This article examines the evolution of quirípa, a primitive valuable from the Orinoco Basin, from a world-systems perspective. This process must be understood as a result of the economic and symbolic uses given to beads by different social actors based on their ethnic and sociopolitical backgrounds through time. The history of this primitive valuable illustrates how some aboriginal economic institutions evolved as a result of exchange among Amerindian and European economies and societies, not merely as the product of the imposition of Western economic rationality.

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