to the
old places and cope with the rage, sorcery and powers
that were left scattered, unbound and unsolved. ey
felt ashamed and powerless, unable to re-establish a
connection they were painfully aware was necessary to
rebuild their life—after so many years.
at power they lacked in shamanism and
magical force to deal with the troubling past, they found
again, in an unexpected way, in the new generation.
ese young people, their own children, gave them
meaning and strength to face it. Even though these
boys have gone to school, have learnt to read and write
in Spanish, and do not resemble much those ancient
Indians, they are alive and they want to know. Instead
of reminding them of the crimes committed against
their forebears and claiming revenge for them, he
rather chooses to forget. He leaves aside the memory of
the ordeals and focuses his discourse on what gives life.
And, paradoxically, it is the artefacts of writing
that the young people have learnt from the White
people that allows for the close of the circle of this
operation of the memory. In contrast to the elders,
who rely on the oral speech in the Muinane language
as their way of recording and giving meaning to their
journey, the young ones carry notebooks, pens and
colour pencils to keep a written record of it. eir
notebooks are written in Spanish, and in contrast to
the speeches of their parents which deal with spirits
and masters of the places, the youngsters compose a
quite pragmatic and down to earth journal, carefully
annotating times, distances, location of places, animals
hunted, meals eaten, and avoiding any reference to
their parents’ concerns. ey happily trek through the
forest with innocent eyes, filling their notebooks with
their observations and, most notably, with colourful
drawings of the places they visit. In their notebooks
they make most succinct and uneventful notes of their
elders’ speech, as this one by Chuchos nephew about
the night when he uttered the speech transcribed above:
‘For dinner, we ate a woolly monkey we had hunted,
and after the conversation of the elders we went to
sleep’, he writes.
In Matanzas they found the remains of a
longhouse or maloca and many objects, both Indian
and non-Indian: pots, tools, weaponry, glass, etc., in a
place which the young people titled ‘Matanzas’ garbage
dump’. Further ahead, they found two large holes,
where rubber patrons used to burn the people that
they had killed. ey made drawings of the holes in
their notebooks. ey knew those places existed, where
dead people were dumped and burnt; vegetation has
not regrown on those holes, and they were still clearly
noticeable.
e two modes of representation—spoken in
Muinane by the elders, and written in Spanish by the
young ones—are remarkably complementary. When
I would ask any of the elders about their journey, he
would right away ask for his son’s notebook and would
exhibit the colour drawings; with this in his hands, he
would calmly and happily refer to the events of the trip.
It is as if by being captured in writing and drawing,
those dangerous facts would now be contained and
manageable. On the other hand, the young ones could
confidently devote these facts into writing and deftly
design their drawings because they felt that any danger
that could exist in their journey would be avoided and
dodged by virtue of their elders’ speech.
One of the reasons for the extreme precaution of
these Indians to leave aside the memory of violence is
because it was not only the violence of rubber barons
against Indians, but also the violence amongst Indians
themselves, which exacerbated a pre-existing condition
of intertribal warfare.
We tend to represent the Indians as victims of
the violent rubber barons. e dispute among Whites
is whether those Indians were ferocious cannibals
running in the forest who had to be subjected by
any means to become an industrious and civilised
labour force, as Casa Arana alleged, or whether they
were noble and pacific people enslaved and abused
by ‘an association of vagabonds, the scum of Peru
and Colombia’, as Casement claimed in his journal
(Goodman 2009: 111). In both cases, Indians are
represented as a single, unified subject. But, how was it
from an Indian perspective?
Certain Indian tribes, and clans and lineages
within tribes, profited from the alliance with rubber
16 Irish Journal of Anthropology Volume 14(2) 2011
barons to wage warfare against other tribes and former
enemies. Besides, young boys from several tribes were
raised and trained to raid other groups and to act as
executioners of the worst crimes. is exacerbation of
internal warfare had more devastating and long-lasting
effects than the violence of Whites against Indians.
