The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Botocudos

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The American Cyclopædia
Botocudos
Edition of 1879. See also Botocudo people on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BOTOCUDOS (Port. botoque, a barrel bung), the name given by the Portuguese to a tribe of Tupayas Indians of Brazil, from their custom of wearing flat disks of wood in slits cut in the ears and under lip. By the coast Indians they were called Aymborés or Aimorés. According to tradition, they were driven from the north, and took up their habitation W. of a mountain range since called after them Serra dos Aymborés, separating the present provinces of Espirito Santo and Bahia from that of Minas Geraes. They call themselves Engereckmung, the signification of which is unknown. In Espirito Santo and Bahia they are commonly called Bugres, derived by Tschudi from the French, but apparently without warrant. They rarely approached the seashore, but in their occasional descents they gained a terrible reputation among the coast tribes, who regarded them with horror and as irrational beings, unskilled in the arts of hut building and of decorating their persons with feathers and other gaudy trappings. So strong was their antipathy to water, that their intended victim might always find safety by plunging into a river. They are of medium height, broad-shouldered, large-bodied, and muscular, their legs and arms, nevertheless, appearing soft, thin, and effeminate. There is a great variety of features among them, but in general they have low foreheads and small, black, piercing eyes, the exterior angles of which are usually oblique as in the Mongolian race, but blue eyes are not infrequent; small noses, at times somewhat arched at the base, especially in the women, and with wide alæ; small mouths; the lips are usually thick, though some individuals have very thin lips. Their cheek bones are much less prominent than in their neighbors of the Tupí-Guaraní family. The hair on the head is thin, and when not allowed to fall over the forehead is shaved with a bamboo razor for about two inches from the edge all round. The beard, naturally deficient, is commonly plucked out. The skin is a whitish yellow; and it has been affirmed that the Botocudos are capable of blushing. The women have the abdomen very large, the breasts flaccid and pendent, and are frequently bow-legged. All the hard work falls to their lot; they are the slaves of their husbands, who treat them with the utmost cruelty, beating them unmercifully and even cutting them with knives. Children while young are often treated with tenderness, and yet it is not unusual for the mothers to sell them to planters, who in reality hold them as slaves; but these rarely reach maturity. As a race, the Botocudos are decidedly ugly, exceptions to this rule being rare even in the young women. It has been erroneously stated that the Aymborés painted their bodies as other Indians do. They were formerly in the habit of varnishing their skin with the yellowish sap of certain trees, which gave them the appearance of having jaundice; but the intention was not to beautify but to preserve their bodies from the attack of mosquitoes and other insects. Their weapons consist of a bow about six feet long, so strong that none but an Indian can use it, and arrows of great length, sometimes barbed, with a sharp-pointed bamboo head, hardened in the fire. Their mode of combat is by attacking at night and from ambush. According to current belief, they were cannibals, and it is certain that after battle they ate the bodies of the slain, and that these feasts were conducted with great ceremony. They are fond of amusement, and have nothing of the stolid gravity of the northern Indians. Among their articles of diet are the larvæ of certain insects, ants, alligators, lizards, the boa constrictor, monkeys, the ounce and other carnivora, tapirs, and ant-eaters. The Botocudos have been considerably reduced in number by European vices, and above all by the passion for strong drink, by disease, and by the war of extermination unceasingly waged against them by the whites. Of those still existing, some are domesticated and divided into several small bands, each of which has its separate headquarters, called aldeamentos, or villages; others have resisted all efforts to civilize them, and roam in freedom through the forest. All of them inhabit the region between the Rio Doce and Rio Pardo, and watered by these rivers and the Mucury and Belmonte. They all go naked, except civilized ones when they visit the fazendas or plantations; and these close up the slit in the lip with wax. The ear plug is often four inches in diameter, and that for the lip two inches; but the custom of wearing them appears to be going out, and is only persevered in by the adult females. Old women always lack the lower incisors, which have been dislodged by the pressure of the plug; in many cases even the alveolæ have totally disappeared, leaving the bone bare and as sharp as a knife. The Botocudo language is entirely different from the various Tupi tongues, and has dialectic differences observable in each band. It is rich in reduplicated words, but possesses no gutturals or sibilants, and is generally spoken in a high key, very rapidly, and apparently indistinctly.


AmCyc 1879 Botocudos.jpg

Botocudos.