are a group of culturally
related indigenous peoples of South America
. They are distinguished from the
by their use of the
. The traditional range
of the Guaraní people is in what is now Paraguay between the
Uruguay River and lower Paraguay River, the Corrientes and Entre Ríos Provinces of Argentina, southern Brazil, and parts
of Uruguay and Bolivia.
Although their demographic dominance of the region has been reduced
by European colonisation
and the commensurate rise of
, there are contemporary Guaraní
populations in these areas. Most notably, the Guaraní language,
still widely spoken across traditional Guaraní homelands, is one of
the two official languages in Paraguay, the other one being
Spanish. The language was once looked down upon by the upper and
middle classes, but it is now often regarded with pride and serves
as a symbol of national distinctiveness. All Paraguayan children
are required to learn to speak, read and write in Guaraní.
The history and meaning of the name Guaraní
are subject to
dispute. Prior to their encounter with Europeans, the Guaraní
referred to themselves simply as Abá
, meaning "men" or
"people." The term Guaraní was originally applied by early Jesuit
missionaries to refer to natives who
had accepted conversion and were thus "civilized". Barbara Ganson
writes that the name Guaraní
was given by the Spanish as
it means "warrior" in the Tupi-Guarani dialect spoken there.
) was used
to refer to those who had refused conversion. Cayua
roughly translated as "the ones from the forest". While the term
Cayua is sometimes still used to refer to settlements of indigenous
peoples who have not well integrated into the dominant society, the
modern usage of the name Guaraní is generally extended to include
all people of native origin regardless of societal status.
The history of the Guaraní people prior to contact with European
explorers is not well documented. Their early history is based
entirely on oral tradition
they did not have a written language. Since the Guaraní people were
a somewhat nomadic
, decentralized society,
there is little in the way of a reliable historical record.
Early Guaraní villages often consisted of communal
houses for ten to fifteen families.
Communities were united by common interest and language, and tended
to form tribal groups by dialect. It is estimated that the Guaraní
numbered some 400,000 people when they were first encountered by
Europeans. At that time, they were sedentary and agricultural
, subsisting largely on manioc
, wild game, and
Equally little is known about early Guaraní society and beliefs.
They practiced a form of animistic pantheism
, much of which has survived in the form
and numerous myths
. According to the Jesuit missionary Martin Dobrizhoffer
, they practiced
at one point, perhaps as a
ritual, but later disposed of the
dead in large jars placed inverted on the ground. Guaraní mythology
is still widespread
in rural Paraguay.
the Spanish explorer
Juan de Solis was the first European to enter Río de la
Plata, the estuary of the Paraná or Paraguay River,
followed by Sebastian
Cabot in 1526 .
In 1537, Gonzalo de Mendoza
Paraguay to about the present Brazilian frontier. On his return, he
made acquaintance with the Guaraní and founded Asunción, later the
capital of Paraguay.
The first governor of the Spanish territory of Guayrá
initiated a policy of intermarriage
between Europeans and the indigenous women, whose descendants
characterize the Paraguayan nation. He also initiated the enslavement
of the natives, who had no protector
until the arrival of Jesuit missionaries.
two Jesuits, Father Barcena and
Father Angulo, came to what is now the State of Paraná, Southern Brazil, in 1585, by land from what was to
be called Bolivia some 240
Others soon followed, and a Jesuit college was
established at Asunción. In 1608, as a result of Jesuit protest
against enslavement of the indigenous population, King Philip III of Spain
gave authority to
the Jesuits to convert and colonize the tribes of Guayrá. It should
be noted that in the early period the name Paraguay was loosely
used to designate all the basin of the river, including parts of
what are now Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil.
As usual in Spanish colonies, exploring expeditions were
accompanied by Franciscan friars
. Early in the history of Asunción, Father
Luis de Bolanos
into the Guarani language and
preached to Guaraní people who resided in the area around the
settlement. In 1588–89 St.
