Friday, October 17, 2008

Cacique...the Chief

Bertico is his name. He has been chief for the last 15 years, but is suffering from chronic bronchitis due to his excessive smoking. We used to provide him with guafatussin, and I worry about his coughing now. Who is giving him medicine for his terrible coughing??? No one.

Bertico and Yekwanaman were having a conversation in the village round house on the day this photo was snapped. Just talking about 'men stuff' which is genetic in all males, no matter the culture. Some things are universal.

Bertico is a friend but never became a Christian. I still pray for him and even though he was never interested in the gospel, he is a true friend. He has stood up for us against the false accusations made by military investigators, he has stood up for us when other Indigenous Advocate groups tried to force the removal of all missionaries from the tribes.

Bertico as chief is greatly respected. One does not belittle the chief or take undue privileges while speaking to him, or about him. He is the chief until he dies. Then another will be appointed but not necessarily a son of his.

Something you can not see in this photo is that much of his power comes through his practice as witch doctor. He is a shaman. His father was such a powerful witch doctor that upon his death, his head was saved. The head was cleaned down to the bones and wrapped in cloth for safe keeping. Bertico has his father's skull in his hut. Whenever he feels the need for wisdom, he will snort a local grown hallucinogenic ( having much the same effect as LSD) which will allow him to have visions. In these visions he will often see and converse with his' father', thus the need for the skull to be kept close by him for such times.

My children were never afraid of Bertico, but were often skittish when walking by his hut, just knowing the skull was in there made them nervous!

My husband once asked Bertico how old he was. His answer, after a long thoughtful pause, was, "I am very old."

I miss him!

A Younger Bertico with his son.
(This photo was taken and developed by a retired missionary)


Nina in Portugal said...

Oh, how difficult it is to leave behind someone that is dear to your heart. One that you tried to minister to. One that became a very good friend, but never a Bro/Sis in Christ. One that you still pray for asking the Lord to work a miracle.

I know this feeling all too well.

But I will say that I have never had one so steeped in evil as your friend, Bertico. I could not imagine dealing with such a satanic 'stong hold'. But I guess a lost church member is just as lost as Bertico, huh? And God is just as powerful in dealing with one as He is the other.

I know you miss him. I miss him for you....

Starla said...

It is good to have a true friend. Great post!

Findalis said...

What wisdom that tribe has in not choosing their leader from a bloodline but by ability. I just wish the US would choose by ability and not rhetoric.

The Localmalcontent said...


TeamBettendorf said...

Can you explain why and when the natives started wearing "western" clothing.

Jungle Mom said...

team Bettendorf,
The Ye'kwana began wearing western clothes at least 40 years ago. The natural cotton which is used to make their lion clothes is difficult to find in the jungle. Also, the material is hard to keep clean and dry and difficult to care for.
The Ye'kwana would trade baskets for clothes with the people in town.
Still to this day, the women do not always wear tops. However, they have learned to do so when around outsiders because they do not like to be looked at differently.
If someone wear to suggest to the Ye'kwana that they should not wear western clothing, they would laugh as the adults and children below the age of 30 or 40 has always done so.

Betty said...

How many years did you live in Venezuela? Maybe you already told me, but I have forgotten.
I know it was a lot and no wonder you miss these people that were a part of your lives for so many years!
Even though they have such "strange" practices in their culture, they are humans that need our love and I understand your feelings.

Jungle Mom said...

betty, we were in Venezuela for 20 years.

Z said...

20 YEARS? I had no idea, JM. WOW. No wonder you feel so connected.

This man has an amazing face...just a wonderful bio, we all know him!

MK said...

Thanks for sharing that with us JM. You can tell a good fella when you see one.

Anonymous said...

Bertico was a witch doctor! Did he have real power to harm his enemies through magic? I remember in the "Flame Trees of Thika" books, about a young girl growing up in Africa, there was a witch doctor who could really kill people with magic. If Bertico can do that, I have this list and maybe he and I could work something out, some cartons of smokes in exchange for his assistance, something along those lines. You know me, Jungle Mom, I'm very receptive to other cultures. ;-)

Jungle Mom said...

There are many different hexes used for killing, harming, making sick, to cause attractions, to run off sickness caused by spirits...
I have seen a healthy man who was hexed and... never mind, no one will believe me!

MightyMom said...

oh contraire JM, I'll believe you!!

sorry for you missing your friend.

Anonymous said...

Jungle Mom, I'd believe you. Remember I live in Appalachia, where hexes and curses still have some weight.