Symbols of Conviviality:  Russet Backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons); Quichua/Kichwa: Atun Mangu; Urcu Mangu; Challu Mangu; Cucupacchu.  

  1. Video of Eulodia Dagua The Oriole Woman has a Sister (Kichwa with English subtitles.)

  2. Eulodia Dagua “The Oriole Woman has a Sister”   (text)

  3. Eulodia Dagua “I live gathering the people together: Song to Chullu Mangu Woman

  4. Luisa Cadena  “Sadly my woman comes Laughing”(Song to Oropendola Woman)

The cultural meaning of oropendolas is based on several observable factors. The first is their nesting behavior.  Oropendola flocks build numerous nests in a single large tree.  Because of the  hanging style of these nests as well as the birds’ preference for building them in large trees set in clearings, oropendola nests are more visible to humans than are the nests of any other species.  Because nests suggest female birds oropendolas are likened to a group of women who make their cooking fires and feed their children in close proximity to each other.  In traditional Amazonian society the only women who do this are adult daughters and daughter in laws living together with their children and husbands in a single long house.   In previous generations there would also have been co-wives (often sisters) who often each had adult daughters and daughter-in-laws living together in the same long house.

Human women living under these conditions often have difficulty getting along. There is understandable tension between co-wives or between sisters who have to share resources in close quarters. These tensions are perceived to be dangerous since they can break out into witchcraft, violence and fractioning of the community.  One of the strategies of conviviality living under these conditions is group humor and laughter. Oropendolas are believed to epitomize this ideal of sisters laughing together as they work around multiple cooking fires in a single ling house.  In their nesting trees the oropendolas call and answer each other as they move around their nests.  Their loud multi-syllable call rising in a scale of ascending notes is reminiscent of the stylized laugher of Amazonian women Jujujujui!

Symbols of Conviviality:    Above:  Oropendolas nesting in the same tree.  (Photo: Tod Swanson, Napo River, 2009).  Below:  Floor plan of an Achuar longhouse showing cooking fires of sisters living with their children under the the same roof.   (from Descola, In the Society of Nature.)