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

Full-Text HTML XML Download Download as PDF (Size:716KB) PP. 35-54
DOI: 10.4236/aa.2017.72004    496 Downloads   629 Views  


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.


[1] AGN: Archivo de la Gobernación de Napo, Tena, Ecuador.
[2] Akers, C. (1914). The Rubber Industry in Brazil and the Orient. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.
[3] Baptist, E. (2014). The Half Has Never Been Told. Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York, NY: Basic Books.
[4] Barclay, F. (1998). Sociedad y economía en el espacio cauchero ecuatoriano en la cuenca del Río Napo, 1870-1930. In P. García Jordán (Ed.), Fronteras, colonización y mano de obra indígena: Amazonía Andina (pp. 127-238). Lima: Pontífica Universidad Católicadel Perú.
[5] Barham, B., & Coombs, O. (1996). Prosperity’s Promise. The Amazon Rubber Boom and Distorted Development. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
[6] Beckert, S. (2014). Empire of Cotton. A Global History. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
[7] Beghin, F. (1964). Putumayo. Napo. Pastaza. Informe general de las investigaciones y estudios realizados sobre la Región Oriental por el etnólogo Francisco Javier Beghin. Quito: Instituto Nacional de Colonización.
[8] Bellier, I. (1991). El temblor y la luna. Ensayo sobre las relaciones entre las mujeres y los hombres mai huna. Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala.
[9] Bellier, I. (1994). Los Mai huna. Tucano occidental. In F. Santos Granero, & F. Barclay (Eds.), Guía etnográfica de la Alta Amazonía (Vol. 1, pp. 2-179). Quito: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos.
[10] Blackmon, D. (2008). Slavery by Another Name. The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
[11] Brass, T. (1999). Towards a Comparative Economy of Unfree Labour. London: Frank Cass Publishers.
[12] Brown, M., & Fernández, E. (1991). War of Shadows. The Struggle for Utopia in the Peruvian Amazon. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
[13] Cabodevilla, M. A. (1994). Los huaorani en la historia de los pueblos del Oriente. Coca: Centro de Investigación Cultural de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana.
[14] Campbell, P. (1923). Chinese Emigration to Countries within the British Empire. London: P. S. King and Son.
[15] Casement, R. (2013). Correspondence Respecting the Subjects and Native Indians Employed in the Collection of Rubber in the Putumayo Districts [the “Blue Book”]. House of Commons Seasonal Papers, 68 (14 February 1912-March 1913). London: Printed for His Majesty’s Stationary Office by Harrison and Sons.
[16] Cepek, M. (2012). A Future for Amazonia: Randy Borman and Cofán Environmental Politics. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
[17] Chaumeil, J.-P. (1981). Historia y migraciones de los Yagua de finales del siglo XVII hasta nuestros días. Lima: Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica.
[18] Chaumeil, J.-P. (1994). Los Yagua. In F. Santos Granero, & F. Barclay (Eds.), Guía etnográfica de la Alta Amazonía (Vol. 1, pp. 181-308). Quito: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos.
[19] Collier, R. (1968). The River That God Forgot: The Dramatic Story of the Rise and Fall of the Amazon Rubber Barons. New York, NY: E. P. Dutton.
[20] Daniel, P. (1972). The Shadow of Slavery. Peonage in the South 1901-1969. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
[21] Dean, W. (1987). Brazil and the Struggle for Rubber. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[22] Domínguez, C., & Gómez, A. (1990). La economía extractiva en la Amazonía colombiana 1850-1930. Bogotá: Tropenbos Colombia.
[23] Eberhardt, C. (1913). Slavery in Peru. Message from the President of the United States Transmitting a Report of the Secretary of State, and Accompanying Papers, Concerning the Alleged Existence of Slavery in Peru. Washington DC: Government Printing Office.
[24] Erazo, J. (2013). Governing Indigenous Territories. Enacting Sovereignty in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Durham: Duke University Press.
[25] Esvertit, N. (2008). La incipiente provincia. Quito: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar.
[26] Faulkner, W. (1951). Requiem for a Nun. New York, NY: Random House.
[27] Ferguson, R., & Whitehead, N. (1992). War in the Tribal Zone. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.
[28] Fifer, J. (1970). The Empire Builders: A History of the Bolivian Rubber Boom and the Rise of the House of Suárez. Journal of Latin American Studies, 2, 113-146.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/156583 https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022216X00005095
[29] Foner, E. (1988). Reconstruction. America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
[30] Friede, J. (1952). Los Kofán: Una tribu de la Alta Amazonía Colombiana. In Proceedings of the Thirtieth International Congress of Americanists (pp. 202-219). London: Royal Anthropological Institute.
