Material Information

Tobati tradition and change in a Paraguayan town
Hay, James Diego ( Dissertant )
Margolis, Maxine ( Thesis advisor )
Safa, Helen I. ( Reviewer )
Schmink, Marianne ( Reviewer )
Mosely, Michael ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
xviii, 442 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural land ( jstor )
Brickmaking ( jstor )
Bricks ( jstor )
Children ( jstor )
Farmers ( jstor )
Hispanics ( jstor )
Labor ( jstor )
Peasant class ( jstor )
Towns ( jstor )
War ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
City of Gainesville ( local )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Paraguay -- Tobati


Tobati, a village in rural Paraguay, was the subject of a community study by anthropologists Elman and Helen Service in 1948. The results of that study were published by the University of Chicago Press in 1954 as Tobati Paraguayan Town. In their monograph, the Services characterized the town as "typical" of rural Paraguayan communities based on a peasant-type economy and conservative social traditions. They also offered proof that, contrary to popular belief, the ethnic character of rural Paraguayans was not "Indian"; rather, it was an adaptation of lower-class peninsular Spanish culture. The present work is a longitudinal study showing the most significant ways that the town of Tobati has changed in the forty years since the first anthropologists were there. Employing a cultural materialist paradigm, the study examines changes in modes of production and associates those changes with the emerging economic, demographic, technological, and environmental characteristics of Paraguay in the context of developmentalism, or "modernization" of traditional societies. The text of the study embeds the contemporary history of the town (during the past forty years) within the broader history of the Paraguayan nation and state to emphasize the evolutionary character of Paraguayan society. The first part of the work shows how the town of Tobati evolved within the national context, from Indian town providing prebendary labor to Spanish and mestizo colonials, to "Free town of Indians" when the town served as a labor reserve, and finally to a "typical" peasant farming community characterized by subsistence agriculture and petty commodity exchange. The final chapters of the study show how the peasant economy that served as the basis of the community has all but disappeared during the past twenty years. The demise of that way of life is linked to the integration of the national economy with regional development schemes, combined with increased population densities in the local area. At present, farming is a very minor part of the town's economy compared to a growing brick and ceramics industry which now employs a majority of the town's working people. Although the industry began with noncapitalist petty commodity production based on household labor, it is being replaced by capitalist enterprises employing large amounts of wage labor and more sophisticated technologies. Changes at this fundamental level, in turn, redound throughout the community and affect family and household structure and organization, patterns of migration, and social and political relationships. The study concludes with an examination of shared ideologies associated with behaviors, and a consideration of the origins of prevalent beliefs and behaviors. Seemingly illogical beliefs can be explained in coherent terms by examining the various options available to individuals. However, the conservative nature of traditional behaviors and ideological systems may act as a drag on the Tobatenos as they attempt to meet the demands of new ways of making a living. To the extent that working people in the town strive to maintain precapitalist social relations while new modes of production tend to predominate in the local political economy, they undermine their own position in the social life of the town. However, further changes in prevailing beliefs and behavior are likely to occur as traditional forms of production are increasingly subsumed by economic forces associated with modernization.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1993.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 421-441).
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by James Eston Hay.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
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AKB9169 ( NOTIS )


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This research was funded by a Fulbright IIE Dissertation

Fellowship under the U.S. Department of Education, and a Dissertation

Fellowship from the Organization of American States. I am most
grateful for the support of both institutions in completing the

fieldwork necessary for this study. I especially thank Mr. Alan

Rogers, United States Information Service in Asunci6n, and Sr. Atilio

Nieto, special operations officer of the Organization of American

States, in the same city, for their personal attention during my stay

in Paraguay.

During the many years I worked with the Peace Corps and with

private business in Paraguay, I made many close friends, met many

people, and made contact with many institutions in both the

governmental and private sectors. When I returned to Paraguay to

embark on the present study, I was grateful that those people were

there to greet me and help me in so many ways. I often prevailed

upon the kindness and patience of old friends and acquaintances, as

much for camaraderie as for assistance in my work. Due to the help

of many individuals, I bypassed much of the red tape and

bureaucratic "channels" (truly the bane of researchers in Latin
American countries) that otherwise would have made life so much

more difficult and less pleasurable.

I was especially happy to see old friends and colleagues among

the Paraguayan staff of the Peace Corps as well as the directors and

staff of MONITOR S.A. with whom I worked for four years. At the

Peace Corps office, my close friends Ing. Antonio Dacak and

(compoblano) Pedro Souza never failed to meet me with ice cold

terere and stimulating conversation. Both men are campesinos in
fact and in heart and never failed to offer insights into what it is that
makes things tick in rural Paraguay. John McClosky, assistant

director of the Peace Corps's training center in AreguA, was also a

source of not only penetrating observations, but material support as
well. At MONITOR, Dr. Alfredo Ratti and Arminda Ramirez remained
close friends who were likely to declare any event occasion for an
asado, or Paraguayan barbeque, and rally the staff of the

organization for a morale booster at propitious times.

I was once again welcomed at the Centro Paraguayo de Estudios
Sociol6gicos (CPES), a private research institution for social research
that fills an enormous gap in Paraguayan studies because of the
paucity of government support for sociological studies in the
universities. The directors of the institution, Drs. Domingo Rivarola

and Graziella Corvalin, both eminent figures in Parauayan studies,

generously provided office space, archival access, and practical

assistance even as they struggled for scarce resources themselves.

There has been a dramatic increase in research, scholarship,
and writing among a dynamic group of younger individuals in

Paraguay. I noticed, above all, that Paraguayan intellectuals tend to
differ from their North American colleagues in that they are very

much more committed to praxis, in connecting scholarship with

actual experience. These are people who are often difficult to locate

in their offices because they are more likely to be far from the


comforts of the city in order to glean essential data at its source--

directly from the people. This kind of research may be much more

critical for Paraguayans who lack access to the marvelous resources
in basic data and comparative material available in other parts of the
world, but it is clear that these people are dedicated to the
proposition that knowledge is best learned from direct experience

rather than digested whole from anonymous sources.
Among these people, I especially benefitted from the
companionship, generosity, and criticism of Dr. Ram6n Fogel, director
of a new research and action organization called the Centro de
Estudios Rurales Interdisciplinarios. Other interested scholars in the
country who were generous with their time included Miguel Chase-
Sardi, Daniel Campos, and Oleg VysokolAn, as well as Digno Britez in
the social action section of the Comit6 de Iglesias.
There is a close group of Paraguay aficionados and expatriates
in this country often referred to as the "Paraguayan Mafia" and there
is a small but thriving contingent of that Mafia who transported the
terer6 custom to Gainesville. Without those friends it would have
been a much lonelier place for a Paraguayanist, so I would like to
thank Jody and Cathy Stallings (who introduced me to Gainesville),
Peter Cronkleton, and Jon Dain and Karen Kainer, who all provided an
opportunity for me to talk freely about my favorite subject. Other
friends of the "Mafia" in Washington, D.C., who provided valuable
help during the course of this project included Frank O'Hara (former
Director of the Peace Corps in Paraguay), Kate Raftery, Mark
Hathaway, and Paul Davis.

I was certainly no less fortunate in the support and guidance I

enjoyed at the University of Florida. The individuals on my graduate

committee, chaired by Dr. Maxine Margolis, have always been a

source not only of knowledge, but of inspiration. Dr. Margolis has
been exceedingly patient throughout the ordeal of writing this
dissertation, and without her consistent encouragement, it might

never have been completed. Many thanks are due to Drs. Marianne

Schmink, Helen Safa, Michael Moseley, Marvin Harris, and Murdo

MacLeod for many years of support, guidance, instruction, and
criticism. All of these people have convinced me of the value of
anthropology as a discipline, and the history of social change in Latin

America as a subject. Also, I was exceedingly fortunate to have

known Dr. Charles Wagley during his lifetime. It was thanks mainly

to his personal encouragement and support that I embarked upon
this project, and I join his many students and colleagues in my very
fond memories of this great scholar and gentleman.

I am no less indebted to all my fellow basement-dwellers,

compafieros and colleagues in the Anthropology department. Only

one's friends and fellows can truly understand and appreciate the

high points and low points of a graduate career and dissertation
experience. Also, as sources of knowledge and insights they are as

valuable as any resource the University has to offer. The list of

people who have helped me with their friendship and sympathy

during these years is too lengthy to mention each of them by name,
but I trust they know who they are and will accept my thanks.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, however, to Bryan Byrne,
a fellow anthropology student who had the dubious luck of living

next door to me in Gainesville as I was completing this dissertation.

Bryan was exceedingly generous with his time and expertise,

especially in terms of data processing. He was endlessly patient with

my requests for technical assistance, and also served as a forthright
and capable critic of the written work. He and Nathalie Leb6n were a

constant source of encouragement, but their nearby presence also
offered a convenient place of escape when escape was clearly

Upon returning from Paraguay I was fortunate to find work in
the Map and Image Library of the University of Florida, surely a
congenial place for an anthropologist! Dr. Helen Jane Armstrong, the
Map Librarian, and Mil Willis, Archivist, were both extremely helpful

in adjusting their own busy schedules to my needs, as well as in
acquiring Paraguayan materials for the collection. I would also like
to acknowledge the help of Richard Scholz, a student employee in the

Map Library, who created the maps for this dissertation. I also
received help from the department for Spain, Portugal, and Latin

America (SPLAT) of Watson Library, at the University of Kansas.

Shelley Miller, the Director of the collection, was always helpful in

making the extensive collection of Paraguayan materials at Kansas
available to me.

Finally, I express my deepest thanks to the great people of the
town of Tobati, Paraguay, who welcomed me into their town and into
their lives. I admire them and thank them as much for their

patience as well as for their helpful friendliness during the nearly

eighteen months I was their neighbor. Once again, there are so many

people who I remember, and who were so generous with their time,

that it would be impossible to name them all. I was welcomed into a

group of close friends who drank tererd or cold beers at the copetin
of Luis and Mirta Morales de Ramos. The little bar was located

directly on the main street and near the church, where we could
catch the best view or else get the freshest gossip of everything that

happened in town. It was also the best place for heated debates on

social issues with my friend Luis Baltazar (Nene) Macchi, for we

could get an idea of public consensus from an audience of very vocal

Rata Rivarola, Armando Rivarola, and their four wonderful
children made me feel like part of their family. Each person in that

very engaging family gave me a completely different and candid

view of the ups and downs of everyday life in Tobati. I would often

leave their house only to stop by and chat with Jos6 and Angdlica
Zaracho de Finestra, who were especially sensitive to the civic
conscience of the town. Jos6's mother and aunt were close friends of
the Services's over forty years ago, and they loved to tell me about

the Tobati of earlier times.

In a country where everyone seems to know everyone else, I
was not surprised that a very close friend in Asunci6n had a
compare in Tobatf. Thus, I met Silvestre (Nene) Ortega, a very
thoughtful and wise man who was a wonderful source of information

about local government, politics, and business affairs. During my
many conversations with Nene over the ubiquitous terer6, he never

said an unkind or critical word about anyone, but simply explained
how it was that things worked and got done in the town.

Finally, three especially generous and friendly people were
invaluable sources of information. The justice of the peace, Prof. Jos6
Zaracho, and the young and socially conscious village priest, Pa'i
Sim6n Rol6n opened the considerable archival sources under their
particular care, and welcomed me into their work places. I am
especially grateful, however, to C6sar Ortega, the professor of physical

education at the Colegio, who worked closely with me in completing

so many interviews and gathering data. To all of these people, and
many more, I owe thanks, and I can only hope that this final work
does nothing to betray their trust and friendship.