Whites or non-Indians would eventually leave the
region, but the families and relatives of the murderers
and the murdered would stay, and with those the
memories of pending revenges.
is is one of the key reasons why a person
like Chucho is quite circumspect about not bringing
back the memory of those events, potentially very
destructive for today’s life. What these elders aim to do
is the reconstruction of the social tissue that was torn
apart. is way of thinking, speaking and relating
to memory is in no way a peculiarity of this group
or of this elder. It is shared by all the descendants of
the Putumayo Indians. What is at stake here is not
the reconstruction of the truth of the events, or the
demands of justice against the White people, but the
reconstruction of society and the multiplication in
the amounts of people. is implies both particular
modes of memory and historical consciousness and the
construction of new forms of collective identity.
e Basket of Darkness and the Basket of Life
What the literature calls ‘e Putumayo Indians
encompasses three linguistic stocks and seven
ethnolinguistic groups: the Witoto linguistic family
(Witoto, Ocaina and Nonuya), the Bora linguistic
family (Bora, Miraña and Muinane), plus a language
isolate (Andoque). Although these peoples are
linguistically differentiated, they share a number of
cultural traits and a common social and ceremonial
organization. Today, they designate themselves under
the general name of ‘People of the Centre’.
is ideology of one People linked by social
and ritual exchanges constitutes the basis for a type of
ceremonial and political discourse, which emphasises
the common traits of the different groups, putting aside
ethnic differences and past conflicts. is ceremonial
discourse is called rafue in the Witoto language. Rafue
belongs to what is called the Basket of Life. In this basket
belongs the ethics of horticultural work, the raising of
children, the production of food, the celebration of
rituals. e most accomplished expression of this Basket
is the Word of tobacco and coca, which the elders use
to care for and to nurture human life. Mythological
narratives and violent historical memories—including
those of the rubber boom—do not have a place in this
Basket.
In contrast with this ritual and public discourse
of rafue, which is instrumental in the construction of
the ideology of a unified moral community (People
of the Centre), the conceptual guarding of ethnic
differences is maintained in other modes of discourse.
Ethnic difference brings about the memory of conflicts
from the past—rivalry among clans and tribes, sorcery,
cannibalism—and implies dealing with differences in
mythological conceptions (territory, hierarchy among
tribes and clans).
Secret, ethnic discourse is closely linked to
mythology. Mythology, for these groups, keeps the
record of the events of cannibal, malignant, murderous,
revengeful and raging beings who tried to destroy and
pervert the true humanity. ese stories are kept in
what is called the Basket of Darkness. ese stories do
not belong to the public, common discourse of rafue,
but are kept and maintained by each ethnic group and
clan as a defence and source of sorcery and evil power.
e stories and events of the rubber boom are but one
more layer in this plentiful basket. ese baskets of
darkness should be kept sealed, because they represent
the danger of war—they are, as these people say, their
‘nuclear arsenals’.
ese two Baskets thus represent a moral
organization of collective memory, and configure a form
of historical consciousness. e Basket of Life refers
to their history precisely for the fact of refraining to
remember anything from the past, but on the contrary
asserting the maintenance and reproduction of life.
e Basket of Darkness keeps secret the memories of
dangerous past events. e terror of the rubber boom
looms so dangerously that it fills to the rim that Basket.
ose memories are not forgotten but kept sealed.
ere is certainly an unresolved tension and an
impending danger in this organization of memory,
because there is always the risk that the contents of the
Basket of Darkness may be deployed, undermining the
collective project of a moral community. Separating
what is secret (Basket of Darkness) from what is public
(Basket of Life) has become a task in which the elders
invest a remarkable amount of time and effort.
is allows us to better understand Chucho’s
address to Jeevadeka in the haunted site of Matanzas.
In such a dangerous place, he is avoiding the content of
the Basket of Darkness and he is pointing to the Basket
of Life, through the use of two rhetorical devices: the
request of the ‘good words’ from Jeevadeka—that is, the
Word of tobacco and coca—and his explicit references
to the new generation.
It is as if these two modes of memory move in
opposite directions. Mythology and historiographical
narratives of violence point in the direction of the past;
rafue, the Word of tobacco and coca, points in the
direction of the future. e memories of the events of
the rubber boom are thus left in an apparent oblivion:
discarded in the public discourse, secret in the private
discourse; and there seems to be no way to represent
them or to think about them. is unresolved tension
is solved by the new generation, which functions
like a mirror—a reflective space that allows them to
face the past in an indirect way. is reflective space
is configured paradoxically by purely foreign devices:
writing, schooling, use of the Spanish language, state
recognition, and so forth.
Irish Journal of Anthropology Volume 14(2) 2011 17
At a micro-sociological scale, we saw how for the
group of Muinane elders journeying with their sons and
nephews, their young boys’ notebooks and drawings
operated as a reflective space which allowed them to
face the past. Now, we can perhaps also appreciate the
same process in a larger sociological scale.
