Yo fuí vendida”: Reconsidering Peonage and Genocide in Western Amazonia

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ABSTRACT

The Amazon Rubber Boom (1885-1930) has long been known by its worst outrage: Julio César Arana’s brutal enslavement of 13,000 Indians around 1904 in Peruvian-held territory along the lower Putumayo River. In contrast, where indigenous people were not driven by the whip, researchers have argued that they remained largely unaffected by rubber collection. Archival evidence and a reexamination of older ethnographies suggest a different conclusion: debt peonage and forced labor, not brutality, drove most native workers to gather rubber. Few if any Indian households in western Amazonia escaped from this commerce. As the Rubber Boom receded, survivors often constructed new ethnic identities in what James Scott has called “shatter zones.” Such findings call for a revised, historically grounded scholarship that problematizes commodity booms and their impact on native communities.

Cite this paper

Wasserstrom, R. (2017) “ Yo fuí vendida”: Reconsidering Peonage and Genocide in Western Amazonia. Advances in Anthropology, 7, 35-54. doi: 10.4236/aa.2017.72004.

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