ACKN OW LEDGEM ENTS........................................................ ..................................ii

LIST OF TABLES................................ ......... ................................ xiii

LIST OF FIGURE S..................................................................................................... xv

A B ST R A C T ................................. ........ .............. ....... ... ..................................xvi


1 IN TR O D U CTIO N ......................................... .............................. ...1

Scope and Organization of the Study......................................9
Theoretical Perspective......................... ...............................21
Bibliographical Comment........................ ........................29
N otes............................................ .. ..... ............................ 35

The Land................................... ...........................36
The Paraguayan Chaco............................................. .....41
Eastern Paraguay.............................. ............. ..............44
The Physical Infrastructure....................... ..47
Rural Transformation.......................................52
The Modern Social Landscape.................................................56
The Emergence of Finance Capitalism.........................56
Demographic Dynamism..................................................59
"Free" Lands and Invisible Borders............................62
N otes........................................ .................... ........................ 68

FROM THE COLONY TO THE MODERN ERA............................ 70

Mohammed's Paradise or Pangloss' Fantasy:
The Conquest................................... ........................ .......... 73
Maturation of the Colony: 1556-1811....................................83
The Jesuits and the Comin..............................................89
Reform and the Errant Colony............................... ..98
Independence: The Period of Great Dictators....................00
Independence and the Franciata................................100
Carlos Antonio L6pez and the Apertura..................110
El Mariscal and the Immolation of a Country........113
The Second National Period.......................... .......................118
N national D ivestm ent.........................................................121
Institutionalization of Political Power......................123
The Platonic Republic............................................. 125
War and Revolution....................... ........................127
N ew Internationalism ..................... ................................132
N otes......................................................... .............................. . 138

4 A RURAL HISTORY........................... ... ...............................143

A New Town in the Old World...........................................143
"Service to the Christians, and to the Indians,
Shelter" : The Encomienda.................................149
The Franciscan Missions and the
Pueblos de Indios...................................................154
The Fitful Sleep: A Rural Town in Old Paraguay..............158
Historical Demography.............................................. 160
Economic Evolution of the Pueblo..............................72
The Problem of Labor.......................................... .....178
Pueblo Libre: The Process of Emancipation,
1803-1848.......................................... ............. 80
Destruction and Regeneration...............................................188
The War in the Cordillera........................................190
Reconstruction and the Consolidation of the
Peasantry.............................................. ...... ...... 194
N otes.............................................................. ........................ . 197

TO TOWN........................................................200

The Changing Town and Country...........................................204
Municipal Government and Infrastructure............208
Rural Populations................................................ .............214
The Decline of the Peasantry in Central Paraguay...........220
Rural Conflict in Tobatf....................... ..............................227
The Changing Structure of Labor...................................... 233
Job Structure and Occupational Patterns................235
The Shift from Agriculture to Industry...................243
The Case of 21 de Julio..................... ....................248
Sum m ary......................................................... ........................... 255
N otes................................................................ ........ .............. . 257


New Bricks and Old Bricks: The Technological
V ariable.............................................. .......................262
Brickmaking as a Family Enterprise.................................... 266
Brickmaking as Industry............................................................272
The Mdquina Humana: New Class Structures....................277
The Economics of Brickmaking................................... .........287
Environmental Costs of Brickmaking........................295
M marketing Structures....................................... ...........301
Sum m ary................................................................... .............. ....... 303
N otes....................................... ............................................... . 308

7 THE SOCIAL COSTS OF OPPORTUNITY..................................310

Family and Household Organization and
Strategies.............................. ................ ............ 314
Fam ily Structure.............................. ................. ..............314
Marriage, Consensual Union, and
Female-Headed Households............................ ...322
M igration......................................... ........................... 333
Primogeniture.................................. .......................... 341
New Government and Political Regimes...............................345
Rural Organization for Social Action.....................................354
N otes............................................................... ....................... . 363

8 MODES OF LIVING AND WAYS OF THINKING.....................365

The Formation of Classes and Class Consciousness..........366
The Gam e of Politics...................................... .................................379
The Modern Christmas................................................................386
The Sweetness of Salt: Traces of Tobati Tuyd...................390
Sum m ary......................................................... 400
N otes..............................................................................................401

9 CON CLU SIO N .................................. .............................................. 403
A PPEN D ICES..................................................................... ................................ 410

A Household Questionnaire (in Spanish)..................................410
B Encuesta de Olerfa y Cerdmica (in Spanish).......................415
C Demographic Summary for Tobati........................................417
BIBLIO G RA PH Y ............................ .......... ..... .............. .................................. 421

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................................................................................442



2.1 Agricultural Production (in tons) for Paraguay..............................55

4.1 Sex Ratios, Children Only, for Indian Communities..................... 163

4.2 Sex Ratios for Indian Communities, 1651/1652..........................164

4.3 Sex Ratios for Indian Communities, 1726........................................ 165

4.4 Sex Ratios for Indian Communities, 1782.......................................166

4.5 Sex and Age Ratios for Indian Communities: Summary...........68

5.1 Occupation by Sector, Men Only,
Tobatf, Paraguay 1989......................... .. ... .............. ...............236

5.2 Occupation by Sector, Women Only,
Tobatf, Paraguay 1989........................................................237

5.3 Number of Commercial Establishments by Sector:
Central Tobatf, 1989.............................................240

5.4 Number of Commercial Establishments,
Urban and Rural Tobati, 1989....................... .......................242

5.5 Survey Sample, Tobati 1989...................... .................................244

5.6 Summary of Occupation by Generation, Tobatf............................246

5.7 Number of Farmers Married by Year........................................... 247

5.8 Families with Outmigrants, by Location...........................................251

6.1 Population Economically Active, by Sector. Tobati, 1982........265

6.2 Wage-Earning Population by Generation. Tobati 1989...........282

6.3 Change in Wage-Earning Population from Generation 1
(Grandfathers) to Generation 2 (Fathers).................................. 285

6.4 Change in Wage-Earning Population from Generation 2
(Fathers) to Generation 3 (Sons)..................... .....................286

6.5 Budgets for Brickmaking Operations, Tobati. June, 1989........291

7.1 Kin-Proximate Residence by Location. Tobati, 1989................317

7.2 Other Relatives Living with Nuclear Family, by Sex
of Head of Household. Tobati, 1989................................... ...320

7.3 Family Structure. Tobati, 1989........................ ..........................321

7.4 Households by Marriage and Paternal Absenteeism.
Tobati, 1989........................ .... ...........................325

7.5 Birthplace of Adult, Urban Tobatefos by Generation................. 334

7.6 Destination of Adult Children Leaving Parent's
Household. Tobatf, 1989....................................................................337

7.7 Children Migrating by Father's Status. Tobatf, 1989................338

7.8 Remittances by Migrating Children by Form of
Employment at Destination...................... ..... ............ ..............340

7.9 Birth Order as Determinant of Class. Tobatf, 1989...................344



2.1 M ap of Paraguay.......................................................... ........................37

5.1 Legend: Map of Tobati............................... .........................202

5.2 M ap of Urban Tobatf, 1989............................... .................................203

5.3 Central Commercial Zone of Tobatf, 1989, Front
of M municipal M arket............................................................................212

5.4 M ap of Partido of Tobatf........................... .........................................215

5.5 Occupation Across Generations..........................................................246

5.5 Farmers Married as a Percentage of All Farmers......................247

6.1 Family-Operated Olerfa in Tobati, Paraguay. 1989...................268

6.2 Industrial-Level CerAmica in Tobati, Paraguay. 1989..............273

6.3 Wage-Earning Population by Generation. Tobati 1989............282

7.1 Wage and Non-Wage Earning Population
by Generation. Tobati 1989............................... ................................312

7.2 Brickmakers Marrying as a Percentage of All Marriages.........328

7.3 Average Age of Brickmakers at Marriage....................................330


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



James Eston Hay

December, 1993

Chair: Dr. Maxine L. Margolis
Major Department: Anthropology

Tobatf, a village in rural Paraguay, was the subject of a

community study by anthropologists Elman and Helen Service in

1948. The results of that study were published by the University of

Chicago Press in 1954 as Tobati Paraguayan Town. In their

monograph, the Services characterized the town as "typical" of rural

Paraguayan communities based on a peasant-type economy and

conservative social traditions. They also offered proof that, contrary

to popular belief, the ethnic character of rural Paraguayans was not

"Indian"; rather, it was an adaptation of lower-class peninsular

Spanish culture.

The present work is a longitudinal study showing the most
significant ways that the town of Tobati has changed in the forty

years since the first anthropologists were there. Employing a

cultural materialist paradigm, the study examines changes in modes

of production and associates those changes with the emerging

economic, demographic, technological, and environmental

characteristics of Paraguay in the context of developmentalism, or

"modernization" of traditional societies.

The text of the study embeds the contemporary history of the

town (during the past forty years) within the broader history of the

Paraguayan nation and state to emphasize the evolutionary character

of Paraguayan society. The first part of the work shows how the
town of Tobati evolved within the national context, from Indian town

providing prebendary labor to Spanish and mestizo colonials, to "Free

town of Indians" when the town served as a labor reserve, and

finally to a "typical" peasant farming community characterized by

subsistence agriculture and petty commodity exchange.

The final chapters of the study show how the peasant economy
that served as the basis of the community has all but disappeared

during the past twenty years. The demise of that way of life is

linked to the integration of the national economy with regional

development schemes, combined with increased population densities

in the local area. At present, farming is a very minor part of the

town's economy compared to a growing brick and ceramics industry

which now employs a majority of the town's working people.

Although the industry began with noncapitalist petty commodity

production based on household labor, it is being replaced by

capitalist enterprises employing large amounts of wage labor and

more sophisticated technologies. Changes at this fundamental level,


in turn, redound throughout the community and affect family and

household structure and organization, patterns of migration, and

social and political relationships.

The study concludes with an examination of shared ideologies

associated with behaviors, and a consideration of the origins of
prevalent beliefs and behaviors. Seemingly illogical beliefs can be

explained in coherent terms by examining the various options

available to individuals. However, the conservative nature of

traditional behaviors and ideological systems may act as a drag on

the Tobatefios as they attempt to meet the demands of new ways of
making a living. To the extent that working people in the town

strive to maintain precapitalist social relations while new modes of

production tend to predominate in the local political economy, they

undermine their own position in the social life of the town. However,

further changes in prevailing beliefs and behavior are likely to occur

as traditional forms of production are increasingly subsumed by

economic forces associated with modernization.



In late 1948, Elman Service and his wife, Helen S. Service,

settled in at the small rural village of Tobati, in Paraguay. Elman

Service was completing his doctoral dissertation in anthropology at

Columbia University and chose Tobati as a research site because, in

terms of a Paraguayan community, "Tobati came the closest to being

representative" (Service and Service 1954: xviii). The results of the

Services's work were eventually published by the University of

Chicago Press in 1954 as Tobati: Paraguayan Town.

The Services were not so clear as to why they chose the country

of Paraguay for their research, but offer an important clue in stating

that "this would be the first anthropological field study in a country

which is comparatively unknown to the social sciences" (1954: xix). It

is also probable that the authors were strongly influenced by Dr.

Julian Steward, a mentor of Elman Service's who had visited Paraguay

and was at the time deeply involved in editing the monumental five-

volume Handbook of South American Indians. In his study of South

American indigenous populations, Steward was curious about the fact

that Paraguay shared certain hallmarks of an Indian society (e.g., high

level of cultural homogeneity and the near-universal use of the

indigenous Guarani language) yet, as only Steward recognized, was

apparently not inhabited by Indians.

This is the kind of problem that would likely intrigue an

anthropologist, and the Services attacked the riddle with gusto.

Paraguay was almost universally assumed to be a nation of

Indians, but after a seven-month stay in Tobati, the Services

gathered evidence that would cripple, if not wholly destroy, the

"Guarani myth" (Steward 1954: v). The Services provided a

plausible, if incomplete, argument explaining the persistence of

the Guarani language in Paraguay and the high degree of cultural

homogeneity in the population, but concluded that virtually every

other aspect of rural Paraguayan culture was derived from

European antecedents with little or no survival or influence of

other indigenous elements.

Apart from examining the "Guarani myth," the Services had
the overall objective of providing the first comprehensive

ethnographic study of a population largely ignored and

misunderstood by the international community of scholars. With

this in mind, they turned their attention to all facets of

community life in Tobatf, and arranged their work by "functional

rather than formal criteria" (xxi) in a broad description of village

life that included extensive data on multiple aspects of the

economy, society, and ideology.

The Services had a double agenda. They felt an obligation to

provide at long last an authoritative study of the society and

culture of a Paraguayan community, and they sought--quite likely

at the behest of Steward--evidence that would finally put to rest

the "Guarani myth." In terms of this first objective, the Service's

1954 volume remains to this date a benchmark in Paraguayan

studies and is still considered obligatory reading for anyone with
an interest in Paraguayan society. This is no doubt due to the

talents of the Services as anthropologists and the resultant merits

of their book, but also to the fact that Tobati: Paraguayan Town

remains, to date, the only general anthropological study of

Paraguayan community published in English. Indeed, published

ethnographic studies of Paraguayan society with the breadth of
the Service's work remain exceedingly rare in any language,

including Spanish.1
With this in mind, I went to Tobati in late 1988--almost

forty years to the day after the Service's arrival--with the

purpose of doing a restudy of the town with the benefit of a data

base generated by the earlier study. In terms of the Service's

description and analysis of the economic and social underpinnings

of the town, I had two major objectives: to document both change

and continuity, and to explain why certain aspects of life and

society in Tobati changed and why others remained relatively

stable over time. This was an exciting prospect for me for two

reasons. First, I had already lived in Paraguay for over seven

years. I was associated with the Peace Corps from 1974 to 1981

and returned in 1983 on a research project (see Hay 1984). I was

grateful for an opportunity to return to the place of which I was
so fond.
And second, Tobati is a radically changed place, in ways that

the Services could never have imagined during their stay. Rather

than the "typical," peasant-based Paraguayan town that they

studied, Tobati is now a thoroughly industrialized rural town


which retains only a veneer of the formerly bucolic pueblo. Not

only has the town increased greatly in size, but the underpinnings

of the local--and national--economy have changed, demanding a

thorough reconsideration of the bases upon which the town--as a

society--"works." In these ways, Tobati is unique among

Paraguayan towns, yet the history and trajectory of change in

Tobati may offer clues as to the direction of change in rural

Paraguay as a whole. Even with this in mind, I often thought that

the Services could probably have returned during my stay and

found as much that was familiar (if only on a superficial level) as

was changed. In all, it seemed to be a fascinating arena for


I believe that such a project has intrinsic value for a number

of reasons. First, and probably most important, while the original

study remains a classic (and deservedly so) in the field of

Paraguayan studies, there is no doubt that for practical purposes

it is out of date (see Roett and Sacks 1991: 113). Paraguay may

still be regarded by most Latin Americanists as one of the most

"backward" nations in the region, but the truth is that Paraguay

has been touched by the forces sweeping Latin America as much

as any other country, although "development" may have been

relatively tardy in Paraguay in relation to other countries in the


Second, a study of this nature would add to a body of

literature in "development studies" which has an element of time

depth. The descriptive and empirical data provided by the

Services from 45 years ago were sufficient to warrant a restudy.