For these People of the Centre, the rubber
boom has been a difficult issue to deal with—either in
oblivion or in secret. But the scars left on the bodies
and the territory need to be read and interpreted. ese
marks also can turn into mirrors that allow new modes
of healing and representing the past. e actual site of
the headquarters of Casa Arana in La Chorrera may
play that role. is is a remarkable story, which like all
things Arana, is made up of deceit and twisted turns.
e headquarters of Arana as a mirror of
memory
In 1922, Colombia and Peru signed a border treaty,
which ceded Colombia the territories north of
the Putumayo River, where Casa Arana had been
operating. Arana, and the people of Loreto, vehemently
opposed the treaty, which was finally ratified by the
two countries in 1927. But Arana was indeed a clever
man; in fact, a year before the treaty was signed, Arana
secured the legal title to his possessions in Putumayo
and he ensured that under the terms of the treaty he
would receive compensation in cash from Colombia.
Arana pretended to be paid £2,000,000,
but the Colombian government found his amount
extortionate. Finally, in 1939, the Banco Agrícola
Hipotecario, a Colombian official bank, bought the
rights of Arana in the Putumayo for US$200,000, but
only paid $40,000 at that current time. In 1954, the
Colombian government ordered the termination of
the Banco Agricola, and put the newly created Caja de
Crédito Agrario Industrial y Minero (Caja Agraria) in
charge of its liquidation. In 1984, Caja Agraria ratified
the purchase made by Banco Agrícola back in 1939, and
paid the heirs of Arana the remaining US$160,000. In
this manner Caja Agraria consolidated the full property
of the old Arana possessions in Putumayo, which
were called Predio Putumayo ‘e Putumayo Estate’
(Colombia 1989).
Putumayo Indians were totally unaware of all
these moves until, in 1985, Caja Agraria decided to
make use of its property and designed a huge plan
of development for the Predio Putumayo, with the
investment of two million dollars in an 800-hectare
farm in La Chorrera. Caja Agraria erected its main
premises on exactly the same spot where Casa Arana
had stationed its headquarters and main rubber depot.2
e news came as a shock: Caja Agraria claimed
property of the whole Indian Territory on the basis of
having purchased it from the heirs of the company that
had tortured and enslaved the Indians! ‘ose titles are
stained with blood’, claimed the priest of La Chorrera
in numerous letters he sent to Colombian authorities.
ese Indians began a vehement protest against the
presence of the Caja Agraria and its claims of ownership
of the region. e situation gained momentum and an
agreement was reached in 1988, when the Colombian
government proceeded to constitute the land as a
Resguardo (Reserve) on April 23 of 1988, in favour of
the indigenous groups of the region.
In 1993 the Presidency of Colombia acquired
the old Casa Arana house from Caja Agraria to lodge
a new Indian secondary school, and the Colombian
First Lady travelled to Chorrera for its inauguration. El
Tiempo, the largest Colombian newspaper, headlined
the news: ‘Between 1900 and 1910 violence prevailed
in Casa Arana. About 40,000 Indians were murdered.
Today, after eight decades, the house and its bad
memories will become an epicenter of education. Last
December 21st, the Indians […] erased the ghost of
that genocide’. (‘De casa histórica a salón de clases
[From historic house to classroom], El Tiempo, Bogotá,
29 XII 1993)
at was the same year the Muinane set off to visit
the old places of the rubber boom. And if the ‘ghost’ of
that genocide has not actually been ‘erased’, it certainly
provides a reflective space for the new generations to
represent memory in new ways. It is remarkable that the
notorious place, with its dungeons where Indians were
kept chained, where dozens of Indians were burned in
drunken feasts of horror, now becomes a place for the
education of the new generation.
Furthermore, in May 2008, the Colombian
Ministry of Culture declared the house as an ‘Estate
of Cultural Interest Nationally’, and the Minister of
Culture—Paula Moreno, a Black woman—travelled
to La Chorrera to announce the news. On that visit,
a 48 year-old Bora Indian commented: ‘Casa Arana is
like bereavement. e school covers that image we have
of the past, and I want that [the government] support
it because it gives us solace’ (‘La Casa Arana, de lugar
de muerte a sitio para la cultura indígena’ [e Casa
Arana, from place of death to site for Indian culture],
El Tiempo, Bogotá, 24 V 2008). Afterwards a respected
female leader remarked: ‘We have our hopes placed
here. Even though Chorrera does not receive many
visitors, we want to refurbish the rooms to function
as a hotel in Casa Arana. is may be the opportunity
for Chorrera to become a tourist site’ (Ministerio de
Cultura 2008).
e symbolic act had soothing and encouraging
effects—mild ones in any case. For the Bora man, it is
the education of children that brings solace, not the
fact of the house being declared of ‘cultural interest’ for
the nation. For the woman leader, it is the hope that
the house will attract tourists, and with them income
for the people; much needed income for raising and
educating the children—the house is thought as a
patrimony for the future, not a memory of the past.
