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.