“Hunting with the zarabatana is a tradition maintained by the indians of the Amazon. With much skill, they walk through the jungle with this weapon that measures more than 12 feet in length. When they find their prey, they blow through the orifice, launching poisoned darts that are made poisonous by mixing certain herbs and vegetables. The indians of the Vale do Javari, near the border of Colombia, are skilled in the use of the zarabatana. Some of the most-skilled hunters are able to hit their targets, usually birds, while in mid-flight.” – Source (in PT)
“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 neighbouring Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The Guarani people in Brazil are divided into three groups: Kaiowá, Ñandeva and M’byá, of which the largest is the Kaiowá 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.
For the Guarani, land is the origin of all life. But violent invasions by ranchers have devastated their territory and nearly all of their land has been stolen. Guarani children starve and their leaders have been assassinated. Hundreds of Guarani men, women and children have committed suicide.” – Source (news, photos and a few videos here)
For an idea of how the Guarani live these days, see the Brazilian/Italian film “BirdWatchers – La terra degli uomini rossi” (Terra Vermelha in Portuguese) or check out the documentary on sugarcane workers (which doesn’t feature Guarani people but it is a job they end up having to do). I’ll post a short review (in PT) below for Birdwatchers.
“By 10 votes to one, judges ruled to maintain an Indian reservation in the northern border state of Roraima as a single, continuous territory.
It means that a small group of outside rice farmers with plantations in the area will now have to leave.
The head of the court also accused the government of failing the Indians.
This was the third occasion the court had met to reach a decision on the question, and the delays appeared to be just another indication of the sensitivity involved, the BBC’s Gary Duffy reports from Brazil.
The Raposa Serra do Sol reservation, which stretches more than 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres) along the Venezuelan border, is home to up to 20,000 Amazonian Indians.
Indigenous leaders had feared a ruling against them would have signalled to land-owners and loggers that it was acceptable to invade their territory.”
More on this story here at BBC. For the story which preceded it, go here. Unfortunately, in addition to rice farmers and surely logging companies, there’s also gold miners illegally mining gold from indigeneous territories, such as in this 25 minute documentary on the subject.
The Sound of Conquerers
There’s a book in Portuguese called “Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma” by Lima Barreto in which the main character (Policarpo Quaresma) is a nationalist who revolts against the Portuguese language, dismissing it as the language of the colonizers. His answer is for all Brazilians to return to their native linguistic roots, in this case, Tupi-Guarani.
A possible flaw in Policarpo’s reasoning can be found in the fact that the Portuguese, the Tupis and the Guaranis were all conquerers of “lesser” peoples and tribes. For all intesive purposes, Tupi-Guarani wasn’t the only native language of Brazil, but due to both the Tupi and the Guarani violent way of life, it was the dominant language of the time.
With the release of Barreto’s novel in 1911, there have been pushes by select groups of nationalists and linguists alike over the years to bring Tupi-Guarani back as the official language of Brazil. The issue has however only been taken as far as the educational system, where attempts have been made to get it accepted into the school systems as an elective class. The general marginalization of the tribes have taken their tongues with them making Tupi-Guarani virtually non-spoken among modern Brazilians.
The meaning of Tupi is “the great father” or “leader” and likewise, Guarani means “warrior”. Their language still can be seen in an extremely large number of geographic locations throughout Brazil. A few of these names were mentioned in the post on State Etymologies on this site. Tupi-Guarani is actually a sub-group of the Tupi langauges, which encompasses 53 langauges in 11 groups, of which Tupi and Guarani are the most widely used.
A Little History
When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, they found that wherever they went along the vast coast of this newly discovered land, most natives spoke similar languages. Jesuit missionaries took advantage of these similarities, systematizing common standards then named línguas gerais (general languages), which were spoken in that region until the 19th century. The best known and most widely spoken of these languages was Old Tupi, a modern descendent of which is still used today by Indians around the Rio Negro region, where it is known as Nheengatu, or the “fine language”.
In the neighbouring Spanish colonies, Guarani, another Tupian language closely related to Old Tupi, had a similar history, but managed to resist the spread of Spanish more successfully than Tupi resisted Portuguese. Today, Guarani has 7 million speakers, and is one of the official languages of Paraguay and Bolivia.
The Tupis, Guaranis and other tribes had many advantages over the Portuguese and could have put up quite a fight if they so desired, instead they aided in the founding and building of São Paulo (Portuguese for Saint Paul), or as it was known by the Indians, Piritininga (Tupi-Guarani for Dried Fish).
Some Tupi-Guarani Words
English speakers know…
Other examples include…
Capoeira – Old Forest
Carioca – White Man’s Hut
Tijuca – Mud
Guanabara – Bottom of the Sea
Ipanema – Bad Waters