Gender Roles in Economics

In traditional Yuqui culture, broadly interpreted, men hunted and women gathered. However, men often gathered on their return from a hunt, particularly if they were unsuccessful in capturing game, and women were known to hunt the slower and more easily captured animals, such as sloths, armadillos, and tortoises. An elder Yuqui related that his mother used a bow to kill fish, something admittedly rare, but nonetheless pointing to the fact that women were not prohibited from using men's weapons— they simply did not learn how to use them in most cases. Women were invaluable on the hunt to call animals such as monkeys, and often dispatched them as they fell to the ground wounded by an arrow. Thus, in precontact times, although men most often hunted and women most often gathered, the quest for food was so critical that both sexes would do whatever was necessary to assure that the group would eat. Any social constraints on gender roles rapidly gave way to the greater and more urgent necessity of procuring food.

Today, the Yuqufollow many of the European-influenced gender roles found among the Bolivian peasantry. With the introduction of firearms, for example, hunting has become a male-dominated activity, with women less likely to participate as frequently as they did in the past. Even so, just as women formerly could "own" an arrow, which they earned by performing some task for a man, women can now purchase shotgun shells, which they earn through trade or labor. Ownership of an arrow or shell entitles a woman to a share of the animal captured.

As Bolivan settlers have moved closer to the Yuquiand small communities have built up in the region, a few Yuqui women have periodically taken jobs as maids or cooks in nearby colonies. These jobs seldom last long, however, since Yuqui women do not cook or keep house well by Bolivian standards, and they are soon let go to return to their families. Men will also work as day laborers or find other unskilled jobs, but do not seem to have the stamina of Bolivian peasants and also will not stay in a job for long.

The commercialization of trade items such as fish, honey, forest fruits, fresh and dried game meat, and handicrafts has become primarily a male role, mostly because Yuquimen speak better Spanish and can access outside markets. However, women will often demand their share of the profits, particularly if they have provided the goods being sold such as hammocks or bags made from imbai fiber. The perceived or actual failure of men to return the full value of these profits is leading to increased strife between the sexes.

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