Mapoyo oral tradition and its symbolic reference points within their ancestral territory


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Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Centro de la Diversidad Cultural, 2013

The oral tradition of the Mapoyo and its symbolic points of reference within the ancestral territory encompass a body of narratives that constitute the collective memory of the Mapoyo people. It is symbolically and permanently linked to a number of places located within the ancestral territory of the community along the Orinoco River in Venezuelan Guayana. Tradition bearers recount the narratives while carrying out their daily activities. The symbolic space that results from this interaction has served as a point of reference for a living history, connecting the Mapoyo to their past and their territory. The tradition touches on the social structure, knowledge, cosmogony and stories that have made the Mapoyo legitimate participants in the birth of Venezuela as a republic. Community elders are currently the main keepers of the oral traditions of the Mapoyo and their symbolism. However, various factors are endangering transmission to newer generations. These include the increasing outward migration of young people looking for better economic and educational opportunities, land encroachment caused by the mining industry, and the exposure of young people to formal public education that discourages the use of the Mapoyo language.