Puerto Iguazu
The Guaranies

The Guaranies


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 to the Christian religion; Cayua or Caingua (ka'aguygua) was used to refer to those who had refused it. Cayua is 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. Barbara Ganson writes that the name Guaraní was given by the Spanish as it means "warrior" in the Tupi-Guaraní dialect spoken there.

History, myth and legend

Guaraní incised ceramics bowls, Museum Farroupilha, in Triunfo 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, since 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 10 to 15 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, maize, wild game, and honey.

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 of folklore and numerous myths. According to the Jesuit missionary Martin Dobrizhoffer, they practiced cannibalism at one point, perhaps as a funerary ritual, but later disposed of the dead in large jars placed inverted on the ground. Guaraní mythology is still widespread in rural Paraguay.

Much Guarani myth and legend was compiled by the Universidad Nacional de Misiones in northern Argentina and published as Myths and Legends: A journey around the Guarani lands, Anthology in 1870 (translated into English language in 1906). Guarani myth and legend can roughly be divided into the following broad categories:
Cosmogonic and eschatological myths; the creation and destruction of all things as dictated by Ñamandú "the true father, the first one". After him comes a pantheon of gods, chief among them Yporú who is more frequently known as Tupã. Yaci is another "good" deity who rules the night while Aña is a malign deity who dwells at the bottom of Iguazu.
Animistic mythology, that is animals, plants and minerals being animated and capable of becoming anthropomorphic beings or in reverse the transmutated souls of people, either born or unborn, who have become animals, plants and minerals. The course of such anthropomorphism appears dictated by the pantheon of god like deities because of their virtues or vices. Such animistic legends include that of the Lobizón, a werewolf type being, also the Mainimbi or hummingbird who transports good spirits that are resident in flowers back to Tupá "so he can cherish them". The Isondú or glow worms are the reincarnated spirits of certain people, as are the Panambi (the butterflies), Caá Yarîi a woman who became the sacred herb Yerba and Irupé, a woman who was turned into the giant lilly because she fell in love with the moon.
Pombero who are goblin or elf like spirits who dwell in the forest and must be appeased. They have never been human. Principal among these is Yasi Yateré who has never been human and like all Pombero is from a different realm. His characteristics are vague and uncertain, and 'his' powers badly defined as is the place where 'he' resides. His characteristics are defined in one legend as a "handsome, thickly bearded, blond dwarf" who is naked and lives in tree trunks. Other versions say he loves honey, his feet are backwards and he is an "ugly, lame, old man". Most legends agree that he snatches children and "licks them", wrapping them in climbing plants or drowning them in rivers. To appease him gifts, such as honey, are left in places in the forest associated with him. Another Pombero is Cuarahú Yara who whistles like birds and is their protector. He can be your friend but is known for abducting young boys who are alone and trying to catch birds. If necessary he can take the form of a person, a tree or a hyacinth. Finally, Curupí is a phallic mythological figure who will copulate with young women. He has scaly skin like a lizard, hypnotic eyes and an enormous penis.

The sacred Iguazu waterfalls hold special significance for the Guarani and are the inspiration for numerous myths and legends. They reveal the sound of ancient battles at certain times, they are also the place where I-Yara - a malign Pomboro spirit - abducted Angá - a fair maiden - and hid her. The swallows that inhabit the falls to this day vainly search for her.

European contact

In 1537, Gonzalo de Mendoza traversed through Paraguay to about the present Brazilian frontier. On his return, he made acquaintance with the Guaraní and founded the city of 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 today. He also initiated the enslavement of the natives.

The first two Jesuits, Father Barcena and Father Angulo, came to what is now the State of Paraná, Southern Brazil, in 1585, by land from the west. 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. 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.

Exploring expeditions were accompanied by Franciscan friars. Early in the history of Asunción, Father Luis de Bolaños translated the catechism into the Guaraní 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. His departure left the jesuits alone with their missionary work, and to defend the natives against slave dealers.[9] 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".


A Guaraní family captured by slave hunters. By Jean Baptiste Debret The centre 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 criminals, who mixed with Native American and African women and actively participated in the capturing and selling of Guaranís 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 all natives. Many Guaranís were slain or enslaved by the slave-hunters active in Brazil during those years.

Jesuit missions

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. The local tribes killed the priests and the neophytes and burned the missions.

Slave raiders saw the Guaraní missions as "merely an opportunity of capturing more Indians than usual at a haul".[11] 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 Jesus Maria quickly met the same fate. Eventually, reinforcements gathered by Father Cataldino drove off the slavers. Within two years, all but two of the establishments were destroyed, and 60,000 Christian and 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.

Only a few thousand natives were left of nearly 100,000 just before the Paulista invasion. Father Antonio Ruiz de Montoya purchased 10,000 cattle, and was able to convert the natives from farmers to stock raisers. Soon under Fathers Rançoncier and Romero the Uruguay missions were re-established. In 1632 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 native's liberties and the mission administration, sailed for Europe. On this trip he was successful in obtaining letters from Pope Urban VIII forbidding the enslavement of the missionaries under the severest church penalties, and from King Philip IV of Spain, permitting guaraníes to carry firearms for defense and to be trained in their use by veteran soldiers who had become Jesuits.

When the next Paulista army, 800 strong, attacked the missions in 1641 they were met by a body of Christian Guaraní armed with guns on the Acaray River. 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 guaraníes. On more than one occasion this mission army, accompanied by their priests, defended the Spanish colony.

In 1732, there were 30 Guaraní missions with 141,252 converted guaraníes.[citation needed] 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 guaraníes were ordered to be removed. They refused to leave, being familiar with the Portuguese as slave-hunters. Seven years of guerrilla warfare killed thousands of them (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 years.

Jesuits expelled

In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish dominions by royal edict. Fearing the outcome of this decision, viceroy Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa 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

Ruins of the church at São Miguel das Missões, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The missions were turned over to priests of other orders, chiefly Franciscans, but under a code of regulations drawn up by the viceroy and modeled largely on the Jesuit system. Under a chaotic political regulation, the missions rapidly declined. Most guaraníes returned to the countryside. According to the official census of 1801, fewer than 45,000 guaraníes remained; cattle, sheep, and horses had disappeared; the fields and orchards were overgrown or cut down and the churches were in ruins. The long period of revolutionary struggle that followed completed the destruction. In 1814, the mission Indians numbered 8,000, and in 1848 the few who remained were declared citizens.

>> Pictures from Puerto Iguazu:  Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes
Los Guaraníes - Puerto Iguazu - Argentina Los Guaraníes