Middle Age and Old Age

Not many Yuqui reached "old age" prior to contact. Interviews with some of the older Yuquiat BiaRecuate indicate that the average life-span was only about 45-55 years. Most Yuqui describe their lives as nomadic foragers as hard, and they lived with a great deal of insecurity. Infirmity or illness that affected one's ability to travel would spell certain abandonment and shortly thereafter death from starvation (see also Holmberg, 1969, pp. 225-226).

Unlike their male peers, who did not have dietary taboos, those women who reached their late forties and were still menstruating bore the additional burden of having to depend on males who were older than they to provide them with meat. According to traditional Yuqui beliefs (but no longer in practice), when a woman was "behind leaves" during her menstrual period, younger men were prohibited from hunting for her since it was considered contaminating. Thus, as women got older and outlived older men, it became increasingly hard for them to get enough meat, the dietary mainstay, to maintain their health. Increasing food deprivation no doubt hastened the demise of older women.

Today, the Yuqu,i especially women, are living well into their sixties and even their seventies. Medical care provided by the mission and, more recently, by Yuqui health practitioners has greatly extended life expectancy. Unlike many recently contacted groups that lose large numbers of people from European diseases, the Yuqui population has actually increased since contact.

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