Guarani from Tongue to Tome: Although This Native Language Has Long Been Spoken throughout Paraguay, Its Literary Boom Is Relatively Recent, Thanks to a Growing Number of Dedicated Writers

By Ceaser, Mike | Americas (English Edition), July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Guarani from Tongue to Tome: Although This Native Language Has Long Been Spoken throughout Paraguay, Its Literary Boom Is Relatively Recent, Thanks to a Growing Number of Dedicated Writers


Ceaser, Mike, Americas (English Edition)


In Paraguay, Spanish is the language of business and government, law, and the media. But Guarani, it may be said, is the language of living. The native language's earthy phrases and throaty tones can be heard drifting from under shade trees by Chaco farmhouses, rising on warm evenings on Asuncion street corners, and even amid the buzz of government office buildings while the terere is passed around. It is the tongue of animated sidewalk debates about futbol, of mothers' tender talk to infants, of bawdy jokes and romance.

And, more and more, Guarani is also becoming a language of literature.

"Since [longtime dictator Alfredo] Stroessner fell in 1989, there's been a boom in Guarani literature," says Mario Bogado, who operates a Guarani website and a bookstore in Asuncion.

Yet, the Guarani literature "boom" began even before Stroessner's departure--with a wager among college students, an exile's insight in a Buenos Aires bar, and an immigrant's passion for the culture of her adopted nation.

Paraguay provides particularly fertile ground for indigenous literature because of a form of bilingualism that may be a unique phenomenon worldwide. Unlike other Latin American nations such as Bolivia and Peru, where indigenous tongues are spoken overwhelmingly by indigenous peoples, in Paraguay Guarani is spoken by people of many descents and origins. And, in contrast to nations like Canada and Switzerland, where different languages are spoken in specific regions, Guarani is spoken widely throughout Paraguay, albeit rarely by wealthier urban classes. As Guarani gives Paraguayans a sense of unity and nationhood, it also provides this small nation landlocked in South America's interior with perhaps its greatest source of identity and fame--apart from storied soccer teams.

"When the topic is bilingualism, sooner or later the name of Paraguay comes up," says Bogado.

The last national census, done in 1992, reported that 39 percent of Paraguayans spoke only Guarani and 6 percent only Spanish, while 49 percent were bilingual. Linguists say Guarani took hold in Paraguay because of the way that two peoples--Spanish invaders and native Americans--met. Paraguay contained no precious metals to be looted and carried home to Europe. Instead, the Spanish came here to settle, took indigenous wives--frequently several of them--and produced many children, who grew up speaking their mothers' language, which was often Guarani. During the following centuries, Paraguay's indigenous people suffered terribly from new diseases, forced labor and slave raiders from neighboring Brazil. As a result, today only about 2 percent of Paraguay's people are indigenous, and not all of them are Guarani. And yet the Guarani tongue is spoken by blond-haired children of German descent in the countryside, by Korean immigrants in Asuncion's market neighborhood, and is even mixed into presidential speeches.

However, for most of its history, Guarani has been an almost purely oral language. The first written Guarani literature was created on the Jesuit reductions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Jesuit priests took away the Guaranis' traditional hunting and gathering with small farming life-style, making them become settled farmers. However, the Jesuits also protected the native peoples from slave hunters and taught some to be scribes who both translated Catholic holy books into Guarani and wrote original works themselves. The most famous Guarani writer during the Jesuit era was Nicolas Yapuguay, a Guarani scribe who in 1727 wrote Sermones y Ejemplos, describing Catholic liturgy. In a sense, this is still the most truly Guarani literature, because it was produced by Guaranis themselves--albeit immersed in a foreign culture, says bookstore owner Bogado.

Today, the native Guarani people are overwhelmingly impoverished and are often seen begging on Asuncion's streets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Guarani from Tongue to Tome: Although This Native Language Has Long Been Spoken throughout Paraguay, Its Literary Boom Is Relatively Recent, Thanks to a Growing Number of Dedicated Writers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.