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Samuco Indians

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The collective name of a group of tribes in southwestern Bolivia, speaking dialects of a common language which constitutes a distinct linguistic stock (Samucan) and includes, besides the Samuco proper, the Guaranoca, Morotoco, Poturero, and several others. Their original country was along the northern border of the Chaco, from about 18° to 21° south latitude and from about 58° to 62° west longitude, bordering south upon the Toba and other wandering tribes of the Chaco, and west and north-west upon the celebrated mission tribes of the Chiquito and Chiriguano.

In their original condition the Samuco were semi-sedentary, and combined agriculture and hunting, the men returning to the woods at the close of the planting season to hunt, drying the meat for future use. They planted corn, manioc, and a species of plum. The women wove mats and hammocks (the latter from thread spun from native cotton) and made pottery. The men were noted for their warlike and adventurous spirit. They went entirely naked, while the women wore only a small covering about the middle of the body. Lips, ears, and nostrils were bored for the insertion of wooden plugs. The men carried bows, lances, and wooden clubs, and the warrior's weapons were buried with him. Mothers strangled all their children after the second, and in one tribe, the Morotoco, the women seem to have ruled while the men did the household work. They were passionately given to dancing and visiting, and to the drinking of chicha, an intoxicating liquor made from fermented corn. The majority of them were Christianized through the efforts of the Jesuits in the middle of the eighteenth century, and were establidhed in the Chiquito missions of Bolivia, particularly in the missions of San Juan, Santiago, and Santo Corazon, where many of them, through the efforts of the missionaries, adopted the prevailing Chiquito language. Their conversion was largely the work of Father Narciso Patzi. A large part of them retained their savage independence in the forests. Those of the three mission towns numbered together 5854 souls shortly before the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. In 1839, according to d'Orbigny, they numbered about 1250 souls, besides about 10,000 more still wild in the remote eastern forests. The same traveller describes them as robust and well built, frank, honest, sociable, and notably fond of adventure, pleasure, and gaiety, and with a sweet and euphonious language.

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