Using similar criteria for establishing general economic, social and

ideological parameters. I hope to impart a sense of rate of change.

direction of change, and critical historical moments.

Third, it is unfortunate that there is still nearly as great a

lack of information about Paraguay in the 1990s as there was in

the 1950s. It is important that both Paraguayans and others

interested in Paraguay provide the kind of current information

that could satisfy the desire of other Latin Americanists to learn

more about the country. This is important not only in its own
right but also because development studies in general will always
benefit from an enlarged body of knowledge which provides an

opportunity for comparative approaches to problem solving.

Apart, however, from development issues in rural
Paraguayan society, I confess that I too, like the Services, had a

double agenda in proposing a restudy of Tobatf. The question of

ancestry and heritage captivates Paraguayans today as much as it

ever did. The extent to which modern Paraguayans express

aspects of a pristine indigenous culture is a topic of endless

fascination to all Paraguayans, whether they be purveyors of

folksy wisdom or serious scholars of modern society and culture.

It intrigued both Steward and the Services in the late 1940s and it

intrigued me in the late 1980s. In the past few years, there has

also been a notable upsurge among Paraguayan scholars' interest
in the cultural history of the country. As the pace of development

quickens in the countryside, and as the country becomes more

closely linked both economically and physically with the rest of

the continent--not to say with the world--Paraguayans appear

increasingly worried, and quite rightly so, that "traditional"

customs, beliefs, and ways of life may be doomed to disappear,

perhaps before they can be recorded for future generations. This

implies that there is an added urgency to this kind of fieldwork

beyond the immediate concerns of economic and social change.

In truth, it was the second objective--the clarification of the

"Guarani myth"--that focused the most attention on the Service's

book, and drew the brunt of criticism, at least from Paraguayan

scholars and intellectuals (Cadogan 1956; Creydt 1963; Benitez

1967; Chase-Sardi 1990). Ironically, however, and probably

unfortunately, it was not the Service's own work per se which

created the polemic in Paraguay, but rather the twelve-page

"Foreward" to their 1954 volume, written by Julian Steward. It is

noteworthy that while none of the Service's own work was ever

published in Paraguay, Steward's "Forward" was almost

immediately translated and published in Historia Paraguaya:

anuario de la Academia Paraguaya de Historia (v. 1, 1956).

In the Forward, Steward stated, rather authoritatively, that

the Service's work had shown how the evolution of culture in

Paraguay had involved, above all, "a rapid change in colonial times

from native Guarani Indian culture to a rather thoroughly

Hispanic culture" (Steward 1954: vi). Such a categorical

statement, especially coupled with its complement (p. xi) that "the

culture of the peasant farmers is not Guarani" (my emphasis)

demands a rebuttal, and the immediate response of Paraguayan

critics was to demonstrate the opposite: essentially that much had

remained of the aboriginal gestalt, which had escaped the notice

of the naive "gringo" investigators who were so easily "fooled" by

their informants (Chase-Sardi 1969), and that Paraguayan culture

should be described with the Guarani heritage firmly in mind

(Gonzalez 1958). Inevitably, the issue has been reduced to two

positions: either that the original culture disappeared virtually

without trace or that the contemporary culture is basically a

transformation and revivification of an (idyllic) indigenous world

view. To simply dichotomize the argument in these terms, though,

is ultimately of little help, since both alternatives are apt to lead

to baseless hypotheses and sterile conclusions satisfactory to no


Both of these positions essentially miss the point, as Steward

himself hints at in the following pages, when he remarks, "Thus

the emergence of the various subcultures found today in Latin

America is a far larger problem than that of tracing individual

culture elements to their Hispanic or Indian sources" (1954: viii).

I agree with the point that it is hardly productive to attempt to

break Paraguayan culture down into its component parts in order

to balance the Guarani versus the European elements and decide

on that basis how to characterize the society. Rather, the focus

should be on how a uniquely Paraguayan culture--neither Indian

nor Hispanic--evolved over time as a result of the myriad
decisions made over time by individuals involved in a personal

struggle to survive in a world rapidly changed by new

combinations of technologies, environments, economic and

subsistence regimes, and social hierarchies, not to mention some

rather bizarre historical events. Under those circumstances, it was


inevitable that completely new rules and customs of behavior be

established which were not lifted whole from either of the so-

called "parent" cultures.

While the publication of the translation of Steward's

"Foreward" made the Service's arguments about modern-day

Paraguayan heritage accessible to the Paraguayan public, it

discouraged a perusal of the body of the Service's work which

contained the proofs only summarized by Steward. Also, in the

polemic generated by Steward's piece, most Paraguayan scholars
generally ignored the most solid contribution of the book, which

was the Service's observations, analyses, and conclusions

regarding rural Paraguayan economy, society, and cultural

practices of the time. As a result, with only very rare exceptions,

the Service's work remained virtually without readership,

critique, or possibility of corroboration by Paraguayans. This was

doubly unfortunate since, until that time and for many years

after, nearly all contributions to the subject by Paraguayans

consisted largely of vague generalities based on simple

observation without the benefit of any kind of empirical support,

and were often charged by an almost jingoistic nationalism that

guaranteed a distorted picture of the realidad paraguaya (see

Williams 1969: ii). Thus, the conclusions of the original work were

never subjected to the kind of disinterested review and critique

within Paraguay that they merited.

Therefore, I hope that the present study might add to the

initial one by, first, reintroducing and updating empirical data,

leading to an analysis of often striking and radical change in rural

Paraguay. Second, I will present new evidence which may lead to

a reexamination of both the "Guarani myth" as well as what may

be termed the "Hispanic option" and will suggest ways that this

important question could be studied in a way that might lead to a

more scholarly--and less polemical--dialogue among students of

Paraguayan culture.

Scope and Organization of the Study

In keeping with contemporary anthropological practice, the

Services were interested in an overall, holistic view of Paraguayan

culture and society. Their book was divided into three broad

sections entitled Economy, Society, and Ideology. Within these

categories, they studied and addressed a number of specific issues

including the peasant economy, commerce and industry, attitudes

toward economic development, household composition and

kinship, migration, church and social life, education, "magic,"

medical practice and beliefs, and behavior at "life crises."

Because of my own commitment to do a restudy of the town,

I hoped to be able to observe all of those aspects of social life in

Tobatf myself, in order to pinpoint the areas in which change (or

stability) were most evident, and to see if there were correlations

between change in one area and change in others. In addition,

there were other issues which I thought worthy of examination,

which the Services may have found impossible to study, or which

simply may not have been salient at the time that they did their

study. These included such factors as child labor, population

control, and trends in demographic patterns.


I was also much more interested than the Services in

investigating the extent to which Tobati's political economy was

linked to the national, and ultimately the international, economy

(the so-called "world system"), and the extent to which those

linkages may have determined or conditioned change in modern

Tobatf. It is only through this kind of analysis, after all, that

Tobati could be studied as an integral part of a broader

Paraguayan society, rather than as an isolated unit within it. In

spite of Tobati's unique historical evolution, one can understand

Paraguay and its place in the world through the experience of the

Although the Service's were in Paraguay during a

momentous time in the country's history, they explained that "the

[political] situation was so tense during our stay in Tobati that we

could not interest ourselves in this matter without jeopardizing

our other work" (Service and Service 1954: xxi). I was also in

Tobati during a very important time in modern Paraguayan

history, and was fortunate to witness the fall of the 35-year

Stroessner dictatorship and the events that followed, both in the

town and at the national level. However, I felt no such constraints

in discussing politics as did the Services, and an important part of

my study was observing the impact of politics on ideologies and

social change both before and after the golpe of February 2-3,


In keeping with my objective of following up the original

study, I have organized my own data in a way that is similar to

the Services', although because of the breadth of the historical

aspects of Tobatf's development, the total work falls into two

major parts. The first chapters presents a more detailed history

of both Paraguay and Tobati in order to highlight the significance

of recent change in country and town. Also, while it is

undoubtedly true that, in 1948, Tobati could be considered

representative of small rural Paraguayan communities because

the country as a whole was so "well-integrated culturally," and

had a relatively simple economy, the same could not be said by

1988. In fact, as I indicated above, Tobati, because of its

predominantly industrial economy, may be one of the most

atypical rural towns in the country today, and the changes which

have occurred during the last years are pervasive. Therefore, I

attempt to place Tobati in the context of modern Paraguay, with

an emphasis on major trends in the "development" of rural

In keeping with my theoretical approach, to be discussed in

Chapter Two, I begin with a brief look at the "infrastructural"

forces which are fundamental to an understanding of Paraguay's

history. The most basic facts of the geology and geography of the

country explain much concerning historical trajectories. Factors

such as soils and climate, as many earlier anthropologists have

observed, may be highly determinative of social and political

structures that must conform, in one way or another, to the

physical world (cf. Steward and Faron 1959: 44). Together with

basic demographic patterns, such factors are critical in explaining

both possibilities and choices at crucial times in the country's


Chapter Three follows with a general review of Paraguayan

history, from the conquest to the time of "modern Paraguay," at

the advent of Colorado Party rule in 1947. As Eric Wolf pointed

out (1982 ix), there is an urgency to the project of searching out

"the causes of the present in the past." While Wolf does not

encourage "the study of a single culture or nation" to reach that

objective, he did observe that anthropologists should understand

that "human populations construct their cultures in interaction

with one another, and not in isolation." I hope to demonstrate

that, in ways both particular to its own case, and general to

countless other colonized societies, Paraguay is a premier example

of this concept. Like every nation or population which has a sense

of common history, Paraguay is unique, yet a closer analysis

reveals parallels that show how the history of this country

illustrates more universal experiences and challenges. And, the

response of the Paraguayan people to those challenges may add to

our inventory of possible solutions to difficult problems. Finally,

I hope to contribute to an ongoing debate on how Paraguayan

history is to be examined, given the tendency toward romanticism

based on "great man" theories of historical development

postulated by the classic scholars of Paraguayan history.

Chapter Four returns to the historical account, but of a

different kind. I will recap the general history of Paraguay with
the history of a rural Paraguayan town. The town of Tobati was

shaped by events at the national level, but it is important to

remember that the history of the larger polity was largely a

response to the problems and possibilities posed by the


countryside and the country people. Especially in a country such

as Paraguay, which was destined to look inward and seek self-

sufficiency, the country was very much the sum of its rural parts.

There will, of course, be some overlap between the two histories,

but the hope is to emphasize the interplay between two levels of

the historical record to better appreciate the evolutionary aspect

of modern Paraguayan society.

This historical overview of the town, besides its importance

to the study as a whole, also serves a personal objective. I found,
during my stay in the town, that the people of Tobatf, with

notable exceptions, know exceedingly little of the history of their

town, yet have a craving for that knowledge. Misconceptions

about the town's history abound, and some aspects of that history

have come to take on a political tone--a common occurrence not

only in Paraguay, I am sure. In a small town, historical "facts" are,

I admit, rare, but there are facts that can be related, and a

number of observations based on inferential evidence deserve

some consideration. If there is anything in this study which might
merit a real interest by most Tobatehos, it will probably be this

brief history. However, in this chapter I intend to cover the

evolution of the town through the end of the Triple Alliance War

and the nineteenth century. By that time, the social and economic
underpinnings of the town were essentially established as the

Services found in 1948, and the changes from that time on form

the real subject matter of the work which follows.

From Chapter Five, the work is organized to correspond

roughly to the way the Services presented their own data around

economy, society, and ideology. This form of organization is also

coherent with the theoretical stance which guided my research.

In Chapters Five and Six I consider the economic imperatives that

led to the transformation of the traditional peasantry in Tobati

and ushered in a capitalist mode of production with the rise of the

ceramics industry. I will also show how this seemingly localized

phenomenon (for Paraguay) is closely tied to current trends in the

national economy and is ultimately linked to an international

economy. It should become clear, for example, why the options of

rural-urban migration and off-farm employment are more viable

alternatives for young Tobatefios than rural-rural migration under

the country's program of "agrarian reform." Finally, because they

are so intimately related to recent economic changes in Tobati, I

also consider factors such as the function of labor with changing

technologies, the relationship between economic change and

demographic trends, and the importance of environmental, or

ecological, factors--particularly the tradeoff between development

and environment in the case of Tobati.

Chapter Seven is an examination of the formal and informal

structures most important in community life, as well as aspects of

migration that have been most closely associated with social and

economic change in the town. Changing patterns in domestic

structures (family and household) may reveal much about the

depth of economic change, and political and institutional

structures indicate the degree that the town is institutionally

integrated with the larger polities at the state and international

levels. As one would expect, contemporary Tobati is a much more


complex society, and the role of government institutions in the

lives of the people is vastly more important than it was forty

years ago. More interesting, however, are changes in domestic
structures (e.g., household composition and intrafamilial roles),

which can probably be traced directly to changes in the economy

and mode of production. An intriguing example of this
phenomenon is the apparent shift in family structure as a

response to a rapidly industrializing economy. This confirms the

extreme sensitivity of domestic economy to shifts at more

fundamental (infrastructural) levels at a macro scale (see
Kuznesof 1980).

