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Travel Tales of Argentina

Posted on 05/28/2018 Welcome to South America
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Guarani: The People of Northern Argentina

Home to the world famous Iguazu Waterfalls, Misiones Province is located in the northernmost tip of Argentina, bordering Paraguay and Brazil.

Redrock plateaus and thick jungle forests have left this region fairly undeveloped, save for the bustling tourist attraction at  Iguazu. Considered uniquely untouched by modern civilization, there is one vast culture that has lived in and protected the area for centuries. Meet the Guarani people, an  indigenous population native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and parts of Bolivia and Uruguay.

The Guarani culture is one filled with spirituality, bravery, and tradition. It has continued to thrive, even after countless other indigenous peoples have become extinct for a variety of reasons. Their language, Guarani, literally meaning warrior, is still spoken and taught. In fact, Paraguayans learn both Spanish and Guarani growing up. 

However,  Argentinian communities speak mainly the variation of Mbya-Guarani. The language holds together the multitude of groups and tribes of the Guaraní people that have spread over a vast territory in South America.

The Guarani people suffered under the Spanish and Portuguese invasion during the 17th centuries and were subjugated to slavery and religious conversion. After the expulsion of the missions in the early 19th century, the Guarani have focused on creating their own strong community.

Modern Guarani culture still carries ancient traditions, some that have been shared throughout South America. One widespread Guarani influence is yerba mate.  Mate is a loose leafed tea brewed with hot water in a traditional mate gourd, made of pumpkin or wood. Yerba mate has been a part of the Guarani culture for hundreds of years, and its popularity has  spread all across Argentina and Uruguay.

Apart from Mate, Guarani culture can be seen through handicrafts. Native art forms such as basket and cloth making, elaborate decorative feather ornaments, and animal wood carvings are available in specialty stores in Misiones and other parts of Argentina.

Today, Guarani peoples living in rural areas still  reside in simple wood or brick houses and rely on agriculture for their livelihood.  Food is planted, farmed and consumed on their own land. Some rural villages are beginning to implement electricity and fresh water pipe structures. Most travel on horseback, motorbike, bicycle or use local public transport.  

Extended family tend to live together, many times up to three generations in one house. However, younger generations have begun to move out of their houses to move to larger cities for work or education. Upper-class Guarani may own businesses or be strong activists for indigenous rights in their communities. 

The tribes have had great cultural effects on the countries they inhabit,  including northern Argentina. Having risen from territory struggles and violent clashes, the Guarani people have left their mark and continue to be a vital part of indigenous culture in Argentina.

Visit Say Hueque for more information on tours to Iguazu and Northern Argentina.

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