Growing Up Sexually



South America



Warrau: 2,2,2,2,-,-;-,-)

WARAO (OrinocoDelta, Venezuela)


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More: Guajiro, Yanomamö, Yaruros



Moreno (1945)[1] speaks of “moral bankruptcy”:


“Absolute nakedness, laziness, sexual promiscuity, the mixing of the larger ones with the little ones, the liberty of both in their actions, conversations, and looks, awaken infantile curiosity in such a way and in such proportions that they see everything, watch everything, hear everything, peep into everything, know everything, and end up by doing everything; in a word, they are initiated from the time they are little and know the mysterious secrets of life, this moral catastrophe thus being in part provoked by their own parents” (p271).


“Thus there is no girl seven or eight years old who has not lived with boys of her age and even with adult Indian men” (p272). The Warao, before the influences of missionaries, practised betrothal in early childhood. “— One scarcely finds girls eight or nine years old who have not been violated. In 1930 we took to the Misión de Araguaimujo a girl 12 years old who had already had seven husbands, those who had had her having baptized her with the honorable name of “Samaritana” (samaritan). Afterwards she was very good, decent, and industrious” (p294). Because of the bragging of adults over infidelities, the children become “as versed in certain secrets as is the most expert student of physiology”. However, “With regard to children and young people, no great moral aberrations have been observed in the rancherias” (p295).

Suárez (1968)[2]:


“One way to ensure these alliances among the Warao in the region of Güinikina consists of leading up to them by long matrimonial engagements between a still adolescent boy, or a grown man, and a girl who has not yet entered upon adolescence. It is expected, in order to consummate the marriage, that the girl will be ready for marriage at the time of the rite of initiation that accompanies her first menstrual period”.


This is also maintained by Wilbert (1972)[3]:


“All Warao men and women consider marriage to be a most natural concomitant of a person’s life. Although a young girl may be promised into wedlock at an early age, the marriage may not be consummated before her first menstruation”.







[Additional refs.: Faust, B. B. (1998) Cacao Beans and Chili Peppers: Gender Socialization in the Cosmology of a Yucatec Maya Curing Ceremony, Sex Roles 39,7/8:603-42]




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Turrado Moreno, A. (1945) Ethnography of the Guarauno Indians. Caracas: Lit. y Tip. Vargas

[2] Suárez, M. M. (1968) The Warao: Natives of the Orinoco Delta. Caracas: Deparemento de Antropología, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas. HRAF MS

[3] Wilbert, J. (1972) The fishermen: the Warao of the Orinoco Delta, in Wilbert, J. (Ed.) Survivors of Eldorado: Four Indian Cultures of South America. New York: Praeger, p65-115