Guarani Indians

Guarani Indians form the largest people in number of individuals living in Brazil.

They originate from the trunk of the Tupi-Guarani language family.

Where do Guaranis live?

In Brazil, Guarani live in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Pará, Santa Catarina and Tocantins.

In the country alone, there are 57 thousand individuals, according to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).

There are also Guarani Indians living in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Most Guarani people live in Bolivia, where there are 78,300 individuals. In Paraguay there are 41, 2 thousand and in Argentina 6.5 thousand.

Characteristics of the Guarani Indians

Guaranis are divided into kaiowá, mbya and ñadeva. They are known, depending on the location, as avá, chiripá, kainguá, monteses, baticola, apyteré and tembukuá.

Groups are differentiated internally by the way in which they manifest culture, social and political organization, language and, still, the way of practicing religion.

Guaranis are collectors and hunters. The physical space they inhabit is called tekoha, land. They are individuals who self-determine as an extension of the land on which they step.

Tupi-Guarani Indian from Bananal village. Photo: Funai

This concept is at the heart of most land disputes experienced by the Guarani people in Brazil.

Guarani Culture

The Guarani Indians, also called great people, believe that they were created by Tupã to admire the land.

The first Guarani, Ñamandú, made the land their bed. The admiration is manifested by the word. The Guarani language belongs to the Tupi-Guarani linguistic branch, from which 21 languages ​​are derived.

It is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America and reaches 60% of Paraguay. The border schools in Mato Grosso do Sul teach it at school.

See also: 

Tupi-Guarani CultureCustoms of the Guarani Indians

Social organization and singing are among the most evident cultural manifestations of the Guarani people. For them, the land, tekoha is an integral part of the family.

Guaraní chants are sung as a way to demonstrate to the gods that they exist on earth.

His music is also intoned to control the forces of nature, such as lack or excess of rain. The songs are sung to the sound of gourds transformed into musical instruments.

See also: 

Indigenous CultureHistory of the Guarani Indians

Migrating is a natural process among Guarani. This is the tactic applied to allow soil renewal and ensure its survival. The nomadic practice comes from its essentially extractive characteristic and has been occurring for over 2 thousand years.

This cultural trait was interrupted by colonization. After the arrival of Europeans, Guarani groups began a migration process to escape attacks, murders and slavery.

With the possession of the territory, however, there was no more place to migrate, although some groups still tend to persist.

In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, there are successive attacks on indigenous people, with the majority of the Mbya, Kaiowa and Nhandeva groups. In the state, the indigenous areas have given way to cattle ranches, soybeans and sugar cane.

The interruption of the migration process was accentuated after the Paraguayan War, which occurred between 1864 and 1870.

At the end of the war, the territory was negotiated for occupation and to guarantee economic exploitation. Among the first products explored in the region is yerba mate, still widely consumed.

Between the 70s and 80s, the process of mechanization of crops, especially soybean and sugarcane, began. The products are still the main agricultural commodities in the region.

Mate Laranjeira Company

In 1882, the Brazilian government ceded the territory occupied by the Guarani for the implantation of yerba mate crops. The request was made by Thomas Laranjeira, who founded Companhia Mate Laranjeira in 1892.

Forced to leave the territory, the indigenous people were afflicted with serious health problems. The social impact is felt until now.

Indigenous Reserves

The situation worsened in 1943, when President Getúlio Vargas (1882-1954) signed the decree creating the Colônia Agrícola Nacional de Dourados .

The organ’s objective was to offer land to migrant families from other regions and countries. It was another attempt to occupy the region in a movement that became known as the March to the West .

Successive displacement programs were implemented and resulted in more forced displacement of the Guarani.

Between 1915 and 1928, the SPI ( Indian Protection Service ) demarcated eight lands to house the Guarani territory in the area that today corresponds to the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. The areas totaled 18.1 hectares.

The strategy was used so that, in a small disposition of territory, the indigenous people assimilate the surrounding culture (anthropological term used to speak of the colonizer).

The maintenance of indigenous people in protected areas was altered by the imposition of monoculture in the region, in the 1970s. Mato Grosso do Sul is one of the main soy producers in the country.

This exploration model results in the depletion of the land as a result of the use of pesticides and mechanization. Local biodiversity has been altered and displacement of indigenous people has continued.

The Kaiowá and Guarani Indians are among those who managed to resist. However, they were exploited.

In the 1980s, the federal government implemented Proálcool. The program aimed to create supply and demand for biodiesel and help to overcome the oil crisis.

In Mato Grosso do Sul, the Indians started to work in the sugarcane fields. Cases of denouncing the exploitation of slave labor were not uncommon.

Still in the 1980s, Guarani and Kaiowá resumed possession of 11 traditional lands. Together, the areas total 22,400 hectares and possession was approved after the 1988 Constitution.

Anthropological studies indicate that there are more traditional lands belonging to the indigenous people. The dispute ends only after approval by the federal government. There is an impasse between the indigenous and landowners in the region.

As a result of the dispute, armed conflicts in the vicinity of the villages are constant. Between 2003 and the first half of 2006, 400 Indians were murdered in the region.

The indigenous reserve in the city of Dourados, in Mato Grosso do Sul, has 3,500 hectares. 12,000 individuals from different groups live on the site. Because they have different social elements, internal conflicts are not uncommon.


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