Declaring the rebuilt premises of Casa Arana as
an object of public cultural interest for the nation is still
an opaque mirror. e well-intentioned or politically
convenient reasons of the Ministry of Culture in that
18 Irish Journal of Anthropology Volume 14(2) 2011
declaration fall short of accomplishing a reappraisal of
the events that building evokes—both for the Indians
who suffered its direct impact and for the country,
Colombia, that gave them its nationality and that was
also accomplice and witness to those events.
Indians are still unable to deal with that. e
bereavement is long-lasting. For Indian elders, like
Chucho, that memory is not to be recalled in order
to be able to live on, or is a source of evil power
that should be kept in secrecy. e survivors of the
catastrophe managed to rebuild a new society over the
fragments and pieces of a former social order that was
irretrievably lost. It is the philosophy of multiplication,
the ethics of horticultural work and the Word of
tobacco and coca which guides the moral agenda of
this social project. Memory is thus subordinated to
the imperative of life. Writing, schooling and the State
provide an anchor that perhaps will allow new modes
of memory in the younger generations. Even though
we still do not hear voices from that generation that
make sense of all that in new ways, those devices and
institutions—utterly alien to the Indian world—do
indeed provide a possibility of reflecting and seeing
beyond the muted pain and raging revenge.
e rebuilt headquarters of Arana in La Chorrera
now lodge the young men and women descendants
of the Indians that saw that same house as a place of
exactions and fear. at house-turned-school also
holds a library where the books, reports and documents
written about that time begin to pile up: translations of
Hardenburg’s book, of Casement’s report, new editions
of Valcárcel, and what has been written by Colombian
and Peruvian historians. Among the various sources,
the name of Roger Casement stands as symbolizing a
turning point, as a torch of truth and justice in the
middle of the blackest night. ose young boys and
girls do not fully understand what it means that he was
Irish or why he was hung. No matter his background
or circumstances, the sheer truth is that his voyage up
to Putumayo one hundred and one years ago did make
a difference.
is opaque mirror can perhaps be polished and
perfected to be able to shine in full. Like Chucho, I
myself do not see, do not understand when looking
straight back—I just feel fear, pain and rage. I need to
look forward into this new generation, and it is to them
we owe true truth and true justice. ey are our actual
true mirrors of memory.
References
Casement, Roger, 1997. e Amazon Journal of
Roger Casement. Ed. Angus Mitchell. London:
Anaconda Editions.
Colombia, 1989. Política del gobierno nacional para
la protección y desarrollo de los indígenas y la
conservación ecológica de la cuenca amazónica,
2a. ed., Caja Agraria, Incora, Inderena, Asuntos
Indígenas, Ministerio de Gobierno. Bogotá:
Caja Agraria.
Echeverri, Juan Alvaro, 1997. e People of the Center of
the World: A Study in Culture, History and Orality
in the Colombian Amazon. Ph.D. Dissertation,
Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science,
New School for Social Research, New York.
_____. 2009 ‘Siete fotografías: una mirada obtusa sobre
la Casa Arana’. In M. Cornejo y A. Chirif (eds.),
Imaginario e Imágenes de la época del caucho: Los
sucesos del Putumayo. Lima: CAAAP, pp. 42-57.
Goodman, Jordan, 2009. e Devil and Mr Casement:
One Man’s Struggle for Human Rights in South
America’s Heart of Darkness. London: Verso.
Hardenburg, W. E., 1912. e Putumayo the Devil’s
Paradise: Travels in the Peruvian Amazon Region
and an Account of the Atrocities Committed upon
the Indians erein. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
Ministerio de Cultura (Colombia), 2008. ‘La Casa
Arana entra a lista de Bienes de Interés Cultural
del Ámbito Nacional’. Ministerio de Cultura
(web page): http://www.mincultura.gov.co/
index.php?idcategoria=8317
Valcárcel, Carlos A., 2004. El proceso del
Putumayo y sus secretos inauditos. Monumenta
Amazónica, E1. Iquitos: CETA, IWGIA.
