The Pericues

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The area known today as San Jose del Cabo was aboriginally inhabited by the Pericues.

Although the oldest Pericu remains found are dated at 3,000 years BP (Before Present), archaeological evidence extends as far back as 11,000 years ago.

A research led by archaeologist Harumi Fujita suggests that the southern part of the peninsula was inhabited as early as 40,000 years ago.

Their skull morphology and recent genetic studies led by Dr. Silvia Gonzalez
strengthen the theory that the Pericues did not originate in Northern Asia, where some experts believed Native Americans first came from.

Instead, the Pericues are closer to the ancient populations of southern Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific Rim.

The Peñon Woman discovered near Mexico City and dated at 12,700 - 15,000 years BP, among the oldest human remains recovered in the Americas so far, has similar cranial morphology to the Pericues.

The same skull configuration is also found at Lagoa Santa in Brazil and in the Patagonia.

Harumi Fujita excavations

Harumi Fujita excavations in Babisuri rock shelter at Saint Spirit Island.

Language experts have concluded that Pericu and Guaycura tongues are different from any other aboriginal languages in Mexico.

The Cochimies called the Guaycuras and Pericues with the word edu which means:
people with a different language.

Just a few Pericu words are known today, among them two toponyms related to this area:
Añuiti, (place full of reeds), present day San Jose del Cabo.
Yenecamú, (place between two waters), nowadays Cabo San Lucas.

Pericu customs and physical aspect are known primarily through the accounts of European incomers and visitors, most of which are plagued with discrimination and cultural prejudice.

Among the most accurate of these accounts are the books written and drawn by English privateers who spent time at Cabo San Lucas, in 1712, 1721, and 1726.

The Pericues were taller and stronger than the average mainland Mexican inhabitants.

The Pericu society possessed sophisticated maritime technology, making use of wooden rafts and double-bladed paddles. Skull examinations suggest they were customary divers.

Pericu mural

Pericu as depicted in a mural paint at La Paz Museum of Anthropology and History.

Their primary diet was composed by fish, shellfish and marine mammals from the plentiful waters of the southern Gulf of California and was complemented with overland resources such as deer, small game, wild seeds, pitaya, agave, and wild plums.

Tobacco smoking was widely practiced and alcohol was not consumed.

The Pericu made use of wooden arches with stone pointed arrows as well as atlatls, nets, spears, harpoons and fishhooks.

They dwelled in caves, roofless rock shelters or ramada covers, dominated the fire, made use of stone grinding basins, sewn palm containers and coiled basketry.

Women covered their body with a cloak and skirt apparel and men went nude, often with their bodies entirely painted. Both sexes wore long hair.

Pericue women

Pericu women.

The highest level of social organization was the autonomous local community which resided in an unbounded territory. Thus provoking frequent episodes of violence between neighboring communities.

Leadership was oriented towards inter-community affairs rather than the regulation of internal behavior. Stealing and lying was not practiced within the community. Interpersonal violence, including homicide, went unpunished.

Although some communities practiced monogamy, most of them were polygamists.
Wives were the property of their husband and were treated like slaves.

The Guama or Shaman played an essential role in the well-being of the community:

They made use of herbs, tobacco leaves juice and burning coal to heal the wounded and the sick, and presided the particularly elaborated mortuary observances.

They prepared and surveilled the communal parties that took place after the pitayas harvest, which were a kind of Celebration of Life where people danced, laughed, competed in races and shared wives, being these celebrations the only occasion in which adultery was permitted.

Pericu burial

Pericu burial.

It is estimated that around 5000 Pericues thrived in the area by the time the Spaniards first arrived in 1534.

By 1767, the year the Jesuits were expelled from the New Spain, the Pericu decimated population reached the point of cultural and linguistic extinction.

This genocide was caused by the large number of casualties suffered during the war against the Spaniards, added to the already devastating effects of European diseases, measles, smallpox and syphilis.

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