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The majority of 60,000 (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, 2004-5) Toba in Argentina (they also live in Paraguay) are based in the provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Salta, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. They speak their own native language and Spanish.

Some Toba in the Chaco region cultivate small parcels of land; most work on sugar plantations and in the cotton and timber industries, but conditions are poor and often result in debt peonage. Toba in the northern province of Bermejo, however, have successfully reacquired lands previously occupied by a sugar refinery.

Cultural manifestations of a distinctive Toba identity can be found in their music and weavings.

Historical context

The Toba had a degree of autonomy until their military defeat in 1920. A reserve was established in 1923 but colonisation of Toba land in the Chaco region continued. Over the next decades their territory was reduced by 25 per cent. Land shortages have forced many Toba to migrate to Buenos Aires and Rosario.

They do not have their own political organisations, but many Toba participate in the Unión de Pequeños Productores Chaqueños [Union of Chaco’s Small Producers].

In recent years, Toba communities in the Chaco region have recuperated approximately 30,000 hectares; today they have a reservation of 365,000 hectares officially recognised by the authorities.

Current issues

Despite recent achievements (including the Chaco provincial government’s agreement to give indigenous communities in the region more land titles, following a hunger strike by Toba, Wichi and Mocovi people in July/August 2006) most Toba in rural areas still live on land without land titles; this is a major problem for them. Many have migrated to the cities of Rosario and Buenos Aires and live in the slums there. Efforts continue to encourage the use and promote the cultural value of the Toba native language.