Psarocolius angustifrons Kichwa: Atun Mangu
I live gathering the people together
On the hill side
I travel, I travel
Making myself heard loudly
From whatever direction they hear her
Oriole Woman! Oriole Woman!
What is she coming over here for?
Why is she coming?
Why doesn't she travel farther back?
She is going to ruin (the hunting) here.
When they hear her far away
Who is that sounding from over here?
Could it be a ghost that sounds like that?
It is just the oriole woman who travels far
Chullu mangu warmiga,
Chullu mangu warmiga gayari
runataga layari tandachiga tiani gayari
chullu mangu warmiga
Ñucaga puriniga purini
ashca uyarisha purini
imataya caiga puriunga nisha
chullu mangu warmi
mangaya imataya purichi
ima washa mana purichingachu
chullu mangu warmimi
pita uyangaya chimanda ayachu uyanga imataya uyangayari
chullu mangu warmilla
Oriole! Oriole Woman
Mountain oriole woman
Oriole, oriole Juuu woman!
From the pool in the canyon
I come laughing Jujujujuuuujujoi!
You think I am just an oriole
You think maybe the (birds) come laughing Jujujujuuu!
You think of me
The way I see it its my dear wife comes
Laughing sadly (with love, with feeling) like that
From the canyon they come laughing like that perhaps
They are in their chagras (manioc gardens)
Do you suppose it is just an ordinary woman?
I stand here thinking
I might be Russet Oropendola
Mangu mangu warmiga
urku mangu warmiga,
kanga yanga mangumi
Ñuka rikukpi yaga
kasnaya llakinallaya asisha
waykumanda shamujun kasna asishachari
paiba chagrabigaya tiapajun tiajun
yanga warmicha yuyashami tiagarani
chuya mangu, mangutachuya charig arani yari
nuka warmi tagaya .
The cultural meaning of oropendolas is based on several observable factors. The most obvious is their nesting behavior. Oropendolas 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. To be able to joke well in this style is a highly esteemed social skill. As they work together socially skilled women break into long peals of feminine laughter stylized as Jujujujuui! Only women laugh “jujujujuii” . They primarily laugh this way when they are laughing with other women. Often a group of sisters laughs this way when they joining together to tease a man or men. Often one can hear this laugher from far away. It is recognized as the sound of women working in harmony.
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!
When they are away from their nesting trees oropendolas range across a large territory in what biologist call mixed species fruit eating flocks. That is, they move through the forest looking for fruit trees in the company of numerous other species of fruit eating birds. Within these mixed flocks some species stand out as leaders: particularly oropendolas, toucans and violaceous jays. Other species follow the lead of these birds and seem to be attracted by their calls. They seem to feel safe, feeding calmly as long as they can hear the calls of these lead species.
The laughing call of the oropendolas is not their only call. Oropendolas are famous for their ability to copy the call of almost any other bird or animal. They learn to mimic the calls of other birds that feed with them. When they mimic the songs of other species these species come to the oropendolas. This gives the oropendolas the ability to call together many other species which them follow them on their foraging journey. The oropendola’s ability to attract and hold together a diverse community of birds can be compared to a leader who holds a community together through eloquent and persuasive speaking.
In Amazonian thinking eloquent speaking and singing are qualities of a samayuj. A samayuj is a socially skilled person whose power resides in their “samay” or breath. The oropendolas’ ability to speak the languages of so many other species is taken as evidence of its social power or samay.
"Oropendola Calls Cause Love and Sorrow." Tod Swanson interview with Luisa Cadena. Youtube video. 6:50. April 16, 2019.
"Oropendola Calls Change Anger to Love" Tod Swanson interview with Luisa Cadena. Youtube video. 5:10. April 16, 2019.