Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Guaraní are heterogeneous wide-ranging groups inhabiting sub-tropical regions from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. The Guaraní language includes a variety of dialects. In the seventeenth century, Catholic missionaries used the Guaraní language to communicate with indigenous peoples throughout South America's lowlands. The Guaraní migrated out of the Amazon Basin onto the Paraná plateau early in their history. At the time of the Spanish arrival there were over a million Guaraní in small communities throughout South America's southern cone, albeit in the ensuing years that population was greatly reduced.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Eastern South America





OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Guaraní file consists of nine documents: two are translations from the Portuguese (Schaden 1962, no. 2, and V. Watson 1944, no. 4); one from the German (Hanke 1956, no. 1); and the remaining six are in English. The time span of coverage for these works ranges from approximately the fifteenth century to the early 1990s. The general focus of the file is rather diffuse ranging from southern Brazil, southern Mato Grosso, Paraguay, and the border areas of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. The best general coverage of all Guaraní groups is that found in Métraux (1948, no. 5), which is based on a wide range of secondary source material including many historical records. Schaden's material (1962, no.2) concentrates on the Guaraní subgroups of Mbyá Ñandevá, and Kayová; Hanke (1956, no. 1) and the Watsons (J. Watson, 1952, no. 3; V. Watson, 1944, no. 4; J. Watson, 1945, no. 6), focus their attention on the Cayua (Kaiowá). The specific location of th e Watson's fieldwork centers on the village of Taquapir. The more recent studies by Clastres (1995, no. 7), and Ganson (1994, no. 8), deal primarily with the historical Guaraní population in Paraguay and the mission areas on the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Reed's work on the Chiripá of Paraguay (1981-1984) is an exploration of the various social and economic factors which has permitted this group to maintain their own distinct culture and society even after many years of contact with the dominant Paraguayan society. Major subject coverage in this file is on acculturation in various forms -- in terms of the Guaraní economy, religion, material culture, community and family structure, music, and folklore (all represented to varying degrees in the works of Hanke, Schaden, and the Watsons).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The culture summary was written by Richard Reed in April 1997. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in May 1997. The Human Relations Area Files wishes to acknowledge with thanks the assistance of Richard Reed in the selection of documents for inclusion in the Guaraní file.

Overview by

John Beierle

ALCALDES -- constables -- category 625

ANGUÊRY -- the soul after death -- category 775

ASSOCIAI[unavailable] DE PARCIALIDADES INDÍGENAS -- category 664

ATS Ý YGUÁ --a part of the soul representing the animal character of the person -- category 774

AYVU -- one of the components of the soul -- category 774

CABILDANTES -- category 632

CABILDO -- town council (introduced by the Spanish); headed by an Indian CORREGIDOR -- category 632

CACICAZGOS -- hereditary chiefdoms -- category 631

CACIQUE -- under Spanish rule, a community head -- category 622

CAPATACES -- Chiripá crew bosses -- category 466

CAPITÃ0 -- captain, chief, leader concerned with civil affairs and appointed by the SERVIÇODEPROTEÇÃO A0S INDIOS -- category 624

CAUDILLOS -- patrons or bosses -- category 466

CONFRADÍAS -- religious brotherhoods -- category 794

COTY-GUAZU -- cloistering of women -- category 562

ENCOMIENDA -- category 466

HECHICERIA -- witchcraft -- category 754

JANGADEROS -- yerba gatherers -- 464, 272

KANGUIJ[unavailable] -- an alcoholic drink made from corn -- category 273

KARAI -- prophets -- category 792

Land without Evil -- categories 772, 775

MARACAS -- calabashes carved in the shape of a human head; also used as musical instruments -- categories 778, 534

MAYORDOMO -- category 624

ÑANDERU (Ñ ANDESY) -- the third level of shamans attained by men and women -- category 756

ÑBO'É -- religious ceremonies -- category 796

ÑEE -- see AYVU

NIMONGARAI -- the most important feast of the Apapocuva-Guaraní -- categories 796, 553

PAÍ (ÑANDERÚ) -- chief / priest, (doctor-sorcerer) -- categories 622, 756

PAJE -- shamans -- category 756

PATRONES -- mestizos who contract for Chiripá labor and buy their products for resale -- categories 563, 439

PORAÉ -- meditative chants; also shamans -- categories 533 and 756

PORAHÊ I -- prayers -- categories 778, 782

REGIDORES -- administrative aides -- category 624

SARGENTOS -- members of the political bureaucracy with military/police powers -- categories 624, 625, 701

TAMOÍ -- religious leaders -- categories 756, 554

TEKOA -- settlements -- category 621

YERBA MATÉ -- a stimulent tea -- category 272

YVYMARANE'Y -- see Land without Evil

YVYRÁÍDJÁ -- assistants to the PAÍ -- category 624

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

Close Box