Chapter Eight traces important ideological elements which
unify the Tobatefios, both as a community and as Paraguayans. I

will pay particular attention to the pervasive influence of political

thought, as well as the growing importance of the mass

communications media as a conduit of urban ideology. I will also

discuss other areas that the Services found intriguing; e.g.,

religious and folk beliefs, medicine and practice (including
"women's medicine"), critical "rites of passage," and so on. There

is much in the ideological content of contemporary rural

Paraguayan society that can be considered "traditional," as

comparison to the Service's data suggests, but much of that has

shifted in response to changes at a more fundamental level. The

question, therefore, is not simply that of where ideological change

originates, but whether or not the seeds of novel ideas fall on

fertile ground.

Finally, I will conclude this work, as did the Services, with a

studied consideration of the likely course of events in the future,

both of Tobati and of Paraguay. This is admittedly a risky

venture, being well within the realm of futurology. The Service's

prognosis proved to be incredibly pessimistic, in hindsight, as they

even doubted the capacity of the country to survive as an

independent political entity (pp. 297-98). Likewise, my own

judgements will no doubt be found wanting at the present or at
some future time, but they will certainly not carry the same

weight of pessimism. The country has resources not even

suspected forty years ago, which can only strengthen a fierce

sense of independence that has been a particular characteristic of

Paraguay's history.


The methods employed during my fieldwork were

straightforward and not intended to be innovative. I was in

Paraguay from October, 1988 to March, 1990, and resided, with

short absences, in Tobati from the first of December until a week

before I left the country. After a great deal of effort, and no little

anxiety, I finally located a small house for rent in the center of

town, exactly one block from the central plaza (reasons for the

lack of housing will become clear in the text). It was a very old,

brick, two-room house, and the delay in moving in was due to the

time it took to reshingle parts of the roof, add on a kitchen, and

run a water pipe from the street into the kitchen. Even after

those improvements, by Tobatf standards the house would just

barely be considered "middle class."

Although I would have accepted lodgings anywhere, I felt

very fortunate with my find. 1 consider participant observation to

be the hallmark of anthropological fieldwork, and in that location

I felt that I was in the middle of everything. I soon discovered

that I lived right around the corner from the house where the

Services initially stayed with a family (who still reside there),

before they found their own house. At any rate, I enjoyed close

proximity to much that interested me. The location also probably

increased my own visibility, which I felt may have shortened the

time that it took people to grow accustomed to my presence and

feel more at ease in my company. From that vantage point. I

frequented the center of town on a daily basis, and more and

more ventured out into other parts of the town at a greater

distance from the center. Participating in as many aspects of

community life as was possible, I kept a journal which was

updated daily and served as a record not only of my own

activities, but of my observations and thoughts. My main

disadvantage was difficulty of mobility, which severely limited

the occasions when I could travel to the more distant compaiias,

or rural neighborhoods surrounding Tobati.
In order to familiarize myself with the town, I began my

study by methodically walking the streets with the purpose of

mapping the community. As it turned out, this also served a

pressing need, since no reliable map existed. It was also an

ambitious task, since I was still perfecting the map after a year in

the town, and it still has areas that are incomplete. However, the

exercise was also valuable because at the same time I could work

on a general count of residences, commercial establishments,

cottage industries, and other residence-based economic activity.

After a time, I began to take more formal interviews from

persons who had specific knowledge they were willing to share

about the many facets of town life that were of interest. Such

people included political party and government officials, church

figures, industrialists, laborers, business owners, town
"characters," small farmers involved in land disputes, teachers,

and plain gossips. These interviews were for the most part ad hoc

and opportunistic, occurring at what seemed an appropriate time.

Only a minority were scheduled in advance and took on a highly

formal character. Friends and acquaintances became quickly

accustomed to my pencils, notebooks or scraps of paper, and

seemed resigned to the possibility of an impromptu "interview."

It also took time to recognize the resources for historical

research that were available in the town. After almost four

months I became aware of the possibilities inherent in written

documents both in the Church (rather, in the administrative

section, the Casa Parroquial) and the office of the Justice of the

Peace. With that discovery, I began spending some time almost

every day in both places, making detailed records of births,

marriages, and deaths. While statistics covering the three life

events are recorded in both places, they are not redundant.

Rather, they are complementary, since events may have been

recorded at one place and not the other, or because of the content


that was required by one institution but considered unnecessary

by the other. I was also fortunate to have access to the records in

the local Centro de Salud, or health center, which maintained the

most accurate population figures available.

During the last five months of my stay, I initiated a formal

household survey, based upon a standardized questionnaire (see

Appendix A). The Services had a great advantage, since, at the

time that they were in the community, they could garner a

complete census, visiting every household in the village.

Considering the very high growth rate of the town, this was

obviously impossible in my own case. Still, I did complete over

eighty questionnaires from the town center; one household from

each city block, chosen at random from a table of random

numbers (Bernard 1988: 460-62). This represented about a ten

percent sample of the town's population. I completed over sixty

more questionnaires from two semi-rural and rural populations,

although distribution of households and difficulty of mobility in

those areas precluded random sampling, so households were

selected opportunistically. In order to complete the large number

of interviews, I enlisted the aid of an assistant; a native Tobatefio

who was a young high school professor. I spent a period of about a

week training him, and went over his returned questionnaires

periodically, pointing out possible problem areas and suggesting

ways of eliciting information that was less ambiguous.

During the same period, I was conducting an informal

survey of the many brick and ceramic industries in the town. I

was reluctant to formalize this survey because people were


understandably cagey about openly discussing the details of their

business. This was apparent after starting a formal questionnaire

type of survey which I soon abandoned because there was so little

variation in responses. Instead, I began to use the same format of

questions during more informal encounters with brickmakers, and

recorded responses at a later time (see Appendix B). What was

sacrificed in poor sampling and possible inaccuracies was no doubt

made up for in the value of more candid and considered


Finally, 1 was probably typical as an ethnographer in that I

considered almost everything around me--even seemingly trivial

events or details--as fair game for an interested look. At random

times I might be counting cans on a shelf in a local store, bananas

in the market, or recording soccer scores. Friends and

acquaintances grew weary and at times impatient with my

incessant questions. I pored over newspapers and clipped articles

every day, recorded radio talk shows, and jotted down what I saw

on television. In the capital, I frequently worked in the National

Archives--a fascinating but equally frustrating enterprise.3

Some of this material was useful for my purposes, but most

of it clearly was not. However, I consider none of that time or

effort wasted, since, I hope, it helped to contribute to a better

overall understanding of the ambiance I shared with the people of


Theoretical Perspective

The Services wrote at a time when it was the fashion that

ethnographic studies be all-encompassing in content, yet confined

to a well defined and circumscribed population, as if those

populations were not subject to exogenous power regimes and

structures (p. xix; see also Wolf 1990). Anthropologists generally

emulated figures such as as Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-

Pritchard, Mead, Redfield, and others. Focusing particularly on
"community studies," the classic works of all of these earlier

anthropologists had a great deal in common in that they sought to

examine nearly every aspect of life within a population and

presented the result almost as a portrait frozen in time. There

was little sense of history in many of these studies and little of

the record of the impact of contact between societies--principally

between the indigenous society under study and the dominant

international society which was increasingly influencing behavior

in traditional societies around the globe. As a result, these studies

also tended toward a particularistic view in the sense that each

case was presented as unique, defying comparison with other

cases with the aim of drawing general conclusions about processes

of sociocultural change. This tradition of ethnography was more

or less the milieu within which the Services conducted their own


Without denying the heated theoretical debates that

dominated the field during that time, and the imaginative

approaches toward interpretation that were advanced, there was


an "explosion" of critical thought in anthropology beginning in the

late 1960s that has continued to the present day. It is obviously

beyond the scope of this work to discuss and criticize the varied

approaches toward anthropological thought that fluorished during

the last twenty years, nor would such a discussion prove

especially useful considering the plethora of readily accessible

works that deal specifically with that task (e.g., Harris 1968,

Bohannan and Glazer 1973, Bloch 1985, Marcus and Fischer 1986,

and Lett 1987). Of more relevance is a brief discussion of the

theoretical underpinnings that guided my own work in an attempt

to bring a sense of cogency and integrity to the problem at hand.

My intention, in the present study, is to base analysis on

what is commonly referred to as a "materialist" position. More

specifically, I will try to couch explanation within the principles of

the cultural materialist school, most cogently formulated by

Marvin Harris and successfully practiced by anthropologists such

as Eric and Jane Ross, Barbara Price, Maxine Margolis, Daniel Gross,

William Abruzzi, and Michael Harner, among many others.

Cultural materialists are unapologetic in their professed goal

of struggling for "a science of culture" (Harris 1980). This science

of the study of human populations has been described as "a

synthesis of Marx's causal primacy of the infrastructure and

Darwinian mechanisms of natural selection" (Price 1982: 709). In

its application to the study of human populations, Harris and Ross

(1987: 1-2) succinctly explain that socioculturall systems are

heuristically regarded as having three major sectors:

infrastructure, consisting of mode of production and mode of

reproduction; structure, or domestic and political economy; and

superstructure, or aesthetic, symbolic, philosophical, and religious

beliefs and practices," also referred to as the "symbolic-ideational"

realm (Harris 1991).

One of the most basic tenets of cultural materialism is an

insistence on the fact of causality in human affairs, and this

necessarily leads to a consideration of the principle of

determinism. Contrary to what is generally thought, cultural

materialists do not disagree with eclectic thinkers that under

certain circumstances, the superstructure might be determinative

of events associated with the structural or infrastructural levels,

or that the structure, likewise, might be dominant; but they insist

that the infrastructure generally (usually, or probabilisticallyy")

determines the structure and, in turn, the superstructure (Harris

1980: 289). This point is perhaps made more obvious by

repeating the admonition of one philosopher of science that
"natural history . is preeminently a study of relative frequency,

not of absolute yeses and noes" (Gould 1993: 12). In other words,

the three domains are not symmetrical in determining

sociocultural innovations (Harris 1991: 4). This is nothing more

than to paraphrase Harris and Ross' distinction between "optimal"

versus "optimizing" behavior, in the sense that, given specific

infrastructural constraints, populations do not necessarily behave

in a Malinowskian kind of functional mode, but they do tend to

choose behaviors which, under specific circumstances, are "as good

or better than [other] feasible alternatives" (Harris and Ross 1987:

19). Given this marked tendency, the investigator is required, for

purely tactical reasons, to reject an a priori argument couched in

purely historical or ideological terms without first considering and

rejecting the possibility of infrastructural causality.
There are causal links between each sector of the triad, but

the probability that the infrastructural level will be
determinative leads to the "principle of infrastructural

determinism" (Harris and Ross 1987: 2; Price 1982: 710). Indeed,

because of aspects of Paraguay's unique history, I will present
examples from the study of Tobati where ideologies were
powerful social movers and had determinative qualities, although

I believe that it is possible to show how those same ideologies

ultimately proved to be extremely fragile when faced with rapid

shifts at both the structural and infrastructural levels.4 This is an

example of the importance of scale (in terms of time) in

permitting an analysis of the direction of the causal arrow (Harris
and Ross 1987: 3; see Carrithers 1990: 269). Furthermore, it
signals the importance of investigating the origins (rather than the

mere existence or persistence) of ideologies.
The infrastructural element is grounded in four heuristically

discrete areas for purposes of analysis. These include
demography, technology, economics, and ecology, all of which are

mutually determinative (and provide the preconditions for a
given mode of production and mode of reproduction), but which
also exert strong pressures for change at the structural and

superstructural levels. As Harris and Ross (1987: 2) observe,
these areas act as an "interface" between nature and culture

"through which the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and

psychology influence the direction of cultural selection and

[therefore] cultural evolution, and thus impart to infrastructure its

dominant role." The success of this schema is wholly contingent

on the simple premise that "human social life is a response to the

practical problems of earthly existence" (Harris 1980: ix; emphasis

mine). Put in another way, while it is admitted that some

individuals may often behave in ways that run counter to their

own well-being, or even survival, most individuals (constituting

populations, the demographic unit of general interest to social

scientists) tend to respond to material challenges--at least over
time--in ways that favor the well-being and survivability of the

individuals themselves and, by extension, of the population. In

strictly Darwinian terms, any population whose members

generally do not behave in such a manner is non-adaptive and

runs risks of extinction. Of course, this may well have been the

fate of countless populations during the millennia since the

paleolithic, but the overall tendency has undoubtedly been toward

adaptation--a response to "temporal and/or spatial differences in

demands placed upon productive and reproductive success" (Ross

1980: xxi).

