4 Characteristics of the Guaraníes

Guaraní is the name given to indigenous peoples of different ethnic groups in South America. They speak the same language, although there are dialects (variations), and they share the same myths.

Guaraní is also the name of the language spoken by these people. In Paraguay, where a strong heritage of this culture is claimed, Guaraní is considered the official language, along with Spanish.

Characteristics Guaraníes:


For a long time, the Guaraní have lived in some regions of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, occupying an area of more than 1.2 million square kilometers. This area extended from the Atlantic coast to the Uruguay River, and from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Río de la Plata.

Precisely because they brought together several different peoples, the Guaraní resisted the colonial occupation, spreading their descendants throughout various areas of South America.

Today, although in very small numbers, they continue to occupy practically the same areas in which they have lived historically, distributed in villages and towns.

According to data from the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), in 2008 the Guarani in Brazil numbered nearly 51,000 people, among the Kaiowá, Nayeva and Mbya groups. This is the most numerous indigenous group living in the country.

In Paraguay, the Guarani population was composed of about 61,000 people, being the main groups Ava Guarani, Mbyá and Paí Tavyterá (data from the III National Population and Housing Census for Indigenous Peoples of 2012).

In Argentina, the Guarani population, formed mainly by the embassies, was 5,500 people (according to data from the CTI/G. Grünberg, 2008).


Over the years, the Guaraní have suffered many attacks from European colonizers. Furthermore, a large number of them died from diseases contracted after contact with the white man.

In Brazilian territory, starting in the 16th century, the Guaraní tried to escape from the bandeirantes who enslaved them and from the Jesuit priests who wanted to catechize them (convert them to Christianity).

In the 17th century, the Jesuits established reductions, also called towns, doctrines or missions in eastern Paraguay among the Guaraní of the Paraná River.

Eventually, about 30 large and successful cities formed the missions. In 1767, however, the expulsion of the Jesuits was followed by the dispersion of the Indians.

Many Guarani were catechized and abandoned their villages. There are also several reports of catechized Indians who, repenting or pressured by the Guaraní faithful to their culture, returned to live with their people.


The Guarani speak the Guarani language (of the Tupí language and the Tupí-Guarani family).

In Brazil, they are divided into three subgroups. The Mbyá and Ñandeva, who live mainly on the coast and interior of the southern and southeastern states; and the kaiowá, the most numerous, who are found in Mato Grosso do Sul.


The Guaraníes inspired the writer José de Alencar to write, in 1857, the novel El Guaraní, considered his masterpiece. It narrates fictional situations from the early days of life in colonial Brazil, with the participation of Indians and Portuguese.

Inspired by this book, the composer Carlos Gomes , in 1870, created his opera of the same name (with the same title). The opera El Guaraní is famous and is performed all over the world. Great singers played the roles of Ceci and Peri, the love couple in the story.