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Xucuru Indians

They survive, essentially, from subsistence farming, horticulture, growing fruits and from handcrafted lace embroidery done by the women of the tribe.

Xucuru Indians

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Last update: 05/02/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The Xucuru, with a current population of around 3,500 indians, live on the Ororubá Range, in an area of 26,980 hectares, in the municipality of Pesqueira.

According to various researchers, the name of the Ororubá Range has various origins and meanings: it may be a corruption of uru-ybá – fruit of the ‘urus’, an onomatopaeic word for several types of small  patridges; it could come from “orouba”, a word of Cariri origins; it could be of Tupi origins, coming from uru-ubá – fruit of the bird – or a corruption of arara-ubá; or it could even be said to respect the designation given by the first Tapuia-Cariri tribe located on the range.

Their presence on the Ororubá Range has been since the time of Portuguese colonisation, has some documents show. Probably they have never been away from the area.

In 1879, as happened to other villages that have survived the invasion of their land, the Xucuru village was destroyed by the Government. The group then began to survive by wandering the ranges.

They were the target of persecutions, such as the prohibition of their religious rites and the use of medicinal herbs to cure diseases. However, the non-definition of their territorial limits was what most affected the existence of the group. Their territory was defined in 1995, but the land regulisation process has not yet been concluded, causing many land ownership disputes.

The remaining Xucuru that survived the process of systematic persecution and expropriation of their lands retain few ethnic and cultural traces. The toré is danced on few occasions, the no longer speak their native language, except a few words still known by the elders like lombri = water; lomba = land; clariu = star; amum = flour; echalá = broad bean; maiu = pan; xigó = corn; chrichaú = bean; memengo = goat, among others.

The group is spread out over 18 villages: São José, Afeto, Gitó, Brejinho, Canabrava, Courodanta, Bentevi, Lagoa, Santana, Caípe, Caetano, Caldeirão, Pé de Serra, Oiti, Pendurado, Boa Vista, Cimbres and Guarda.

Each village is made up of a group of families, each inhabiting their own house. Each village has a representative who takes the problems of the community to the ‘cacique’, who is the representative of the Xucuru as a whole.

They survive, essentially, from subsistence farming, horticulture, growing fruits and from handcrafted lace embroidery done by the women of the tribe.
Their main crops are corn, beans, broad beans and cassava, though what ensures the survival of the Indians is the broad been, as it costs less than other beans and can be harvested throughout the summer.

The Xucuru annually revive their mythic-religious traditions on the feasts of Nossa Senhora das Montanhas (Our Lady of the Mountains) and São José (St Joseph). Although they are not indigenous feasts, they serve as a reason for the Indians to relive the customs of their own culture, through the dances, songs in their dialect mixed with Portuguese and the telling of tribal legends, of which they say: “In the times of innocent Indians, they found the image of Our Lady in the trunk of a jucá (Brazilian ironwood) tree, the priests then took the Saint to the church, but the saint returned to the trunk of the Jucá”.

According to the saying, it is in this location that the ritual of the ‘caboclos’ is performed: the men, dressed in corn straw costumes, with flutes and rattles, dance at the place for the entire night.

Recife, 19 August 2003.
(Updated on 28 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

sources consulted

AS COMUNIDADES indígenas de Pernambuco. Recife: Instituto de Desenvolvimento de Pernambuco-Condepe, 1981.

SÁ, Marilena Araújo de. "Yaathe" é a resistência dos Fulni-ô. Revista do Conselho Estadual de Cultura, Recife, Ed. especial, p.48-54, 2002.

SOUZA, Vânia Rocha Fialho de Paiva e. As fronteiras do ser Xukuru. Recife: Fundaj. Ed. Massangana, 1998

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Xucuru Indians. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.