(Original edition 1915)
Whiffen, omas, 1915. e North-West Amazons:
Notes of Some Months Spent Among Cannibal
Tribes. London: Constable and Co. Ltd.
Notes
1 is article is an edited version of ‘To Heal or to
Remember: Indian Memory of the Rubber Boom and
Roger Casement’s “Basket of Life”’, published in ABEI
Journal (São Paulo, Brazil), Number 12, November 2010,
pp. 49-64.
2 I wrote a piece (Echeverri 2009) about a set of
photographs taken on the ruins of the ruins of Casa
Arana in Chorrera in 1977.
... The exploitation of rubber workers took various forms, ranging from debt peonage and relative autonomy to enslavement, torture, rape and genocide (Carvalho, 2018;Weinstein, 1983). In the years following the escalation of the boom, the Bora, Muinane, Miraña, Nonuya, Ocaina, Resígaro, Andoque and Murui-Muina Peoples were displaced from their ancestral territories and their populations were reduced to a tenth of their size between 1900 and 1930 (Echeverri, 1997(Echeverri, , 2011(Echeverri, , 2013. Many escaped and chose to live tribal lives while others resettled along the banks of the Caquetá, Putumayo and their tributaries, where they worked in the timber industry, traded with white settlers and sent their children to Catholic boarding schools (Echeverri, 2011). ...
... In the years following the escalation of the boom, the Bora, Muinane, Miraña, Nonuya, Ocaina, Resígaro, Andoque and Murui-Muina Peoples were displaced from their ancestral territories and their populations were reduced to a tenth of their size between 1900 and 1930 (Echeverri, 1997(Echeverri, , 2011(Echeverri, , 2013. Many escaped and chose to live tribal lives while others resettled along the banks of the Caquetá, Putumayo and their tributaries, where they worked in the timber industry, traded with white settlers and sent their children to Catholic boarding schools (Echeverri, 2011). The cultural landscape of Western Amazonia was torn apart and reconfigured, leading to culture loss as well as new encounters between communities from the larger rivers and those from smaller tributaries. ...
... La explotación de los trabajadores de caucho adoptó varias formas, desde el peonaje por deuda y la autonomía relativa hasta la esclavitud, la tortura, la violación y el genocidio (Carvalho, 2018;Weinstein, 1983). En los años que siguieron al aumento de la fiebre, las comunidades Bora, Muinane, Miraña, Nonuya, Ocaina, Resígaro, Andoque y Murui-Muina fueron desplazadas de sus territorios ancestrales y su población fue reducida a una décima parte entre 1900 y 1930 (Echeverri, 1997(Echeverri, , 2011(Echeverri, , 2013. Muchos se escaparon y eligieron vivir vidas tribales mientras otros se reasentaron a lo largo del borde de Caquetá, Putumayo y sus tributarios, donde trabajaron en la industria de la madera, comercializaron con colonos blancos y mandaron a sus hijos a internados católicos (Echeverri, 2011). ...
... En los testimonios de la época del caucho son los añumunáa quienes traen muerte con sus abusos contra la población indígena. Entre estos abusos se destacan muchas veces hogueras donde quemaban vivos a quienes se rebelaban contra ellos (Echeverri, 2011;Razon, 1984). A este tipo de crímenes se les suma la reducción violenta de la población por nuevas enfermedades para las cuales los bora -y los indígenas en general-no poseen las defensas necesarias. ...
