Guarani Tribe Essay

After looking at multiple tribes/groups, there was one that seemed to interest me the most above all others. That group is the Guarani Indians. The Guarani Indians seemed to interest me the most because they settled in South America, and mainly Brazil, which is a place that I have always wanted to visit. The Guarani were one of the first peoples contacted after Europeans arrived in South America around 500 years ago. In Brazil, there are today around 46,000 Guarani living in seven states, making them the country’s most numerous tribe.

Many others live in neighboring Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The Guarani people in Brazil are divided into three groups: Kaiowa, Nandeva and M’bya, of which the largest is the Kaiowa which means “forest people. ” They are a deeply spiritual people. Most communities have a prayer house, and a religious leader, whose authority is based on prestige rather than formal power. Guarani children work on the sugar cane fields which now cover much of their people’s ancestral lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

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The Guarani speak two different types of languages, which are widely spoken across traditional Guarani homelands; one of two official languages in Paraguayan, 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 (Hephaestus Books 102). The Paraguayan population learns Guarani both informally from social interaction and formally in public schools.

For as long as they can remember, the Guarani have been searching – searching for a place revealed to them by their ancestors where people live free from pain and suffering, which they call “the land without evil” (Vernon 216). Over hundreds of years, the Guarani have travelled vast distances in search of this land. One 16th century chronicler noted their “constant desire to seek new lands, in which they imagine they will find immortality and perpetual ease” (Schwartz 134). This quest is important of the character of the Guarani, a difference about them which has often been noted by outsiders.

Today, this shows itself in a more tragic way. They have been affected by the loss of almost all their land in the last century, and the Guarani suffer a wave of suicide unequalled in South America. Since 1986 more than 517 Guarani have committed suicide, the youngest just nine years old. The problems are especially taking place in Mato Grosso do Sul where the Guarani once occupied a homeland of forests and plains totaling some 350,000 square kilometers. Today they are squeezed onto tiny patches of land surrounded by cattle ranches and vast fields of soya and sugar cane.

Some have no land at all, and live camped by roadsides. Deforestation has converted fertile Guarani homeland into cattle ranches, and sugar cane plantations for Brazil’s biofuels market. Many of the Guarani were pushed into small reservations, which are now overcrowded. In the Dourados reserve, for example, 12,000 Indians are living on a little more than 3,000 hectares (hectares are areas defined as 10,000 square meters). The destruction of the forest has meant that hunting and fishing are no longer possible, and there is barely enough land even to plant crops.

Malnutrition is also a serious problem and since 2005 at least 53 Guarani children have died of starvation (Garcia 56). Brazil has one of the most highly developed biofuels industries in the world. Sugar cane plantations were established in the 1980s and rely heavily on indigenous labor. Workers often work for pitiful wages under terrible conditions. In 2007, police raided a sugar cane alcohol distillery and discovered 800 Indians working and living in subhuman conditions.

As many indigenous men are forced to find work on the plantations they are absent from their communities for long periods and this has a major impact on Guarani health and society. Another thing they suffer from is sexually transmitted diseases and alcoholism. They have been introduced by returning workers and internal violence has increased because of it. Over 80 new sugar cane plantations and alcohol distilleries are planned for Mato Grosso do Sul, many of which are to be built on ancestral land claimed by the Guarani.

On top of everything else, The Guarani in Mato Grosso do Sul also suffer from racism and discrimination, and high levels of harassment from the police. It is estimated that there are over 200 Guarani in jail with little or no access to legal advice and interpreters. They are trapped in a legal system they do not understand. This has resulted in innocent people being condemned, and many are serving harsh sentences for minor offenses. The future does not look too bright for the Guarani Tribe, seeing as their land has progressively been taken over for the last century.

I think that this decrease in their community will continue for the next century to come, and will eventually diminish everything the Guarani once had. The over-taking of their land is one of only many problems they will have to face if they plan on having any kind of a future. Along with the over-taking of land, they have to deal with a vast amount of deaths from malnutrition and sexually transmitted diseases. It is very hard to recover from things such as sexually transmitted diseases and malnutrition as a community, especially with the lack of resources that the Guarani have.

Once one person gets a sexually transmitted disease in a community like the Guarani, it is like a never ending, viscous cycle due to their lack of resources as I stated before. Malnutrition is also a huge problem that they will have to face if they want any type of future. People are suffering from malnutrition, again, due to the fact of their lack of resources. People are dying off in the Guarani Tribe at an extravagant rate because of these things that they face on a day to day basis.

If the Guarani want to have any chance at having a descent future, they will have to repair their problems, and diminish the deforestation of their communities. All in all, I explained who the Guarani Tribe are, why they changed their way of living, what problems they are facing, and what they need to repair to have a future. If these mysterious people can fix the things harming them they may have a chance. If not, they will have no shot at having a future and will continue dying off as they have been for the last century.


1. Vernon, . “Fighting Back. ” Guarani. N. p. , n. d. Web. 29 Oct 2012. http://www. survivalinternational. org/tribes/guarani/fightingback#main 2. Schwartz, . “The Guarani. ” Despair. N. p. , n. d. Web. 29 Oct 2012. http://www. sim. org/index. php/content/guarani 3. . “Cultural Survival. ” Indigenous People In Brazil. N. p. , n. d. Web. 29 Oct 2012. http://www. culturalsurvival. org/ourpublications/csq/article/indigenous-peoples-brazil-the-guarani-a-case-un 4. Garcia, . “Guarding The Guarani. ” Science Serving People. N. p. , n. d. Web. 29 Oct 2012. http://www. iaea. org/Publications/Booklets/Ssp/guarani. html


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