[31] Gamarra, M. P. (1996). La frontera nómada: Frentes y fronteras económicas en el proceso cauchero ecuatoriano (1870-1920). Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia, 9, 41-77.
[32] Gamarra, M. P. (2007). Amazonía Norte de Bolivia. Economía Gomera, 1870-1940. La Paz: Colegio Nacional de Historiadores de Bolivia.
[33] Goldschmid, K. (2005). From the Andes to the Amazon Basin in Ecuador. Diary of an Explorer 1939-1946. Quito: TRAMA.
[34] Goodman, J. (2009). The Devil and Mr. Casement. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
[35] Gow, P. (1991). Of Mixed Blood. Kinship and History in Peruvian Amazonia. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
[36] Grandin, G. (2009). Fordlandia. The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
[37] Hardenburg, W. (1921). The Putumayo. The Devil’s Paradise. Travels in the Peruvian Amazon Region and an Account of the Atrocities Committed upon the Indians Therein. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
[38] Hassaurek, F. (1868). Four Years among the Spanish-Americans. New York, NY: Hurd and Houghton Co.
[39] High, C. (2015). Victims and Warriors. Violence, History and Memory in Amazonia. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
[40] Hill, J. (1999). Indigenous Peoples and the Rise of Independent Nation-States in Lowland South America. In F. Salomon, & S. B. Schwartz (Eds.), The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Vol. III. South America. Part 2 (pp. 704-764). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[41] Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold’s Ghost. A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. New York, NY: Mariner Books.
[42] Holloway, H. (1932). East of the Ecuadorian Andes. Geographical Journal, 80, 410-419.
[43] Hudelson, J. (1981) The Expansion and Development of Quichua Transitional Culture in the Upper Amazonian Basin. PhD Thesis, New York, NY: Columbia University.
[44] Jackson, J. (2008). The Thief at the End of the World. Rubber: Power and the Seeds of Empire. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
[45] Jameson, W. (1958). Excursion Made from Quito to the River Napo, January to May, 1857. The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, 28, 337-349.
[46] Jiménez de la Espada, M. (1998). Diario de la expedición al Pacifico llevada a cabo por una comisión de naturalistas españoles durante los años 1862 a 1865. Boletín de la Sociedad Geográfica (Madrid), 67-68, 1-246.
[47] Johnson, A. (2003). Families of the Forest: The Matsigenka Indians of the Peruvian Amazon. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
[48] Klein, H. (2003). A Concise History of Bolivia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[49] Larson, B. (2004). Trials of Nation Making. Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810-1910. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[50] Lawrence, J. (1931). The World’s Struggle with Rubber, 1905-1931. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.
[51] Macdonald, T. (1999). Ethnicity and Culture Amidst New “Neighbors”: The Runa of Ecuador’s Amazon Region. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
[52] Malik, N. (2016). Bonded Labour in Pakistan. Advances in Anthropology, 6, 127-136.
[53] Mercier, J. M. (1979). Nosotros los Napu-Runa. Mitos e historia de indígenas de Perú. Iquitos: Centro de Estudios Teológicos de la Amazonía.
[54] Mitchell, A. (1997). The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement. London: Anaconda Editions.
[55] Mitchell, A. (2003). Sir Roger Casement’s Heart of Darkness. The 1911 Documents. Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission.
[56] Morel, E. (1906). Red Rubber. The Story of the Slave Trade Flourishing on the Congo in the Year of Grace 1906. London: The National Labour Press.
[57] Muratorio, B. (1991). The Life and Times of Grandfather Alonso. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
[58] Orton, J. (1871). The Andes and the Amazon: Or, across the Continent of South America. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.
[59] Pearson, H. (1911). The Rubber Country of the Amazon. New York, NY: The India Rubber World.
[60] Pennano, G. (1988). La economía del caucho. Iquitos: Centro de Estudios Teológicos de la Amazonía.
[61] Peña Flores, J. (1992). Testimonio. In L. Dall’Alba (Ed.), Pioneros, nativos y colonos. El Dorado en el siglo XX. Quito: Ediciones Abya Yala, Petroecuador y Misión Josefina del Napo.
[62] Pineda, R. (2000). Holocausto en el Amazonas. Bogotá: Planeta Colombiano Editorial.
[63] Reeve, M. E. (1985). Identity as Process: The Meaning of Runapura for Quichua Speakers of the Curaray River, Eastern Ecuador. PhD Thesis, Urbana: University of Illinois.