Francis Solanus crossed the Chaco
wilderness from Peru and stopped
at Asunción, but gave no attention to the Guaraní.
recall left the field clear for the Jesuits, who assumed the double
duty of "civilizing" and Christianizing the Native Americans and
defending them against the cruelty of slave dealers and employers,
as well as of practically all of the European population, whether
lay, clerical, or official. "The larger portion of the population
regarded it as a right, a privilege by virtue of conquest, that
they should enslave the Indians" (Page, 470). The Jesuit provincial
Torres arrived in 1607, and
"immediately placed himself at the head of those who had opposed
the cruelties at all times exercised over the natives"
and depot of the slave trade was the town of São Paulo. Originally a rendezvous place for Portuguese, Dutch, and
Spanish pirates, it later became a refuge for criminal of all nations, who mixed with Native
American and African women and actively participated in the
capturing and selling of Guaranis as slaves.
To oppose these armed and organized robbers, the tribes had only
their bows and arrows, since the Spanish government prohibited the
use of firearms
by even "civilized" Indians.
Many Native Americans were slain or enslaved by the slave-hunters
active in Brazil during those years.
With royal protection, the first Guayrá mission
, Loreto, was established on the
Paranapané by Father Cataldino and Father Marcerata in 1610. As the
mission provided the only real possible protection against
enslavement, the Guaraní flocked there in such numbers that twelve
more missions were created in rapid succession, containing in all
40,000 Guaranis. Stimulated by this success, Father Gonzalez and
two companions journeyed to Uruguay and established two or three
small missions in 1627, with good promise for the future until the
local tribes killed the priests and the neophytes and burned the
Slave raiders saw the Guaraní missions as "merely an opportunity of
capturing more Indians than usual at a haul" and as "nest of hawks,
looked at their neophytes as pigeons, ready fattening for their
use" (Graham 57). In 1629, an army of Paulistas surrounded the San
Antonio mission, set fire to the church and other buildings, killed
those who resisted or were too young or too old to travel, and
carried the rest into slavery. San Miguel and Jesu Maria quickly met the same fate.
Eventually, reinforcements gathered by Father Cataldino drove off
the enemy. Many other missions were not as fortunate. Within two years, all
but two of the establishments were destroyed, and 60,000 Christian
and "civilized" converts were carried off for sale to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The attacks usually took place on Sunday,
when the whole mission population was gathered for Mass
. The priests were usually spared, but
several were killed while ministering to the wounded or pleading
with the murderers.
The survival of Guayrá missions was in jeopardy; only a few
thousand Indians were left of nearly 100,000 just before the
Paulista invasion. Father Antonio Ruiz de Montoya
, and was able to convert the
Indians from farmers
to stock raisers. Soon,
work began to prosper, and under Fathers Rançoncier and Romero the
Uruguay missions were re-established. However, in 1632 the old
enemy, the Mamelucos
, discovered a new line
of attack from the south. In 1638, despite some successful
resistance, all twelve of the missions beyond the Uruguay were
abandoned and their people consolidated with the community of the
Missions Territory. In the last raid Father Afaro was killed.
In the same year Father Montoya, after having successfully opposed
the governor's and the bishop of Asunción's attempts to reduce the
liberties of the Indians and the mission administration, sailed for
Europe. On this trip he was successful in obtaining letters from
Pope Urban VIII
enslavement of the mission Indians under the severest church
penalties, and from King Philip IV of
, permitting Indians to carry firearms for defense and to
be trained in their use by veteran soldiers who had become
next Paulista army, 800 strong, attacked the missions in 1641 they
were met by a body of Christian Guaraní armed with guns on the
In two battles, the Paulista army suffered
a defeat that warded off invasions for ten years. In 1651, the war
between Spain and Portugal encouraged another Paulista attack to
gain territory for Portugal. Before Spanish troops could arrive to
help defend the missions, the fathers themselves led a Guaraní army
against the enemy. In 1732, at the time of their greatest
prosperity, the Guaraní missions were guarded by a well-drilled and
well-equipped army of 7,000 Indians. On more than one occasion this
mission army, accompanied by their priests, defended the Spanish
The ruins of several of the missions still remain. They were laid
out in a uniform plan. The buildings were grouped about a central
square, the church and store-houses at one end, and the dwellings
of the Indians, in long barracks, forming the other three sides.
