The Guaranís were once one of the most influential American Indian peoples in the southern part of South America. They were settled in the tropical forests of Paraguay and southern Brazil.
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The language of Guaraní, a language once spoken throughout most of the southern half of the new world by native Americans, now occupies a seat next to Spanish as one of the official languages of Paraguay. The name itself stems from a Guaranian word, guariní, meaning “war” or “warrior” and is indicative of this people’s bloody past as one of many contending tribes of South America (Facts). Presently, however, it represents a people and a culture that are trying to hold on to their ethnic heritage—and succeeding.

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When the Spanish first arrived, many Guaranís helped them in their wars against other American Indian groups. Many Spanish men married Guaraní women during this period. This was the beginning of the long process of intermarriage that produced the Paraguayans of today.

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Today the Guaranís who have kept their traditional way of life live in scattered settlements in Paraguay and in southern Brazil.

The Guaraní language is still widely spoken in Paraguay. Guaranís often have a Spanish name for everyday use, as well as a Guaraní name.

In 1992 another milestone was reached in the history of the Guaraní language when it was recognized by the Paraguayan government as one of two official languages of the nation. Currently it is the only indigenous language of South America to have achieved such a status. Both Guaraní and Spanish are taught in schools and there seems to be a degree of coequality of attitudes towards these two forms of expression. Spanish seems to be spoken more in matters of business or administration, but Guaraní finds an equal stature among art, expression, and everyday living. Whether or not this coexistence will last is unclear, but arrival at such a point, if even for a short time, is a unique ethnolinguistic accomplishment.

 

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