Swiss Association for Nature Conservation in Argentina
Culture of the Mbyá Guaraní
Culture of the Mbyá Guaraní

Culture of the Mbyá Guaraní

Worldview

The worldview and spirituality of the Mbyá is very complex and completely oriented towards life in and with nature. The Mbyá do not see themselves as the crown of creation, but as beings equal to all organisms of the forest. All animal and plant species have a protector in a spiritual world. Humans, animals and plants are dependent on each other. They live with and from each other. However, no species may overuse another one of unjustifiably harm it. With this attitude, the Mbyá have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years without destroying it.

Social organisation

The Mbyá form open communities whose composition can change again and again. Decisions affecting the community are discussed intensively in meetings in which everyone can participate. The final decision is only made the next day. It is led by the Mburuvicha, the head of the community. Women and men have equal rights.

The Mburuvichas of the different communities meet for the so-called “Aty” meetings. All interested people can also take part in these assemblies, where inter-community decisions are made. This process can last two to three days.

Habitat

The houses of the Mbyá Guaraní are traditionally made of palm poles. The walls are stabilised with a bamboo mesh and insulated with loamy soil. The roof is made of logs and covered with palm leaves. Today, boards and corrugated iron are also used.

An important part of the Mbyá’s livelihood today is the cultivation of crops. Many different types of maize, beans, manioc, sweet potatoes and melons are mainly grown in a very small area. Of course, the Mbyá also know everything edible that thrives in the forest. Unfortunately, this source of food is very limited today, because the forest areas are becoming smaller and smaller.

Medicine

In contrast to conventional medicine, which is exclusively mechanistic and chemically oriented, Mbyá doctors have a holistic view of people and their health. The life task that a person has to fulfil is an important part of the diagnosis for the Mbyá.

Furthermore, the Mbyá know the variety of secondary plant substances and their effects. Thanks to the enormous diversity of species, their benefits are much greater than those of European folk medicine.