Adaptive change does not, therefore, occur mechanistically,

as an automatic one-to-one reflex in response to a particular
"perturbation." Culture change is analogous to biological evolution

in that both are inherently conservative processes. That is, a

system is highly resistant to change as long as the integrity of the

system itself is not threatened (See Harris 1977: 5). Rather than

changing in a gradualistic and ever-incremental fashion,5 then,

culture systems tend to remain at a certain dynamic, or

"metastable" equilibrium (Butzer 1982: 289) until major

disruptions or multiple events at a fundamental level demand a

rapid shift of the system to a different (one is tempted--however

erroneously--to say "higher") state of equilibrium. Thus, it is not

difficult to appreciate how civilizations, such as ancient Egypt's,
can remain remarkably stable over millennia as long as they
"work" within an established natural regime, while other

civilizations may rapidly crash or fluorish as a result of major

infrastructural events (Eldredge and Tattersall 1982: Ch. 7). This

principle is perhaps easier to appreciate in reference to the

common practice of historians in identifying "periods" in history,

which are far from arbitrary divisions in delineating a certain

pattern in the occurrence of historical events.

For this reason, one should expect stability as the norm,

although stability as well as change demands explanation.6 In an

inherently conservative world, change, other than the

perturbations observable in any state of equilibrium, must be the

result of fairly high order events which, theoretically, must be

amenable to observation and explanation. And, given an inherent

resistance to change, there will usually be a "lag" between events

and adjustments to those events. Certain demographic
phenomena, such as fertility rates for example, may be
remarkably sensitive to, say, certain economic variables

(Bongaarts and Menken 1983), but noticeable change in fertility

rates will only occur as an adjustment to economic change after an

appreciable amount of time. This is mainly because it is

individuals who respond to common challenges, and only the

accrual of a host of such individual responses can be measured as

social change.

Therefore, cultural materialism is above all the study of

"real people doing real things" because it starts from the

Darwinian assumption that individuals, each faced with countless

mundane and critical decisions, determine not only the course of

their own lives, but ultimately the evolution of the population (or

society) of which the individual is a member. That most of the

survival decisions made by individuals tend to be responses to the

exigencies of production and natural phenomena is the basis of

the "materialism" of this approach and an "acknowledgement of

the debt owed to Marx's formulation of the determining influence

of production and other material processes" (Harris 1980: xi; see

also Harris 1991).

Finally, cultural materialism is programmatically positivistic

and scientific in its approach. Since the object of study is human

behavior in response to material constraints or opportunities, such

behavior can be observed, measured, and described, at least with

as much accuracy as the behavior of other biological populations.

Cultural materialists recognize that there are two methods of

acquiring data: from the informant's own testimony, and from

direct observation by the investigator of behaviors. Unlike many
"traditional" anthropologists, cultural materialists recognize the

dangers inherent in taking an informant's own testimony

uncritically and without reservation, or at "face value." This is for

the indisputable reason that "people can be mystified about their



own thoughts as well as about their behavior" (Harris 1980: 39; cf.

Marx 1967: 72). Therefore, a materialist research strategy "is

consonant with an observer-oriented canon of proof, i.e., with

verification or falsification phrased in terms of the operationalized

state of the system" (Price 1982: 710), which, in cultural

materialism is termed an "etic" research strategy. Informant

concurrence is not essential to the "proof" of a given proposition (a

so-called "emic" strategy) if investigation can yield valid and

reliable data independent of the "emics" of either the investigator

or the subject.

A caveat is probably in order here. The above is in no way

meant to imply that the informant is somehow bypassed or

belittled. Individuals are, after all, ultimately the source of all

data concerning social behavior. The only thing that is implied by

an etic strategy is that the anthropologist qua scientist is utilizing

a complement of tools or instruments that provide data which can

be challenged and verified--that a particular exercise can be, to

some degree, replicated by another investigator and yield data

which are comparable; preferably data which are--or can be--

quantifiable. Such instruments range from questionnaires which

elicit reliable and appropriate information, to adequate statistical

treatment of data, to outright counting and measuring of anything

germane to the objectives of the study (see Bernard 1988). As

social scientists, however, such "hard data" ought to be subject to

qualification and clarification based on the critical observations of

both the informants and the investigator.

Among the array of research strategies from which an

anthropologist can choose, cultural materialism has consistently

produced results of practical as well as esthetic value. The results
of cultural materialist work can be, of course, and have been,

attacked on a number of counts. There is nothing, for example,

which makes a cultural materialist immune from starting with

false premises or using faulty instruments, but the strength of the

strategy is precisely that results can be examined, subjected to

verification, and overturned, using the same epistemological

principles upon which the strategy is based. While the above is

only the briefest outline of those principles, Harris (1980), Ross

(1980), Price (1982) and Harris and Ross (1987) provide a much

more exhaustive treatment of the cultural materialist strategy.

Bibliographical Comment

Compared to other geographical areas of study, the

literature in Paraguayan studies has always been sparse, indeed.

Fortunately, the social sciences in Paraguay are in their vigorous

youth and Paraguayan scholars are publishing excellent work in

history, sociology, and economics. There are also troves of
untapped data sources in the country that are only recently

yielding information to the prying minds of both Paraguayan and

foreign scholars of all disciplines. As a result, it is not so

infrequent any longer that a real gem appears in the literature of

Paraguayan studies. In fact, it is becoming difficult to keep

abreast of the new works appearing in Asunci6n bookstores and

academic institutions, and there has even been even a modest


surge in scholarly work done in Paraguayan studies in other

countries. A few of these sources have been of particular help in

completing this study, and should be mentioned in the interest of
students of similar issues.

Other equally valuable works have been omitted, not

because of their secondary importance in Paraguayan studies, but

only because they were less appropriate to the issues covered in

this study. Anyone familiar with Paraguayan history would also

be justifiably upset at the omission in this section of some of the
greatest scholars of the country's past, such as Cecilio Bdez, Juan

Natalicio Gonzalez, and many others, several of whom appear in

the Bibliography. These are undoubtedly the giants upon whose

shoulders all contemporary work must stand, but the intention

here is only to highlight those works of most use to a basic

understanding of the country's history and contemporary social


A number of sources have served as classics and mainstays

in the study of Paraguayan history for many years. The published

works of Fl6ix de Azara, written toward the end of the eighteenth

century provide firsthand data on seemingly every aspect of

colonial life in Paraguay and the Rio de la Plata region.

Commissioned by the Portuguese king to report on the assets of

the South American territories, Azara spent much time in

Asunci6n, where he combed the colonial archives, one of the

oldest on the continent. Many of those original sources have since

been lost, and it is only through this remarkable scholar that

much early history survives. He was also an accomplished, though

informally trained, geographer and biologist, and anticipated

Buffon in his classification and description of species of the lower


Azara, other than his merits as a scholar, was a meticulous

Spanish bureaucrat, as was another author of the same period, too

often ignored by modern historians. Juan Francisco Aguirre, a

frigate captain, left a voluminous diary of his travels in the region

during the same general period as Azara. Aguirre was a superb

mapmaker and logician as well as an interested observer of all

aspects of colonial life. His work was finally made accessible to

scholars when the National Library in Buenos Aires published a

transcription of his diary in three volumes and four parts in its

Revista, between 1949 and 1951.

Readers of English are fortunate in that there is a small

number of qualitatively excellent works on Paraguay which, taken

together, constitute a solid referential core of historical material.

For many years, the only really authoritative work on general

Paraguayan history was Harris Gaylord Warren's Paraguay: An

Informal History, published in 1949. Between 1976 and 1981,

however, there was an outpouring of very good work on

Paraguayan history. Warren's central volume was followed by the

same author's work on the Triple Alliance War (1978), as well as

John Hoyt Williams' (1979) history of The Rise and Fall of the

Paraguayan Republic 1800-1870. Adalberto L6pez, in 1976,

wrote about another critical time in the country's history with

Revolt of the Comuneros, 1721-1735. During the same fertile

period for Paraguayan studies, Richard Alan White published a

central work dealing with one of the most fascinating figures in

world history, Jos6 Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia (Paraguay's

"Supreme Dictator from 1811 to his death in 1840), and Paul

Lewis (1980) released the story of Francia's contemporary, the

enigmatic dictator Alfredo Stroessner, president of the country

from 1954 to 1988. In 1981 Michael Grow helped considerably to

round out a complete coverage of the country's history with his

Good Neighbor Policy and Authoritarianism in Paraguay, an

excellent short history of Paraguay after the Chaco War, fought

from 1932 to 1935. In fact, the only major period of the country's

history which remains to be examined by a principal work in

English is the early twentieth century through the Chaco War.

A number of scholars have done new and intriguing work on

different aspects of colonial history. One of the most noteworthy

examples of recent scholarship was Juan Carlos Garavaglia's work

on the economics and sociology of trade in the colonial era in

Mercado interno y economia colonial (1983). Especially valuable

is his treatment of the economy of yerba mate, which played such

a predominant part in early Paraguayan history. Historical

demography has also been the subject of much investigation, and

a good overview of the work is presented in a collection edited by

Domingo Rivarola (1974), La Poblacidn del Paraguay. An idea of

how controversial aspects of Paraguayan demographic history can
be is clear in the revisionist statement of the country's death toll

during the Triple Alliance War, by Vera Blinn Reber (1988), a

version which will surely come under heavy challenge (Whigham

and Potthast 1990).

Carlos Pastore wrote the definitive study of the history of

land. land tenure, and land reform in Paraguay. La Lucha por la

Tierra en el Paraguay. His work formed the basis for a number of

posterior works, such as work by the opposition political figure

Domingo Laino which deals with the divestment of the national

patrimony after the Triple Alliance War and during the twentieth

century. Branislava ("Branka") Susnik is undoubtedly the

doyenne of Paraguayan historical anthropology, and all other

authors bow to her authority in matters of the ethnology of the

native peoples of the country. Miguel ("Gato") Chase-Sardi and

Bartomeu Melid, on the other hand, have written on the impact of

the indigenous culture on the gestalt of traditional rural Paraguay.

The social sciences have been held suspect during the

administration of the Stroessner dictatorship. The faculty of

sociology of the Catholic University of Asunci6n was closed down

by government order for many years because of the "subversive"

nature of social research. For many years, the only real

institutional refuge of the social scientists was the Centro

Paraguayo de Estudios Sociales (CPES), a private institute of social

research. The directors of CPES were of necessity circumspect in

the activities they could "legitimately" sanction, but they

nevertheless succeeded admirably in sheltering some very fine

students of Paraguayan society and culture. A very large

percentage of the scholarly research of note has either been

published by the editorial branch of CPES or by their journal, the

Revista Paraguaya de Estudios Sociales. During later years, a

number of younger social scientists have split from CPES to found

similar, independent, research and publishing entities, although

competition for scarce resources affects the stability and

composition of these new groups to the extent to which it is

probably unhelpful to mention them here individually.

The directors of CPES have published or edited many

volumes on different aspects of Paraguayan society and history.

Dr. Domingo Rivarola concentrates on Paraguayan economic and

demographic history, as well as contemporary rural social issues.

Graziella Corvalin, on the other hand, has had an enormous impact

on linguistic research in the country and investigation of all

aspects of bilingualism, diglossia, and history of language in


Some of the principal young scholars who have been or are

still closely associated with CPES include Ram6n Fogel, Daniel

Campos (rural sociology), Lufs Galeano (economics), and Roberto

CUspedes (political science). Almost every other scholar of

historical and social questions in Paraguay has also been in some

way involved with CPES, either as staff or as contributor to their

journal, editorial, or seminar series. A bibliography of work made

available through CPES would surely constitute the most

authoritative core of research and information regarding

contemporary Paraguayan studies, as well as a list of the country's
most energetic and imaginative scholars.


1 Rare exceptions include two excellent anthropologically oriented
studies of change in rural Paraguay from two different perspectives.
by Ramiro Dominguez (1966) and Ram6n Fogel 1986).

2 A not uncommon solution to this problem of giving equal credit to
both ancestral branches is what could be termed "the poetic option"
such as that taken by Benitez (1967: 83) who declares that "In whose
substrata beats [the heart of] the Guarani but whose culture is of the
Spanish style. Transformed, then, the European had been
impregnated by the medium."

3 The Archive, housed in an historic building in the center, could
still be accurately described, as did Williams (1969: x-xi), as a
"forbidding disarray ... atmospheric ... cuadro de costumbres.
Curiously, though, one could hardly imagine a more congenial place
to sit down and browse, given the friendliness of the Archive staff
and the close proximity of the ever idiosyncratic street scene outside
the wide-opened windows.

4 Critics of cultural materialism (e.g., Roseberry 1989: 19)
frequently overlook, or ignore, the "emic" aspect of the methodology
which recognizes the dynamism and creativity inherent in culture.
As long as determinism is probabilistic rather than absolute,
ideologies and "moral choices" are always essential in fleshing out
social and cultural histories (see Harris 1990: 205).

5 This is not to say that change is not ever-present. Equilibrium is
maintained in a dynamic state, which means that feedback
mechanisms are constantly in operation which tend to "regulate"
social phenomena. This interplay between elements of a system
appears, especially up close, as constant movement and change. The
closer that one is apt to stand in relation to a particular historical
event, the more "radical" that event is apt to appear even though it
may be a very minor social phenomena, indeed, within the context of
true culture change.

6 Stability must not be overlooked as a phenomenon in its own right
(see Gould 1993) and must be explained as a result of a peculiar
matrix of infrastructural, structural and superstructural elements
which are in at least tentative equilibrium.


