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Guaraní / Mbyá in Argentina

  • About 4,000 Guaraní/Mbyá inhabit the north-eastern province of Misiones, near Paraguay and Brazil (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, 2004-5, although other sources have suggested up to 8,000). Most are trilingual (Guaraní, Myba and Spanish). Some in live in rural communities where they farm the little land they have (or migrate to other regions as temporary labourers during harvest time); others have moved to the cities of Salta and Jujuy, often finding work in the textile plants, sawmills or sugar refineries.

    There has been little political organisation among Guaraní and Myba communities. Many young Guaraní do not identify themselves as indigenous.


  • Thousands of Guaraní migrated from Bolivia to the north of Argentina during the late nineteenth century, and there was another immigration wave in the 1930s as a result of the Chaco War (1932-1936). Still today there is more Bolivian than Argentine television in this area of the country.

    The lack of land titles has been a long-term problem. In 1987 the provincial government – with the participation of indigenous community leaders – passed a relatively progressive law (Law 2435), which gave some degree of autonomy to indigenous peoples. However, in December 1988 new legislation (Law 2727) placed all Guaraní under the direct control of the state. In spite of denunciations by the United Nations, in 1993 the Governor of Misiones was still obliging Guaraní to abandon their lands. In September 1993 hundreds of Guaraní gathered in the provincial capital of Posadas to demand the restitution of Law 2435 and to protest against the destruction of their unique forest ecosystem by logging, mining and tourist interests, and against the construction of a hydroelectric dam on their lands.


  • The lack of land titles is still a major concern for the Myba Guaraní of Misiones; it has led to many protests which have often been harshly repressed. Guaraní organisations – the few that there are – have been involved in debates about bilingual education. There have also been some interesting and controversial arguments regarding cultural relativism, triggered by one man from a Myba Guaraní community refusing to have medical treatment for a serious illness (because it did not occur with his beliefs).


Updated in 2008

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