Each family had its own separate apartment, but one veranda and one
roof served for perhaps a hundred families. The churches were of
stone or fine wood, with lofty towers, elaborate sculptures and richly adorned altars, with
statuary imported from Italy and
The priests' quarters, the commissary, the stables,
the armory, the workshop, and the hospital
also usually of stone, formed an inner square adjoining the church.
The plaza itself was a level grass plot kept cropped by sheep
. The Indian houses were sometimes of stone, but
more often of adobe
or cane, with home-made
furniture and religious pictures, often made by the Indian
Life at the missions
Smaller missions had two priests, whereas larger missions had more.
Populations varied from 2,000 to 7,000. In the morning, the rising
sun was greeted by a chorus of children's hymns, followed by Mass
and breakfast, after which the workers went to their tasks. "The
Jesuits marshaled their neophytes to the sound of music, and in
procession to the fields, with a saint borne high aloft, the
community each day at sunrise took its way. Along the way at stated
intervals were shrines of saints where they prayed, and sang hymns
between shrines. As the procession advanced it became gradually
smaller as groups of Indians dropped off to work the various fields
and finally the priest and acolyte with the musicians returned
alone" (Graham, 178–9). At noon each group assembled for the
, after which came dinner and a
; work was then resumed until evening.
After supper came the rosary and sleep. On rainy days they worked
indoors. Frequent festivals with sham
, fireworks, concerts, and dances prevented
Aside from the farm, each man typically had his own garden. In
addition to different kinds of agriculture, stock raising, and the
cultivation of maté
. Jesuits introduced
many European trades and arts. It was not uncommon for missions to
have many different types of trades within their communities.
Cotton weavers, tanneries
and makers of musical
, and turners could
sometimes be found in these communities. They also had printer
to work their printing presses
to print the many books, and manuscripts
were produced similar to those made by the monks
in European monasteries (Graham).
that were produced at the missions, including the increase of the
herds, were sold in Buenos
Aires and other markets under the supervision of the
The proceeds earned were divided among a common
fund, the workers, and helpless dependents.
Much emphasis was placed on education, as early training was
regarded as the key to future success. (Page 503) Much of the
instruction was conducted in Guaraní; which was still the
prevailing language of the country, but Spanish
was also taught in every school. In
this way, the Jesuits hoped to transform the Indians into
communities of peaceful, industrious, highly-skilled Christian
workers among whom idleness, crime, and poverty were alike
In 1732, there were thirty Guaraní missions with 141,252 Christian
Indians. Two years later a smallpox
epidemic killed approximately 30,000 of them. In 1765, a second
outbreak killed approximately 12,000 more, and then spread westward
through the tribes of the Chaco
Uruguay missions saved
In 1750, a treaty between Spain and Portugal (the Treaty of Madrid
) transferred to
Portugal the territory of the seven missions on the Uruguay, and
the Indians were ordered to be removed. However, they refused to
leave, being familiar with the Portuguese as slave-hunters, and
with the Spanish and Portuguese armies. Seven years of guerrilla warfare
killed thousands of
Indians and nearly ruined the missions (see Guarani War
). The Jesuits secured a royal decree
restoring the disputed mission territory to Spanish jurisdiction.
