Foto: Sônia Lorenz, 1980.

Sateré Mawé

  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    AM13.350 (CGTSM, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Preparation and consumption of guaraná

The çapo – guaraná in stick grated in water –, is the daily, ritual and religious beverage, and is drunk in large quantities by adults and children alike. Çapó preparation and consumption follow a series of practices that make up a veritable ritual. The nature of the ritual of guaraná drinking is, however, different from that of a formal ritual, such as the Tocandira Festival or the reading of the Porantim.

Anthony Henman described thus a çapó session: "Such practices are essentially the same in all circumstances, whether the çapó is prepared for the smallest family circle or for all adult males during a festival or a political meeting. It is the host’s wife’s responsibility to grate the guaraná, an operation for which is used the tongue of a pirarucu [a very large Amazon fish] or a smooth square basalt rock. An open gourd of the species Crescentia cujete is placed atop a support called patauí and filled with water up to one fourth of its total capacity. The action of ‘grating’ the wet guaraná is not designed to turn the stick into powder, such as with dry guaraná. Instead, the idea is to turn the guaraná into a kind of goo, which adheres to the grating instrument and to the stick and is periodically dissolved by the woman who is doing the grating by her dipping the fingers in the water.

Once it is prepared, the çapó is again diluted in water set aside by the guaraná ‘owner’ [the grating woman] in a gourd of the species Lagenaria siceraria. The gourd is by now more than half full with çapó, and is then handed by the woman to her husband, who takes just a small sip before passing it on to the others, normally giving preference to older people or to an important visitors, if there are any. The gourd is then passed from person to person according to the physical proximity of the participants rather than following a rigid hierarchical scheme. In evening sessions, a large tobacco cigar rolled in a tree bark accompanies the guaraná drinking. The name tauarí is used for the cigar, for the bark proper and for the tree itself (Couratari tauary).

It is not always that the gourd and the tauarí make a circular round. It is more common that they are passed on a straight line from one participant to another, returning on the same line until going back to the owner. When too many people are present, two or more lines are formed, since a single gourd is rarely consumed by more than eight or ten people. The participant who does not feel like drinking guaraná does not refuse the offer, but instead keeps the formalities by drinking a small sip so as to not offend the host. Another important detail is that no one ever drinks the last drop in the gourd – no matter how little he gets, he will make sure there will be at least a little left for the host. He is the only one with the right to formally close the çapó session, which he may do personally or by passing on what is left to a family member with the phrase ‘wai'pó’ (‘here’s the tail’).

While the gourd circulates among the present, the host’s wife continues to scrub the guaraná stick on the grater, forming the goo that will be promptly dissolved into water as soon as the gourd returns to her hands.'' (1983:26-27)

Each çapó session has several rounds of the drink. That means that the host’s wife (or his daughter or granddaughter) prepares several gourds of çapó, according to the desire of the visitors or family members to drink çapó and talk.

Çapó is the beverage the Sateré-Mawé women drink when they are in their period, pregnant, after giving birth and in mourning. Men drink it in the Tocandira Festival, in mourning and after their wives give birth.

One can say that it is during the fábrico, a regional term also used by the Sateré-Mawé to indicate the various stages of guaraná processing, that social life intensifies. From what we have observed, the fábrico process to bring to the maximum the society’s way of life, bringing to the daily social life a full range of phenomena that remain occult or obscure in the other times of the year. It is a period that renews itself each year with the arrival of the guaraná harvest, allowing the Sateré-Mawé to partake their mythical genesis, reinvigorating them ethnically.

The Tocandira ritual coincides with the season of the fábrico process and last about 20 days. The Indians refer to this ritual as “to stick the hand into the glove”, also known by the regionals as the ''Festa da Tocandira'' (Tocandira Festival). It is a rite of passage – in which boys become men – of extraordinary importance to the Sateré-Mawé, with chants of lyrical exaltation of work and love and epic chants related to war. The gloves used in this ritual are made of straw painted with genipap and adorned with macaw and hawk feathers; the initiate sticks his hand in them to be bit by dozens of tocandira ants (Paraponera clavata).