Chapter
Tújpawa: los arreboles en el cielo (pueblo bora) Andrés Napurí Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos Antes de que la pandemia llegase a este continente, Walter Panduro estaba muy preocupado. Me decía que algo muy malo iba a suceder. Estas conversaciones las hemos tenido antes, pero debo reconocer que en esta oportunidad su certeza me dejó preocupado. Todo estaba indicado en el cielo: las nubes rojas y el arcoíris. Así, en estas últimas semanas, él y yo tuvimos varias conversaciones sobre cómo se sentía. Tuvo COVID-19. Manifestó todos los síntomas: dificultad para respirar, tos seca, fiebre. No quiso ir al hospital-«Ahí va la gente a morir. Yo no quiero morir». En ese extraño camino que toman los diálogos, terminamos conversando sobre cómo nos conocimos. Él me recordó las nubes rojas. Hablamos del cielo sobre el río Ampiyacu:-Esas nubes traen un mal presagio. Conocí a Walter Panduro en medio de un taller del Ministerio de Educación. Gracias a esa oportunidad, pudimos construir varios proyectos juntos, pero en la actual situación que vivimos, el recuerdo de este taller era distinto. Ya no conversábamos sobre su trabajo como traductor ni de sus proyectos recogiendo tradiciones orales del pueblo bora. Recordamos que los días del taller fueron muy delicados:-Esas nubes, siempre aparecen cuando algo malo va a pasar. Debido a la crecida del río, el taller estuvo enmarcado por el luto. Tres jóvenes murieron en Pebas por accidentes en el río durante la semana que estuvimos ahí. Además, fueron advertidos por los arreboles en el cielo. Esas tardes, el cielo mostraba
... The system of enganche backed by armed force was well suited to the needs of rubber extraction, and debt peonage became a permanent arrangement that allowed patrons to wield tight control over their work forces. Should workers attempt to resist, physical punishment was cruel (Weinstein 1983;Echeverri 2011). In addition, rubber patrons encouraged the capture of women and children from indigenous settlements in raiding campaigns known as correrías. ...
Full-text available
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--New School for Social Research, 1997. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 409-425). Photocopy.
Política del gobierno nacional para la protección y desarrollo de los indígenas y la conservación ecológica de la cuenca amazónica, 2a
  • Colombia
Colombia, 1989. Política del gobierno nacional para la protección y desarrollo de los indígenas y la conservación ecológica de la cuenca amazónica, 2a. ed., Caja Agraria, Incora, Inderena, Asuntos Indígenas, Ministerio de Gobierno. Bogotá: Caja Agraria.
La Casa Arana entra a lista de Bienes de Interés Cultural del Ámbito Nacional'. Ministerio de Cultura (web page): http://www.mincultura.gov.co/ index.php?idcategoria=8317 Valcárcel El proceso del Putumayo y sus secretos inauditos
  • Cultura Ministerio De
Ministerio de Cultura (Colombia), 2008. 'La Casa Arana entra a lista de Bienes de Interés Cultural del Ámbito Nacional'. Ministerio de Cultura (web page): http://www.mincultura.gov.co/ index.php?idcategoria=8317 Valcárcel, Carlos A., 2004. El proceso del Putumayo y sus secretos inauditos. Monumenta Amazónica, E1. Iquitos: CETA, IWGIA. (Original edition 1915)
he Putumayo the Devil's Paradise: Travels in the Peruvian Amazon Region and an Account of the Atrocities Committed upon the Indians herein
  • W E Hardenburg
Hardenburg, W. E., 1912. he Putumayo the Devil's Paradise: Travels in the Peruvian Amazon Region and an Account of the Atrocities Committed upon the Indians herein. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
he North-West Amazons: Notes of Some Months Spent Among Cannibal Tribes. London: Constable and Co. Ltd. Notes 1 his article is an edited version of 'To Heal or to Remember: Indian Memory of the Rubber Boom and Roger Casement's "Basket of Life
  • Homas Whifen
Whifen, homas, 1915. he North-West Amazons: Notes of Some Months Spent Among Cannibal Tribes. London: Constable and Co. Ltd. Notes 1 his article is an edited version of 'To Heal or to Remember: Indian Memory of the Rubber Boom and Roger Casement's "Basket of Life"', published in ABEI Journal (São Paulo, Brazil), Number 12, November 2010, pp. 49-64.
he Devil and Mr Casement: One Man's Struggle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness
  • Jordan Goodman
Goodman, Jordan, 2009. he Devil and Mr Casement: One Man's Struggle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness. London: Verso.
he Amazon Journal of Roger Casement
  • Roger Casement
Casement, Roger, 1997. he Amazon Journal of Roger Casement. Ed. Angus Mitchell. London: Anaconda Editions.
La Casa Arana entra a lista de Bienes de Interés Cultural del Ámbito Nacional
  • Cultura Ministerio De
Ministerio de Cultura (Colombia), 2008. 'La Casa Arana entra a lista de Bienes de Interés Cultural del Ámbito Nacional'. Ministerio de Cultura (web page): http://www.mincultura.gov.co/ index.php?idcategoria=8317
El proceso del Putumayo y sus secretos inauditos
  • Carlos A Valcárcel
Valcárcel, Carlos A., 2004. El proceso del Putumayo y sus secretos inauditos. Monumenta Amazónica, E1. Iquitos: CETA, IWGIA. (Original edition 1915)