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Bolivia: Tacana village without self-supply and without future

Film protocol from Michael Palomino (2003)



from: Film of Jens Schanze: San José - ein Dorf im Regenwald; In: Die Nacht der Indianer [San José - a village in the rain forest; In: The night of the natives]; Norddeutsches Fernsehen N3 [Northern German Television N3], 2003-12-14, 4:25-5:10

-- the Tacana natives are wearing Western clothes, all are clothed
-- the region of the Tacana is amidst of the rain forest.

The destruction of the nomad culture by the missionary
-- in 1716 the missionary station San José de Uchu Piemonas was opened
-- untill this time the Tacana were living in the forest as nomads, and the forest gave them what they needed
-- the missionary station  was extended into a "village", with 40 [enslaved] families
-- then the catastrophe happened: Because of introduced illnesses almost all died

-- and by this the Tacanas were "brought" to fill again the "village".

Destruction of the soil by settledness
-- from the foundation of the village on the fields were always the same
-- the soil is leached out, and the inhabitants have to stub always new land, first by slashing, and then by little fires
-- the fields do not have regeneration time anymore, and the fields are larger and larger so the rain is carrying away the upper layer, too.

-- the Takana speak Ketschua and Spanish

-- for rooftops it needs 500 traceries of palm leaves for one roof
-- the roof holds for about 20 years against the tropical rain.

-- the Tacana live without fluent water or electricity
-- but they have a covered water place

-- yuca is a sort of manjoc
-- the field is cultivated some years only, this is enough for the poor wood soil [the soil is not prepared for a village culture!]
-- an old metal bucket with wholes is used as rasper to prepare yuca porridge
-- when yuca is rosted and melted with water and shugar so it will be a chibé drink.

Corn, rice, sugar cane
-- corn, rice and sugar cane are cultivated

-- harvest of rice: The rice grain is seperated from the spear by drying the plants and walking on them, the rest will be done by the wind so the glumes are flying away

-- production of sugar: The sugar cane is pressed in a sugar cane press, then the juice is kept in a bucket - the juice will be cooked for hours untill the juice is pasty - so the pasty sugar juice will be filled into forms - and the forms have to be cooled down - so the mass of sugar is created.

Lumbering for farming
-- women are doing all, also lumbering
-- there is lumbered 2 ha forest every year to have new fields, first the clearing, then little fires
-- the forest will fill the gap within 15 years "when one let him do so"
-- the ashes provoke a better fertility of the soil and hinder the entrance of vermins, and the seeds are put directly into the ashes.

State of emergency of nutrition: There are hardly animals in the forest
-- vegetables and fruits are not sufficient
-- fish and meat are hardly available, and there are no animals left in the village

-- in former times there were wild animals, monkeys and hens by the way, but today all has gone

-- the chase needs new ways today
-- it's a chase with rifle, not with dart and bow anymore
-- in former times there was chase for water pigs, now for monkeys, but also the monkeys are more and more rare
-- there are whole groups of monkeys killed
-- and in the village the domestic animals are missing!

-- the children like to go to school because they do not have to work in the field so
-- education language is Spanish
-- in 1945 the first school had been founded, and the state has enlagred it relatively well with furniture etc.

Natural medicine

Coca bush
-- the coca bush is a medical plant
-- chawing coca leaves reduces the feeling to be hungry a little bit.

Seeds of palms
-- seeds of palms stamped to oil give an oil for wounds.

Meeting of the village council.

Lumbering: Work with the machete - mahogany is sold black
-- the mahogany trees in the forest are sold black
-- the price for mahogany has tripled in the last 10 years
-- in San José there is "no other work" to do but lumbering black
-- the natives think they are poor and are lumbering their own forest
-- the wood is prepared in the forest and is cut into shelves
-- the transport is done by foot through the forest, shelf for shelf on the shoulders.

Festivals on behalf of the white "civilization"
-- there is the national day with homage to the "home country" on behalf of the revolutionary and fighter for independence Bolivar

-- the natives also have to go to military service, for example to the barracks of Rurunabake [and by this they are torn off their home culture, a brutal "civilization"]

-- on the walls of the native's houses are hanging the idols of the "civilization": Bruce Lee, soccer teams

-- when a tree is sold "civilized" food will be bought with this money, in Rununabake: spaghettis, wheat flour, sugar, and also the rent for the boat has to be paid

-- once a year a soccer competition is organized between the villages.

Migration into cities
-- is going on to La Paz, Caranabi, for an "easy" life
-- many people of the younger generation do not come back to the village after the military service, because the village is only accessible by foot and there is nothing "going on" there

The culture destruction at the Tacana natives
-- the Tacanas are fully dressed like Europeans, proud girls in quilling dresses are sitting there with a flute
-- the Tacanas have lost their dances and songs
-- but there is a radio in the native's hut

-- the father's dream is a formation for the son in an university, and therefore he cuts the trees to have money for the children's formation

-- step by step the whole native village is "civilized" by white goods, white food, and add to this the transportation of this food costs, too

-- the traditions are lost by the flight from poverty, and medical science does hardly exist yet.


-- is done with a sewing machine without electricity.

Pottery becomes extinct

-- "Pottery pots are not needed anymore": In former times every broken fragment was collected, crushed into powder and together with fresh brickearth
new clay was produced

-- and in the pots malt beer was produced etc.

Mixture of bloody ritus and technique: Bloody sacrifice for motorboats, festivals with a radio

-- near the Rio Tuichi a bloody sacrifice is organized for two motorboats which have been given from an aid organization

-- under the leadership of an old shaman a cow is slaughtered, and the shaman cannot find a successor
-- the boats are sanctified with the cow's blood and with hard liquor and with confetti
-- the inauguration festival is organized with a radio aside the river where they are dancing, but nobody is singing. The radio is singing...

The cultural identity of the Tacana natives has been lost completely.

[The false belief of the "civilization" takes the last living base of the Tacanas: the forest. Instead to see the logical connections and to protect the forest they depend on the food of the "white man" and spend money for the transportation. They do not want to be "farmers" because they feel minor then. They want to jump into the life of the town residents without an agricultural base. This plan has it's price: clear-cutting and dissolving of the village].

This is the End of a native's culture.