The Land

On a map, Paraguay appears as an unremarkable lozenge in the

center of a continental land mass. The Paraguayan tourist bureau

proclaims that the country is the Corazdn de America. Citizens and

school children delight in the phrase, but the flip side of the saying

"Heart of America" is the more troubling reality that Paraguay is

practically buried in the heart of a continent, with limited (and

expensive) access to the seas which invigorated the commercial and

cultural horizons of its neighbors. True, the Paraguay-Paranti river

system, second largest in South America after the Amazon, provides

access to important maritime ports, but the rivers--particularly the

Paraguay, which serves the capital of Asunci6n--are more impressive

in their expansive width than in their depth and navigability. The

Rio Paraguay, particularly in dryer times of the year, is too shallow

for all but the lightest of ocean-going vessels. The Parani, distant

from the commercial heart of the country, is too swift and beset with

rapids upstream from the confluence with the Rio Yguazi to serve as

a truly navigable river for major commercial exchange. In fact, not

until 1991 was a major port constructed on the upper Parani, about

two hundred kilometers upstream from the hitherto only important

port at Encarnaci6n (ABC Color 6/1/91: 1).

Figure 2.1 Map of Paraguay

Many authors emphasize the geographic isolation of Paraguay,

and the effect that this has had on the history and development of

the country and its people. Historians are ambivalent; while all agree

that the country was hindered in its initial development by severely

restricted access to the sea, many also observe that the same

inaccessibility probably accounted in no small way for the continued

sovereignty and independence of the country (e.g., Pendle 1967: 81).

In this respect, one should heed the observation of scholars in

another field, who insist that there is "a similarity between cultural

and biological evolution worth noting: geography seems to play an

important role in each. Geography isolates" (Eldredge and Tattersall

1982: 180; their emphasis). Isolation, in turn, can lead both to

independent evolution as well as stasis, but both of these conditions

are elements of history.

Just so, an appreciation of the physical resources and

limitations of the country is essential to understanding the course of

its historical development. This realization guided the work of

several of Paraguay's most important historical and social

commentators, such as F61ix de Azara and Natalicio Gonzalez, and

stands in opposition to others who explain Paraguayan history as an

ideological heritage derived from the pre-Colombian Guarani and the

early colonial populations, which reinforced a "tradition" of
government by ruthless and powerful dictators.1 Miranda (1990),

for example, in an analysis of the Stroessner dictatorship, attempts to

show how this twentieth century phenomenon was a logical, almost

obvious, result of historical preordination, based on a set of


particular values inherent in the population (see also Hanratty and

Meditz 1990: 4; Roctt and Sacks 1991; see Cardozo 1988 for a

critique of this view). This view, of course, fosters an image of a

population which, although adaptive--in the sense that these "values"

abet survival--is almost pathologically predestined to subservience.

More important, it neglects--and is utterly incable of explaining--the

uncountable instances of popular initiative and rebellion which have

checkered much of the country's history, as well as fundamental

changes taking place in contemporary Paraguay.

Besides the purely physical infrastructure of the country, one

must have a basic understanding of changing demographic, economic,

and technological realities to appreciate the causes of rapid change

after a long period of what many view as virtual stagnation. Such

knowledge also goes far in explaining contemporary problems, issues,

and challenges, and provides a basis for a discussion of the

microcosm of Tobati.

By starting with a description of the physical realities of both

the country and, to a lesser degree, the locale of Tobati, I hope to

provide a solid context for a realistic historical account of the country

and the town which follows in the next two chapters. I will briefly

examine both geographic and geological infrastructures, as well as

ecological bases resulting from the continued interaction between

human populations and the physical environment. Much of this will
resurface in the chapters which follow, but in a different and, I hope,

more meaningful context. Finally, I will provide a broad overview of

the transformation of the rural sector in general in the country, and


how that is related to new economic realities and demographic


Paraguay's apparent geographical unimportance may be

exaggerated by its proximity to its two gigantic neighbors; Argentina

and, particularly, Brazil. Even its northern neighbor, Bolivia, is very

large by comparison.

In fact, Paraguay is not so insignificant in its physical size as

sovereign nations go. With 406,000 square kilometers, Paraguay is

the size of the state of California, almost ten times the size of

Switzerland, a third again larger than Italy, and it outranks unified

Germany, Finland, VietNam, and Poland, in terms of sheer size (Rand

McNally 1985). I begin with these observations not only to give a

notion of the physical size of the nation, but also to emphasize from

the beginning that size alone can not be considered as a significant

factor to explain the trajectory of Paraguayan history nor the

direction that it might take in future years. This is important,

because in Paraguay one so constantly hears a kind of apologia from

Paraguayans--both citizens and officials--about the country's small

size that it appears to border on what Argentine humorist Quino

(Salvador Joaquin Lavado) terms a "complex of muychiquitismo".

Foreign observers also abet this notion, although frequently in an

oblique and perhaps unconscious way. Instead, a host of other factors

also must be considered, ranging from the country's physical and

human resources to the limits placed on economic and social options

both within the country and at the level of the world economy.

However, and only seemingly contradictorally, we must return

to the question of geography and size, although in the sense that it is


closely related to variables such as population, climate, technologies,

and modes of production. First of all, until recently, reference to

Paraguay in historical or economic analyses has been understood as

Paraguay oriental, or eastern Paraguay, which covers some forty

percent of the country's territory; that part lying east of the

Paraguay River. In fact the differences between eastern Paraguay

and the Gran Chaco, lying to the west of the river, are so marked in

terms of geography, climate, and resource potential, that even

Paraguayans tend to conceptualize the Chaco as wild, dangerous, and


The Paraguavan Chaco

The Chaco,which also includes vast areas of both Argentina and

Bolivia, was one of the last regions of South America to be wrested

from the control of hostile Indians; typically nomadic horse-riding

bands, for the most part completely unrelated either linguistically or
culturally to the Tupi-Guarani groups on the eastern side of the

Paraguay River. Remnants of these warlike tribes, while greatly

diminished in numbers, are still an important segment of the

population of the Paraguayan Chaco although they are thoroughly

deculturated and survive as a servile labor force for the ranchers,

farmers, and extractive industries in the area (Steward and Faron

1959: 413).
At present, less than three percent of Paraguay's population

lives in the Chaco, which comprises over 247,000 of the country's

total area of 406.000 square kilometers. Other than the Indian labor

force, a cluster of successful Mennonite colonies constitutes the most

important agriculture-based population. The greatest part of the

land is in the hands of both foreign and Paraguayan ranchers, who

range herds extensively over vast, largely unimproved, private

holdings which may cover hundreds or thousands of square

kilometers (see Laino 1976: Anexo 9 for early land endowments).

The major industry, declining in importance, is the felling of

quebracho (literally, "ax-breaker") trees, for the extraction of natural

tannin, used in curing leather hides. Otherwise the Mennonites have

contributed importantly to deforesting the area through the

extraction of a waxy "essence" (used in cosmetics and varnishes)
from the aromatic wood of the palo santo tree, a very slow growing

broadleaf which has one of the most dense and heavy woods in the

plant kingdom (L6pez et al. 1987: 384). The Mennonites more

recently embarked on the industrial-level production of charcoal as

fuel for the country's modest iron industry, which utilizes less

valuable species in the area.

While economic activity is viable at the scale it is practiced, the

extremely low population densities of the Chaco2 are easy to explain.

Beginning with startling abruptness at the western bank of the

Paraguay River, the Chaco bears little similarity to the eastern half of

the country. A brief glance at the geology of Paraguay shows how

fundamental the difference is. The Chaco, almost in its entirely, is

formed of extremely deep sediments of Andean origin. This

sedimentary layer is up to two thousand feet thick, and is mostly
unconsolidatedd to semiconsolidated sand and clay" (Eckel 1959a: 68,

77). The potential fertility of the Chaco soils is severely limited by a
"periodic lack of water" and "bad water. . so highly mineralized as to


be unfit for most uses" (Eckel 1959a 99). What is most striking is the

uniformity of the Chaco's geology, with significant variation occurring

only near the northern border with Bolivia (Eckel 1959b; GOP and

OAS 1986a).

Finally, the Chaco is very different from eastern Paraguay in

climate, especially in terms of rainfall. Unlike eastern Paraguay,

rainfall is seasonal. As an entire region, the area may be wholly

flooded during part of the year, only to lose the last of its surface

water to drought scant months later, as summer temperatures soar

above 100 degrees F (Eckel 1959: 8). However, in spite of these

devastating floods, there is also considerably less total rainfall. On a

map, the pluviometric isolines that illustrate mean annual rainfall

distribution show a direct correlation between rainfall and longitude.

Moving westward from the Paraguay River at Asunci6n, rainfall

drops from 1400 mm/year to 500 mm/year at the most western

part of the Paraguayan Chaco (Paraguay 1986b). To date, there has

been little exploration for water in deep wells in the Chaco, and the

possibilities of wide-scale irrigation using Paraguay River water

remain beyond the capabilities of the government or the private


Because of these very real limitations, the Chaco continues to

be an area of very extensive ranching and extractive industry, and

the largest part is still under nearly impenetrable thornbush and
scrub forest. The only exceptions are a "typically Paraguayan" small-

farm economy in a small area across the river from Asunci6n, where

the landscape is still familiar to Paraguayans, and the Mennonite

colonies, which owe their success largely to advanced technologies


(often financed internationally) beyond the scope of large-scale

application by Paraguayan colonists. The Paraguayan government,

during a time of relative prosperity, did initiate an ambitious

program to pave the TransChaco Highway, and to date they have

completed 700 kilometers, reaching Filadelfia, near the Mennonite

developments (map, p. 37). While there was some promotion on the

government's part of Paraguayan agricultural colonies in the Chaco,

the TransChaco program probably had more to do with geopolitical

concerns (vis-a-vis Bolivia) and promotion of the large-scale

livestock establishments. Because of the severe limitations of the

Chaco, it is clear that it will be many years before it will become a

major axis of migration and colonization by the Paraguayan people.

Eastern Paraeuav

It should be clear from the preceding discussion that an
overview of the physical infrastructural attributes of the Chaco

would be essential to understanding a history of the trajectory of

development in the area. El Paraguay oriental is much more diverse

and complex in geography and resource potential, but an

understanding of these bases is likewise important in appreciating

both Paraguayan history and the various forms of ecological and

socio-political relationships that came to define contemporary

Paraguayan society.
Until Paraguay vindicated its claim to the Chaco after a

successful, if bloody, war with Bolivia (1932-1935), eastern Paraguay

was the only territory indisputably Paraguayan. It was this part of

the country that inspired so many travellers and itinerant residents


to describe it as a "natural paradise" (Lopez 1976: i), a "natural

Arcadia" (Pendle 1967: 81), or otherwise report on "the natural

richness of the country and consequent ease of life there" (Williams

1979: 3). As Williams further observes ibidd.) "There can be no doubt

that nature paraded all its bounty in Paraguay." Charles Ames

Washburn (quoted in Warren 1949: p. 246), the United States' first

minister penipotentiary to Paraguay, described the country as "a

suburb to the Castle of Indolence," since the natural wealth of the

place enabled the citizens to lead lives of "lazy idleness and harmless

delights." Likewise, Thomas Carlyle (n.d.: 366) in his 1843 essay on

Francia, remarks on the Paraguayans' "drowsy life, of ease and

sluttish abundance."

Indeed, all of eastern Paraguay is startlingly verdant,

harboring a wide variety of ecosystems, such as broadleaf, evergreen

tropical to semi-tropical forests, broad grasslands studded with

"islands" of dense forest, and low-lying areas of permanent grassy

wetlands. Domesticated livestock thrives in the country, as does a

rich variety of native fauna. In thinly populated parts of the country

where they are not yet hunted out, panthers, jaguars, capybaras (a

four-foot, 110-pound rodent), tapir, caiman, and deer are abundant,

while the South American ostrich (iiandu, or rhea) is only the most

notable of the immense number of avian species that make the
country an ornithologist's (and exotic animal and skin smuggler's)

paradise (Warren 1949: 8).

Until recently, landlocked Paraguay has been a "riverside

nation" (Pendle: 1967). "Old" Paraguay (the eastern part) is bordered

on the west by the Paraguay River and on the south and east by the

deeper and swifter Parana. The two great rivers debouch at the

southwest point of the country below Pilar to form the lower Parand,

the second river of the continent after the Amazon. Lacking any

other efficient transportation network, minor rivers served the

interior of the country until the late 1950s. Nearly all of these

rivers--the Tebicuary, ManduvirA, Jejuf, Aguaray, Ypan6, and Apa--

drain into the Paraguay, further enhancing Asunci6n's status as chief

port city and further isolating the more eastern part of the territory.

