Mbayá Indians

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Mbayá Indians

The Mbayá (variant: Mbyá) are one of the ethnic groups that make up the vast Tupí-Guaraní group, with whom they share many aspects of religion, language, culture, and social organization. They are seminomads inhabiting regions of Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina. The central focus of their nomadic wandering is their search for the legendary "land without evil," where they can recover the state of perfection of the first earth and share the immortality of the gods. Their language has survived the pressure of the dominant cultures. They practice a polytheist religion, little of which has been put into writing, that sees acts of nature as part of daily life. There is no priestly caste because everyone is capable of approaching the divine. Nevertheless, there are certain mediators (paí, caraí) who are privileged due to their greater sensitivity. They have and continue to produce a large number of ritual texts, the knowledge of which is forbidden to white people. These manifestations form a marginal, underground current in the literary canon. The word is considered sacred; they believe its existence predates mankind, and is an element of cohesion in their social structure. Although Jesuit missions encouraged the Guaraní to mix racially, they otherwise brought about an absolute rejection of Catholicism, and the "other" religion became relegated to secrecy. Because the Mbayá never accepted contact with Roman Catholics, it was not until the publication of León Cadogan's Ayvu-rapytá (1959) that Mbayá culture was brought to light. In El Canto resplandeciente (1991), Carlos Martínez Gamba collected some Mbayá texts from Missiones, Argentina, from oral accounts by Lorenzo and Benito Ramos and Antonio Martínez.

See alsoIndigenous Peoples .


Cadogan, León. Ayvu-rapytá: Textos miticos de los Mbyá-Guarani. São Paulo: Universidade de São Paulo, 1959.

Gamba, Carlos Martínez. El Canto resplandeciente: Plegarias de los Mbyá-Guaraní de Misiones. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Sol, 1991.

                              Mercedes GarcÍa SaravÍ