Guaraní


Guaraní Indians live in the Chaco and various parts of Paraguay. There are four main tribes which include the Tupinambá, Tupinikin, Guaraní, and Omagua, and seventeen subgroups. Indians not in the city live on reserves. Those that live in the city are seen in the airport, mercado (market areas), downtown, and in the suburbs of Asunción. Many times they sell crafts such as beadwork, hand-woven bags, hand-carved wooden flutes, and little trinkets and figurines.

Guaraní originated with the Tupí-Guaraní Indians of Paraguay. As there are different tribes, each group speaks a different dialect of Guaraní. The Guaraní are divided into six language families; five language families are made up of the thirteen subgroups of the Chaco Indians. Spanish and Guaraní are the two official languages of Paraguay. Paraguay is the only South American nation with its native Indian language as an official language. Even today Paraguayans speak Guaraní. Generally the campesinos, the country folk, incorporate more Guaraní in their everyday speech and people in the city use less Guaraní. The Guaraní that Asuncenos mix with Spanish is called yopara, pronounced jO-pa-rA. (The more urban, the less mixing of Guaraní.) Most Paraguayans, however, do understand Guaraní.

During the 1600s and the 1700s, the Jesuits evangelized to the Guaraní. They set up eight missions in the Paraná region, in the southern region of Paraguay. There were about 584 Jesuits The Jesuit missionaries asked permission from the Spanish crown and paid tribute to them. These missions were known as Reducciones, "Reductions." On these missions, the Jesuits taught the Guaraní to read and write in Latin and taught them to make crafts, such as violins. Not only did the Jesuits reach out and convert the Guaraní, but they protected them from Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. At the end of the history of the missions, there were 584 Jesuits with 113,716 Indians living on the missions.

In the past the government has left the Indians in the care of religious groups. Until about 40 years ago, the government only supported the Indians with a "1909 law that enjoined Paraguay "to take measure leading to the conversion of the Indians to Christianity and civilization...." Several tribes secured land because Paraguayan law allowed missionaries to get land for the Indians. The law also encouraged the Guaraní to depend on the missionaries. According to country-data.com, "researchers in the 1970s estimated that more than half of all Indians lived on settlements under the auspices of various missionary organizations." A big mission group that has worked with the Indians is the New Tribes Mission, which has worked with Guaraní in Paraguay´s northern Chaco.


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