Foto: Beto Ricardo, 2002


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Homogeneity and cultural diversity


The cultural  similarity among the peoples of the Upper Xingu, cultivated by trading, marriages, and intergroup rituals, is also present in a series of other aspects, such as the predominance of fish as a source of protein over meat and the same ideal of behavior which places a high value on generosity (the willingness to give) and self-restraint in temperament.

Beyond the specializations of each of the peoples, there are items produced in all of the villages of the Upper Xingu, such as zoomorphic benches which are sculpted out of a single piece of wood; the dart-throwers for use in the Jawari ritual; the use of the uluri, a female piece of clothing consisting of a small triangle of liber placed over the púbis and tied to the waist with a string of buriti fibre; the hair cut short and oval-shaped for the men and worn long with bangs for the women; the same body ornaments and painting; the composition of circular villages, with large oval malocas, a harpy-eagle cage and house of the sacred flutes (prohibited to the women) on the central plaza. This uniformity, however, is not complete: the languages are different, there are cultural peculiarities which differentiate each people and, above all, the identity of each ethnic group is cultivated in such a way as not be diluted into the society of the upper Xingu.

It is mainly when they are contrasted with the peoples to the north of the Park that the homogeneity of the upper Xingu takes on more definite shapes, since from the time they came to the region, these ethnic groups have maintained hostile or friendly contact with the Upper Xingu, but never actually were part of the same socio-politico-ritual system with them. The peoples of the upper Xingu, in turn, have set aside a separate place in their cosmologies for these groups, putting them into the category of “wild Indians”.

There exists, however, an effort at articulation among all the peoples who dwell in the Park to discuss common problems, and which has as a mediating agent the Atix (Indigenous Land Association of the Xingu), which organizes meetings of leaders of all the ethnic groups (in this regard, see the item indigenous associations)