[64] Reeve, M. E. (1988). Cauchu Uras: Lowland Quichua Histories of the Amazon Rubber Boom. In J. Hill (Ed.), Rethinking History and Myth: Indigenous South American Perspectives on the Past (pp. 19-34). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
[65] Reeve. M. E. (2014). Amazonian Quichua in the Western Amazon Regional Sphere. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, 12, 14-27.
[66] Reyna, E. (1942). Fitzcarrald, el rey del caucho. Lima: el Taller Grafico de P. Barrantes C.
[67] Rice, A. (1903). From Quito to the Amazon via the Rio Napo. Geographical Journal, 21, 401-418.
[68] Rival, L. (2002). Trekking through History. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
[69] Robinson, S. (1979). Toward an Understanding of Kofan Shamanism. PhD Thesis, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.
[70] Sala, G. (1897). Exploración de los ríos Pichis, Pachitea, y Alto Ucayali y la región del Gran Pajonal. Lima: Imprenta La Industrial.
[71] Samaniego, J., & Toro, J. (1939). Monografía de algunas poblaciones de la Región Oriental. Quito: Ministerio de Defensa Nacional.
[72] Santos Granero, F., & Barclay, F. (2000). TamedFrontiers. Economy, Society, and Civil Rights in Upper Amazonia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
[73] Schurz, W. (1921). Bolivia: A Commercial and Industrial Handbook. Washington DC: US Department of State.
[74] Schurz, W. (1925). The Distribution of Population in the Amazon Valley. Geographical Review, 15, 206-225.
[75] Scott, J. (2009). The Art of Not Being Governed. An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
[76] Smith, S. (2015). Emancipating Peons, Excluding Coolies. Restructuring Coercion in the American West. In G. Downs, & K. Masur (Eds.), The World the Civil War Made (pp. 46-74). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
[77] Stanfield, M. E. (1998). Red Rubber, Bleeding Trees. Violence, Slavery and Empire in Northwest Amazonia, 1850-1933. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
[78] Taussig, M. (1984). Culture of Terror, Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 26, 467-497.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/178552 https://doi.org/10.1017/S0010417500011105
[79] Taussig, M. (1987). Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
[80] Taylor, A.-C. (1994). El oriente ecuatoriano en el siglo XIX: “El otro litoral”. In J. Maiguashca (Ed.), Historia y Región en el Ecuador, 1830-1930 (pp. 17-68). Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional.
[81] Tully, J. (2011). The Devil’s Milk. A Social History of Rubber. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press.
[82] Van Valen, G. (2013). Indigenous Agency in the Amazon. The Mojos in Liberal and Rubber-Boom Bolivia, 1842-1932. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
[83] Varese, S. (2002). Salt of the Mountain: Campa Asháninka History and Resistance in the Peruvian Jungle. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
[84] Wasserstrom, R. (2014). Surviving the Rubber Boom: Cofán and Siona Society in the Colombia-Ecuador Borderlands, 1875-1955. Ethnohistory, 61, 525-48.
[85] Wasserstrom, R. (2016). Waorani Warfare on the Ecuadorian Frontier, 1885-2013. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 21, 497-516.
[86] Wasserstrom, R., & Bustamante, T. (2015). Ethnicity, Labor and Indigenous Populations in the Ecuadorian Amazon, 1822-2010. Advances in Anthropology, 5, 1-18.
[87] Wasserstrom, R., Reider, S., & Lara, R. (2011). Nobody Knew Their Names: The Black Legend of Tetete Extermination. Ethnohistory, 58, 525-548.
[88] Weinstein, B. (1983). The Amazon Rubber Boom 1850-1920. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
[89] Whitten, N. (1976). Sacha Runa. Ethnicity and Adaptation of Ecuadorian Jungle Quichua. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
[90] Wiener, C. (2011). El Amazonas y la Cordillera. In J. Gómez Rendón (Ed.), Ecuador en las páginas de “Le Tour du Monde (pp. 162-264). Quito: Consejo Nacional de Cultura.
[91] Wilson, R., & Yost, J. (2001). The Creation of Social Hierarchy. In R. B. Morrison, & C. R. Wilson (Eds.), Ethnographic Essays in Cultural Anthropology (pp. 107-137). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cenage Learning.
[92] Wolf, H., & Wolf, R. (1936). Rubber. A Story of Glory and Greed. New York, NY: Covici Friede.
[93] Woodroffe, J. (1914). The Upper Reaches of the Amazon. London; Methuen & Co. Ltd.
[94] Yashar, D. (2005). Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of the Indigenous Movements and the Post Liberal Challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[95] Yungjohann, J. (1989). White Gold. The Diary of a Rubber Cutter in the Amazon 1906-1916. Oracle, AZ: Synergetic Press.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2017 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.