Occupation: Student, Surfer
Residence: San Clemente
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/15
Primary Language: English
Okay, so in the Oronoco Delta, which is in the Eastern part of Venezuela that borders Guyana, there’s um, it’s hard to pronounce but it’s the Juaguaro Indians, and they’re this indigenous people that live in basically like stilted houses above the river, and navigate around the channels in canoes, they’re very untouched by what’s going on in the rest of Venezuela and western culture. There’s huge amounts of jungle there. And one of their superstitions is that it’s bad luck to see or to have a jaguar living near them. And they call them tigers, well, “tigres,” but they’re actually jaguars. So as it goes, whenever they see a jaguar they have to kill it, otherwise they’ll have bad luck and bad karma, or there will be sickness and death. So whenever they see a jaguar it’s like part of their culture to kill it. And the way that I heard about this was, there was this Sirian guy that was raised in America after the age of 9, so I guess I’ll just call him American…he moved down there and he had a camp type thing where tourists would come and stay and camp in the jungle. And there weren’t really any other foreigners living there at the time, so people would bring him animals from the jungle, to raise them, if they got separated from their mother or were sick or something. He had all kinds of bizarre animals over the years, like monkeys, and otters, and caiman or crocodile, and when I saw him he had a mountain lion, but before that he had a jaguar. And he got it as a tiny baby kitten, and raised it himself, and his children grew up with it, and it was really tame because it was used to being around people. And he said one day, some indigenous guys came over, and took his jaguar cause they said it was bringing them bad luck. So they killed it, and one guy wore the skin, the bloody skin around for 3 days to clear the area of bad luck. And he went to the officials but it’s this thing that’s so rooted in their culture that even the Venezuelan officials can’t really do anything about it.
How long ago was this? When the incident happened?
Probably about, I’d say 10 years ago. So it’s still going on.
This is a folk belief / superstition / custom that has clearly very established and embedded in this society’s culture, that even the government is aware that it is still practiced but can’t or wont do anything about it. This shows that it is a very strong and seriously considered belief. It seems as though this society is largely isolated from other societies, but clearly clashes with other Venezuelan’s beliefs, especially the subject of the informant’s story. The act of donning the skin of the “enemy” or the threat to their society is a kind of empowerment, or domination, and shows the rest of that community that they can rest assured they are safe from bad luck and that they have triumphed over the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s skin is like taking their identity away, disembodying them from their power.