Making Incomprehensible Relations Comprehensible : The Guagibo Hunter-Gatherers and their Farming Neighbors in 16th and 17th Century LlanosMaking Incomprehensible Relations Comprehensible : The Guagibo Hunter-Gatherers and their Farming Neighbors in 16th and 17th Century LlanosAA00442310
Earlier representations of hunter-gatherer and farmer relations in the lowlandSouth American anthropological literature have over-generalized and distorted ahighly dynamic relationship, by removing the context in which interactionsbetween nomads and farmers took place. During the 16th century, the Colombianand Venezuelan Llanos was the setting for the clash of societies. The historicalrecord shows a frontier in which the expansion of the Caribs, with the help of theDutch, forced the Saliva and Achagua sedentary communities to relocate. At thattime, an east-west movement of settlements was also evident. In this way,communities became increasingly close to the Jesuit missionaries who, in thename of Spain, attempted to restructure settlement patterns. A decomposition ofthe pre-Colombian network of alliances and trade systems was evident at thattime. The quiripa, a shell used as a currency between societies, soon became arare commodity that also lost its significance. It is in this context that thefollowing observation is especially relevant. The Jesuit missionaries were puzzledby the interactions between Guagibo hunter-gatherers and farmers. The farmerstolerated, even welcomed, the Guagibo into their towns, despite their “abusing”and “tricking” the farmers at every turn. This seemingly incomprehensiblerelationship becomes comprehensible when it is recognized, based on theevaluation of ethnohistorical data, that the Guagibo offered more than goods tofarmers; they provided information, a critical resource in a socially and politicallychanging landscape.