Two missions in 1747 and a third in 1760 were established in the
sub-tribe of the Itatines, or Tobatines, in Central Paraguay, far
north of the older mission group. In one of these, San Joaquin
(1747), Martin Dobrizhoffer
ministered for eight
In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish dominions by royal
edict. Fearing the outcome of this decision, viceroy Antonio María Bucareli
entrusted the execution of the mandate in 1768 to two
officers with a force of 500 troops. Despite their mission army of
14,000, the Jesuits submitted without resistance.
Decline of the missions
The missions were turned over to priests of other orders, chiefly
, but under a code of
regulations drawn up by the viceroy and modeled largely on the very
Jesuit system which he had condemned. Under divided authority,
uncertain government support, and without the love or confidence of
the Indians, the new teachers soon lost courage and the missions
rapidly declined. The Indians returned by the thousands to their
original forests or became vagabond outcasts in towns. According to
the official census of 1801, fewer than 45,000 Indians remained;
cattle, sheep, and horses had disappeared; the fields and orchards
were overgrown or cut down and the splendid
churches were in ruins. The long period of revolutionary struggle
that followed completed the destruction. In 1814 the mission
Indians numbered but 8,000, and in 1848 the few who remained were
However, the Guaraní people and culture persist. Nearly all the
forest tribes on the borders of Paraguay are Guaraní. Many are
descendants of mission exiles. In Paraguay Guaraní lineage
predominates in the population and the Guaraní language is spoken
in most provinces to this day.
The Guaraní language
much cultivated, its literature covering a wide range of subjects.
Many works written by the priests, and wholly or partly in the
native language, were published by the mission press in Loreto.
most important treatises on the language are the "Tesoro de la
Lengua Guaraní" (Madrid, 1639) by Father Montoya, the heroic leader
of the exodus, published in Paris and Leipzig in 1876; and the "Catecismo de la Lengua Guaraní"
of Father Diego Díaz de la Guerra (Madrid, 1630).
Guaraní were also later described, amongst many other historical
documents in existence today, in 1903 by Croatian explorers Mirko
and Stjepan Seljan.
Several English words can be traced
to Guaraní roots, such as "tapioca", "toucan" and "jaguar."
Presently, the language is still the main binding characteristic of
the Guaraní people. The Argentinian communities speak mainly
Mbya-Guarani, as opposed to the Tupi-Guarani and Guarani-Jopara
spoken in Paraguay and Brazil. However, these varieties are
mutually intelligible. The Guarani villages located in the south of
Brazil and in the north of Argentina are more marginalized due to
European immigration following the First and Second World Wars.
Many Guarani do not speak Spanish and the European immigrant
population does not speak Guarani. The Mbya-Guarani still live in
secluded villages and only the "cacique
some other officials in their community learn Spanish. Recently the
government of Argentina has partly financed bilingual schools in
the northern province of Misiones.
Paraguay is a bilingual country and most of its Spanish-speaking
population also speaks a form of Guarani. The Paraguayan population
learns Guarani both informally from social interaction and formally
in public schools. Guarani became part of the required curriculum
in public schools during the ten years since the fall of
ex-President Stroessner. The native populations in Paraguay speak
the traditional tupi-guarani while the majority of bilingual
Paraguayans speak Guarani-jopara (jopara meaning mixed). Many words
have been borrowed from Spanish but include traditional
tupi-guarani prefixes and suffixes. For example "Nde rentede pa?"
meaning "Do you understand?" The "entende" root is borrowed from
the Spanish verb "entender" meaning "to understand." The evolution
of Guarani-jopara is very similar to "Border Spanish" or
"Spanglish" where the mixture of the two languages begins to
develop its own rules and uses. An understanding of both Guarani
and Spanish is required for full fluency.
In August 2009 Bolivia launched a Guarani-language university at
Kuruyuki in the southeastern province of Chuquisaca which will bear
the name of the indigenous hero Apiaguaiki Tumpa. The education
minister of Bolivia said that indigenous universities “will open up
not only the Western and universal world of knowledge, but the
knowledge of our own identity”.
Guarani poets and writers