While Paraguay still has, at best, a very deficient road network,

an ambitious government program paved roads to both the

Argentine and Brazilian borders during the 1960s, facilitating

overland trade. Otherwise, the country has relied for years on one of

the oldest railroad lines on the continent, still barely upgraded since

the last century. Wood-burning steam engines still provide service

between Asunci6n and Encarnaci6n, where a transfer to Ferrocarriles

Argentinas carries passengers on to Buenos Aires. While most raw
cargo (grains, cotton, and tobacco) is still exported via river,

increased tonnage is transported by truck (mainly to Brazil) on

newly paved highways.
The waterways have lost much of their former importance with

one major exception: the deep and rapid Parand was recognized as

one of the most valuable sources of hydroelectric energy in the
world. Joining in a bi-national venture with Brazil, the two countries

completed the Itaipt dam in 1984, which now generates more

electricity than any other facility in the world. A nearly equally

massive undertaking (Yacyreta) is presently being constructed in

agreement with Argentina, and yet a third (Corpus) is scheduled to


begin within a few years. Discussed in more detail below, it became

evident that Paraguay's rivers will turn the country into the largest

electric energy exporter in the world by the mid-1990s. (Hanratty

and Meditz 1990: xv).

The physical infrastructure

The land between the rivers is rolling to flat countryside, well

watered, and fertile. The territory is intersected by a number of

ranges of low mountains, of which the Cordillera Central--where

Tobati is located--is a minor one. The most important range is the

Cordillera de Amambay and Mbaracayd which defines the

northeastern border with Brazil, but even the tallest of these

mountains only rise some 700 meters above the broad central

expanse of the region. On a whole, the eastern part of Paraguay is

inclined in a westerly direction toward the Paraguay River, dropping

from about five hundred meters above sea level to about one

hundred meters at Asunci6n. In very few areas does physical relief

present a serious obstacle to cultivation, and it is clear that the

country has the capability to support much larger populations than

have been historically recorded, or perhaps underestimated in the

case of pre-colonial populations (Hay 1986).

The geology of the territory is stable, and ultimately accounts

for its wealth in natural resources, even if also for its disappointing

(for Paraguayans, tragic) lack of mineral resources. While not highly

complex, the geology of the eastern region is varied, especially in

relation to the uniformity of the Chaco.

Eckel (1959a: 11) divides the rocks of Paraguay into five main

types, although the formations of perhaps greatest interest are the


"igneous extrusive and intrusive rocks." These underlie most of the

eastern border region, which was the target of a massive colonization

program launched during the early 1970s. This material is not of

great age and consists of a large basaltic flow which extends deep

into Brazil "where [it reaches its] maximum thickness in the Parani

basin" (see also Paraguay 1986b). Eckel refers to these large beds as

the "Serra Geral lavas" (1959b). Ultimately, these rocks are the

foundation for the very fertile soils in the region (in Brazil, famed as

the terra roxa) which eventually accounted for a boom in agricultural

production and exports that has continued unabated for the past
twenty years. Similar material underlies large parts of the central

zone around Asunci6n; the area which supported small communities

of peasant farmers at relatively high population densities for over

four hundred years after the conquest.

A greater part of eastern Paraguay's bedrock consists of older
sedimentary rocks of continental origin; principally sandstones, but

also limestone and marble. While the soils throughout the eastern

part of the country may be very deep, these formations frequently

break the surface in the form of outcrops, bluffs or hills, so the

parent material is rarely so deep that weathering does not contribute

to the renovation of fairly fertile soils. In the southern. Misiones,

area, these sedimentary materials underlie some of the country's

richest pastureland.

Finally, in the area of the Central Cordillera--in which Tobati is

located--the rocks are micaceous and fine granite-based white

sandstones which often break through in "prominent and impressive

hills," particularly outside of the town of Tobati (Eckel 1959: 55).


Because this material lies, in large areas, so near the surface, it is

extremely friable, and forms the basis of the white crumbly soils

common in the area. More significantly, it is interlaced with clay pits

and thick layers of clays, possibly resulting from altered shales, as

well as deposits of ochres and chalk. Just east of Tobati, however,

this sandstone bed "dips below the surface of the broad valley of the

Rio Piribebuy [see map, p. xxJ. The underlying beds are covered

almost everywhere by as much as 6 meters of river-deposited clay,

silt, and sand" (Eckel 1959: 56). The more highland areas in the

Cordillera Central, such as the areas more to the west of the town,

have historically been noted more for their (mostly non-metallic)

mineral resources than for their agricultural potential (Azara 1943a:


However, it should be plain that, on the whole, Paraguay's

economy has always been dependent on the bounty of its soils and

climate. Later in this work I will have more to say on mineral

resources of the country, but for the moment it will suffice to point

out that the country shows no proof of possessing what the people

most covet. Gold has been the legendary stuff of myth and legend in

Paraguay but, in spite of tales of buried treasures and lost ore

deposits, frustratingly out of reach. In the modern period, oil has

been the object of both widespread rumor and hope. The Bolivians

have been pumping it for years just scant miles north of the border
of the Paraguayan Chaco, over which so much blood was spilled, and

more recently the Argentines have discovered oil barely south of the

Pilcomayo River, which marks another major border.


In any case, eastern Paraguay, given its bedrock geology and

benign climate, has a very high potential for agricultural

productivity. In the eastern border region, particularly, estimates

for arability range up to 92 percent, with sixty percent considered

suitable for intensive cultivation (World Bank 1978; Nickson 1981).

In a 1979 study, the World Bank concluded that, of the total area of

Paraguay (including the Chaco), 19.7 percent was suitable for crop

production, versus the figure of 3.8 percent in crop production at

that time, signifying an enormous potential for increased cultivation.

Considering that the vast pasturages of the Chaco would not be

suitable for crop production, the figure for the eastern half of the

country alone would be very much higher, at the order of 62.7

percent (GOP 1985: 101).

Natural soil fertility is only one ingredient in land use

capabilities. Rainfall is abundant in the eastern part of the country,

averaging about 1400 mm/year in the area of Asunci6n and

increasing to 1700 mm/year toward the eastern border region

(Paraguay 1986b). There is no definable rainy season, and droughts

are rare. The soils are well-drained, and irrigation is generally not

necessary, except in the case of rice and certain horticultural crops.

Furthermore, while there is an occasional frost, or even a devastating

hail. the climate allows for a two-crop system, divided between

summer and winter produce.

Significantly, the same World Bank study cited above suggested

that 43.4 percent of the country's area would be most productive if

left under forest cover. Considering the great number of often

valuable forest species that are native to the country, and the high

rate of migration to new land areas, it is not surprising that the

country is losing its natural forests at one of the highest rates in the

world. Understandably, the areas of most rapid deforestation are the

areas of colonization where new populations utilize more advanced

technologies to strip some 1500 to 2000 square kilometers per year

(Seyler 1990: 129; FAO 1981: 258), a significant percentage of the

remaining forest cover in the region. Furthermore, eastern Paraguay

harbors many species of valuable hardwoods, but since mill

capacities cannot handle the enormous amount of material, only the

finest trees are exploited while the remainder is simply burned in
the field (Hay 1984).

As for the central region of the country, the Services' 1954

book was illustrated with a photo of an alzaprima, or giant-wheeled

kind of oxcart, hauling a huge log cut just outside of Tobati. Most

assuredly, there is not a single tree left of similar stature in the

whole region of the town today, and an alzaprima has probably not

been in use in twenty years. At present, the central region of the

country is virtually denuded of tall forest, and most households must

buy charcoal to replace firewood. Otherwise, all members of the

poorer households keep a sharp eye out for firewood throughout

their daily activities, and scavenge sticks of dry wood where they

may. In more densely populated parts of the country, of course, the

problem is exacerbated by the fact that Paraguayans use over three

times as much fuelwood, per capital, than any other South American

country (Seyler 1990: 129), probably because of the lack of

electricity, coal, and petroleum products as alternate sources of

energy. The kind of habitat destruction that this fosters has


depopulated the central region of the country of virtually all of its

non-avian predator species as well as deer and other species

valuable as food for human populations. The same scenario is being

repeated at a much faster rate at present in the rest of the country.

The rural transformation

This transformation of the landscape accompanied a rapid

change in the swidden-type agricultural practices common only a

very few years ago (see Weil et al. 1972: 186-188). In the newly

colonized areas targeted as "axes" (ejes) of development, the more
modest holdings of the migrants from the traditional areas of

settlement tend to be absorbed into larger tracts controlled by

farmers with the capital and knowledge to utilize advanced

technologies in the form of machinery and chemicals (Fogel 1989;

Campos 1982; Wilson, Hay and Margolis 1989). In the areas of new

settlement, at least, this led to the widespread practice of intensive

monocrop production of exportable commodities, most notably

soybeans but also including cotton, wheat, and sugar cane.

In the central zone where small farmers still predominate,

there has likewise been a strong shift in production techniques,

although the more labor intensive crops, such as cotton, tobacco,

manioc, corn, and beans are favored. In the most densely inhabited

parts of the country, with a ready access to the capital, there is a new

emphasis on horticultural products to satisfy the demand by the

city's new supermercados as well as the burgeoning open-air

Mercado Cuatro (Zoomers 1988: 66). A great deal of this shift away
from more traditional methods of subsistence agriculture has

occurred in a period of only ten to fifteen years (cf. Ewart 1977, for

example), which indicates the strength of the economic and

demographic imperatives at play in the country.
The most illustrative case of this change can be seen in the role

of a single crop: soybeans. Seyler (1990: 118) emphasizes that "It is
difficult to exaggerate the drastic growth soybeans enjoyed in

Paraguay." The crop was virtually unknown in Paraguay during the

late 1960s. In 1970, over 54,000 hectares were planted for a
harvest of about 70.000 tons. Production and profitability began to
rise meteorically, perhaps aided by the El NiFo events of 1972-73

and 1982-83 which destroyed fishing off the coast of Peru and, in
turn, encouraged soy as a substitute for fish meal in livestock feeds

in industrialized countries (Ludlow 1985). In any case, by 1987

production capped one million tons, and more than 700,000 hectares

were planted in the crop. The export of soy netted the economy over

$150 million dollars annually (Seyer 1990: 118), and much of that
income was used to further the application of technologies to further

increase yields. Indeed, during the 1990-91 season--only three
years later--the crop was expected to yield about 1,200,000 tons,
making Paraguay one of the largest soy exporters in the world

(Coyuntura economic, no. 45, 1990: pp. 14, 16).

Although a traditional crop grown since colonial times, cotton,

which tends to be cultivated by the smaller to medium producers,

has also enjoyed a recent boom, although often wildly fluctuating
market prices affect areas planted on a yearly basis (and sufficient
labor for harvest is also a perennial crisis). While Seyer (1990: 118)
notes the increase in the cotton crop from 1970 (37,000 tons) to

1985 (159,000 tons), the record harvest in 1989 of 750,000 tons

cannot seem but extraordinary (Coyuntura economic, no. 39, 1989:

25). Continued harvests at this level make cotton the country's most

productive crop, and promise to make Paraguay a major exporter of

the commodity (FBIS Dec. 27, 1991: 36).

These kinds of increases in the basic commodities production,

as summarized in Table 2.1, could only be accomplished by a

fundamental change in modes of production--from one based on

family labor for subsistence with a small excedent for trade (the

classic peasant economy [Wolf 1966]) to one based on wage labor and

automation (agro-industry). The magnitude of the change can be

inferred by the fact that the two crops now account for fully eighty

percent of the country's exports (IDB 1991: 98). However, there was

considerable "horizontal" growth--growth in production as a result of

increased acreage--in agriculture as well. The 3.8 percent of land

under cultivation in 1979, mentioned above, had increased to over

eleven percent by 1989, although most of that increased acreage was

under mechanized production (Coyuntura econdmica no. 44, 1989:


A half generation ago, the major exports were mostly
extractive in nature: timber, free-range beef, and a variety of less

important products, with cotton and tobacco trailing far behind as

cultigens (Weil et al. 1972: 228). In 1972 it was still stated with

authority that "Paraguay is one of the few countries in which

gathering remains a pursuit of economic importance" ibidd.: 17).

Today, with the possible exception of timber, such technologically

barren production activities account for a relatively miniscule

percentage of total trade.

Table 2.1

Agricultural Production (in tons) for Paraguay






























a Years 1943 and 1956 from Censo Agropecuario (Ministerio de Agricultura y
Ganaderia 1943; 1956).

b Small Farmer Sub-Sector Assessment 1975 (USAID, Asunci6n), citing the
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderfa and the Banco Central del Paraguay.

c ABC Color (Asuncidn, Jan. 19, 1984) citing the Censo Agropecuario of the
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderfa, 1981.

d Ministcrio de Agricultura y Ganaderia. Direcei6n de Censo y Estadisticas
Agropecuarias. Feb., 1993.

Other important crops include tobacco and palm nuts (for oil)

for exports, and food crops such as manioc, corn, beans, sweet

potatoes, and rice for domestic consumption. Unlike the two big

export crops mentioned above, production of food crops has basically

kept pace with population growth, although in some cases--as with

the staple, manioc--it has fallen behind (Zoomers 1988: 87). While it

is true that, for the most part, these great increases in production are

the result of increased acreages and increased yields based on new

technologies, there is no doubt that much of this increase (in the case

of cotton, for example) has been a direct result of a decline in

subsistence farming in favor of monocrop cash-cropping. The

concommitant phenomena of changes in demographic patterns and

modes of production have much to do with the story of modern

Tobati, and will be examined in detail in later chapters.

The Modern Social Landscape

The Emergence of Finance Capitalism

As Galeano (1991: 2) points out, Paraguay underwent a

revolution during the late 1970s and early 1980s in the role that

investment and finance capital played in transforming both the rural

and urban landscape. Apart from the massive influx of capital based
on the hydroelectric construction projects briefly mentioned above,

the government also legislated highly permissive investment laws

that attracted "flows of capital in volumes unknown in the history of

the country," not to mention official tolerance of contraband trade in


commodities, luxury items, and drugs, which gained for Paraguay the

dubious sobriquet of contraband capital of South America (see Roett

and Sachs 1991: 76). While figures are understandably hard to pin

down, it is likely that the volume of illegal (smuggled) trade "at the

very least came close the matching that of legal commerce during the

mid-1980s and possibly surpassed it" (Cooke 1990: 236-37). It
would be equally difficult, if not impossible, to measure the amount

of hard currency which flows through the country's many ill-

regulated exchange houses--Casas de Cambio--which have the

capacity to function as laundromats for all the major currencies of

the world. While servicing the tourist who wishes to exchange

twenty dollars for local currency, these places also deal with clients

with briefcases stuffed with cash or laden with bullion--often in

plain view, but more commonly in warrens of small back rooms.

Both contraband and exchange funds are transient, but some

significant percentage does accrue to swell the reserve of purely

speculative capital in the country.

International financial institutions have been generous in their

support of emergent capitalist enterprise through provisioning of

capital for investment. Not surprisingly, the three largest industries

in the country are cotton ginning, cotton spinning, and edible oils

(both from soy and palm nuts), and the Inter-American Development
Bank has recognized the need for "long-term financing for industrial

investment" (IDB 1991: 98). That institution alone has has invested

$654 million in Paraguay since 1961, and less than one quarter of

disbursements were distributed for environment, public health,

education, science, and technology. In addition to the infusion of

capital to stimulate investment in the above industries, the Bank also

hopes to facilitate agricultural storage and transportation by building

more silos and larger river barges ibidd.: 98-99).

However, for truly serious players, the game in Paraguay

continues to be energy. The construction of Itaip6, alone, was

acheived at the cost of some twenty billion dollars, of which about

two billion flowed directly into Paraguay, both for salaries of

thousands of workers, and for strategic materials, such as lumber for

forms, and cement for the base. Also, a number of Paraguayan, or

international "joint-venture" consultancies were founded in Asunci6n

and other South American and European capitals to subcontract for

tasks ranging from basic training and health care for labor, to

equipment maintenance and repair, to the highly technical aspects of

generating vast quantities of energy, all of which accounted for

additional millions in contracts (Roett and Sacks 1991: 71). All this

was, indeed, heady stuff for a country the size of Paraguay. It would

be difficult to estimate the impact of a peripheral aspect of the

construction industry, but the number of palatial mansions built in

Asunci6n during the peak of the Itaipu years was significant as well.

The cumulative result of the feverish economic activity

accompanying the agrarian transformation and hydroeclectric

construction boom was the growth in finance capital. In 1972 there
were ten private commercial banks in Asunci6n, mainly "oriented

toward financing foreign trade and commerce" (Weil et al. 1972:

254). From about 1978 to 1990, however, dozens of much larger

banks, savings and loans, insurance companies, and other financial

institutions opened in the city, the majority of new banks being

multinational in ownership (Seyler 1990: 142-43).

However, the more serious problem is not the unprecedented

and largely unregulated inflows of capital into the country, but the

uses to which it is being put. In 1989 the president of the Central

Bank of Paraguay (BCP), the government's central financial

institution, sharply criticized private sector institutions for mere

speculation, and for only directing credit toward the commercial

sector, while virtually ignoring the needs of the productive sectors
(Coyuntura econ6mica No 44, Dec. 1989: 30). The inevitable result of

such policies is the circulation of capital within a relatively small
group, and the tendency of capital flight toward the exterior, to the

detriment of small producers in agriculture and manufacturing.

Demographic Dynamism

The population of Paraguay is nearly always described as being

remarkable in its homogeneity, both culturally and physically.

However, as the Services observed (1954: 42), this is not quite so if

one considers the numbers and concentrations of diverse peoples

found in the country as a result of immigration. During the middle of

the century, there were whole communities and areas with densely

settled populations of Germans, Ukrainians, Mennonites, Japanese,

and other groups. More recently, a flood of Brazilian immigrants

which began in the late 1960s has converted the eastern border

region into a bicultural Brazilian-Paraguayan zone, where the

Brazilians, and Euro-Brazilians often predominate (Hay 1984).

However, it is just as true that the central zone--the true "nuclear


Paraguay"--is, in fact, almost as pristine in its ethnic homogeneity as

most observers describe. The general historical tendency among

most groups of immigrants has been total cultural and biological

amalgamation with the Paraguayan population (cf. Macintyre 1992).

Therefore, to the extent that one can speak of "nuclear Paraguay" as

a geographical and cultural whole, the claim for homogeneity is


The Paraguayans have always been described as a handsome,

robust and healthy population. During the eighteenth century, Azara

observed that the different peoples--European and Indian--were

"bettered for the mixing" although he was no doubt pleased to note

that the European genotype seemed to be more "inalterable," which

resulted in a general lightening of the population (Azara 1943a: 192).

On the whole, however, the Paraguayans were more "elegantly

formed" than either their Spanish or Indian predecessors, and they

were generally "astute, wise, active and altert.." Lacking a more

precise index for general vitality of a people, Azara's description is

probably as useful today as it was then.

In 1992, with the latest census, the population of Paraguay was

counted at 4,123,550 persons, of whom over 97 percent lived in

eastern Paraguay (Paraguay 1992). This represents a growth rate in

real numbers of over one million since 1982, confirming an

estimated rate of annual growth between 2.5 and 2.9 percent

(Hanratty and Meditz 1990: xiv). Based on these estimates, the

population will climb to above five million by the end of the century.

The impact of this steady growth in population would be apparent to

a Paraguayan old enough to remember the census of 1962--just


thirty years ago--when the country counted 1,854,400 residents

(Paraguay 1982: 29). Population statistics are always suspect in the

country because of porous borders and high rates of migration, but

there is no doubt that the country is feeling the effects of this kind of

population growth.

Even within eastern Paraguay, however, the population is far

from evenly distributed. The central region, the historic home to

most of the country's population, still registers densities of about 42

persons per square kilometer, which means that 38 percent of the

national population resides in seven percent of the national territory

(Zoomers 1988: 34). The Eastern Border Region3 was scarcely more

inhabited than the Chaco before 1970, but since then, hundreds of

thousands of migrants have settled in the border departments after

the government and private sector opened the area during the

1970s. Still, population densities are usually less than 25 persons

per square kilometer in the most densely inhabited parts of what is

the most highly productive area of the country.

Finally, given the fairly high rate of annual growth, Paraguay's

population is disproportionately young, even with declining death

rates among the elderly. The 1982 census showed that 41 percent of

the population was under fifteen years of age. Also, the country is

still predominantly rural (58 percent in 1982), and the overall

fertility rate of rural women was double that of women from

Asunci6n (6.6 percent vs. 3.3 percent) (Paraguay 1986). This

explains why even high migration rates out of the most densely

populated areas of the country have not been, and are not likely to.

relieve pressure on land and other resources in those areas in the


near future (Zoomers 1988). The population is a dynamic one in

terms of growth rates, structure, and movement.

"Free" Lands and Invisible Borders

The Services (1954: 50) noted that, in 1948, title to property

was not generally coveted--and perhaps even considered an outright

liability--by Paraguayan peasants. The reasons for this were

straightforward: there were sparse population densities, an

abundance of cultivable lands, and traditional technologies which

rendered extensive landholdings unprofitable, except in areas of

pastureland or where extractive industry (mainly of yerba mate)

was practiced. This situation prevailed even into the 1970s in some

areas of the country (Ewart 1977: 33), leading some observers to

point out that "Paraguayans are restless people without profound ties

to their place of birth," illustrated by the fact that 22.5 percent of the

population lived in a locality other than place of birth (Weil et al.

1972: 24). However, as will be emphasized in more detail, this

situation is rapidly changing in character with increased population,

changing technologies, and a monetarization of the rural economy

based on new market opportunities for commodity crops. No longer

can massive movement of populations in Paraguay be attributed

simply to opportunity as it may have been in the past.

Still, many Paraguayans had traditionally enjoyed the option of
geographical relocation through simple squatting on lands that were

not "rationally exploited" by their owners. This was a practical

response to generational increase in family size and progressive

decrease in soil fertility over time. It also ensured that population

densities would remain uniformly even and prevent generalized

environmental depletion. Legal landholders tolerated squatters.

Large landowners lacked the technological means to intensify

production on their lands (so-called "vertical" growth [Zoomers

1990]), and squatters offered the possibility of "horizontal" growth

(i.e., increased acreage under cultivation) as a source of labor during

critical times in the production process, such as harvest (Weil et al.

1972: 184). In essence, latifundistas and minifundistas in the central

zone occupied different niches, and as Rivarola (1982: 26) explains,
"there was a clear delimitation between two sub-economies which

did not impose upon one another, nor enter into dispute--in terms of

land, markets, capital, and labor" between the two groups for almost

a century after the War.
Eventually, this tradition of "free lands" was the object of direct

bureaucratic and political frontal attack, following fundamental

changes at a more basic level soon after the mid-1960s. Population

densities in the central region of the country were nearing

intolerable levels and, emulating the Brazilian "March to the West,"

the government, with the assistance of various international

agencies, decided on a course of colonization and resettlement in the

sparsely populated but rich eastern eastern and northern regions of

the country. Such a move was encouraged by generous international

assistance (most notably from the U.S Agency for International
Development) which provided resources to cut new roads into the

area, and the promise by Brazil to build a bridge across the Parani

River, linking Asunci6n, for the first time, overland with the major

cities and seaports of southern Brazil.

Significantly, this era coincided with parallel demographic

developments in southern Brazil, and a consequence of the new

policy was to encourage hundreds of thousands of land-short

Brazilians-who enjoyed advantages in capital and technology (farm

machinery and petro-chemical inputs) foreign to the great majority

of potential Paraguayan settlers--to migrate into the region as well

(Hay 1984: 6). While the region offered great potential for

agriculture, a more fortuitous event was the sudden rise in the value

of soybeans and other commodities mentioned above. Therefore, all

of the elements were in place by the early 1970s for a great

transformation in the area: fertile land, benificent climate, cheap

forms of transportation, technological resources, a potential cheap

labor force, and a high demand in the international marketplace for

the products of the region.

The only element which might be lacking was a mechanism for

regulating migration into, and economic activity within, the area.

Given that the right infrastructural variables were essentially in

place, the government moved in 1963 to create the Institute of Rural

Welfare (IBR), which was to function as a land reform agency,

replacing the old Instituto de Reforma Agraria. However, the

purpose of the new agency was never true land reform (i.e.,

parcelization and redistribution of latifundia to landless or land-short
farmers), but redistribution of the population through settlement on

state lands (Pastore 1972: 464), or, in some cases, lands seized from

perceived adversaries of the government.4

A secondary, unwritten, goal of the IBR apparently was to
enhance the value of land as a commodity in and of itself. While the


agency did establish and title a great number of lots in the newly

colonized regions of the country, at least as many titles were

established for small plots in the densely populated central zone of

the country. Families who may have lived on a particular parcel for
many years were suddenly in the position of being "precarious"

occupiers, and risked danger of eviction should their claim be
challenged by anyone with authority. With a rapidly increasing
population in the area, coupled with new technologies to eke out

sustainable yields on shrinking lots, there was a rapid increment in
land speculation which often led to purely artificial values (Rivarola

1982: 61).
Moreover, the taxes with which new lands in the east were to

be acquired and distributed did not materialize (Pastore 1972: 465).
When state lands were depleted, the IBR could only settle
unproductive latifundia through full payment of the "market value"

of those lands. In order to raise funds, new lands were sold to those
who could pay, which served only to break the enormous latifundia

(sometimes consisting of hundreds of thousands of hectares) into

merely modest latifundia consisting of thousands of hectares. Not
surprisingly, these lots became prebends enjoyed by higher-ranking

military officers, government bureaucrats, and well-heeled foreign

individuals and firms (Rivarola 1982: 75), who either cleared them

for ranching or broke them up in turn and sold them in private
colonization schemes to better-off farmers, often Brazilians of

German origin (Wilson, Hay and Margolis 1989). Paraguayans of

more humble means who did secure lots in the newly colonized areas

tended to be disadvantaged both in terms of capital and technology.


Economic differentiation occurred in remarkably short periods of

time, leading to small-farm failure (inability to meet payments on

land, agricultural inputs, and consumer goods) and eventual

abandonment of sale of improvements to the land without title. The

tendency was for rapid consolidation of land in the new areas of

colonization and the consequent pauperization, proletarianization and

out-migration of the smaller producers, a common process

thoroughly documented for Paraguay and other regions (see Hay

1989; Fogel 1989; Campos 1982; Foweraker 1981; Margolis 1973.

Thus ended a centuries-long tradition of "free" lands in eastern

Paraguay. As stated above, Paraguayans have long been a transitory

population, in spite of the often cited value placed on close family

ties (e.g. Kluck 1990: 65). In the past, however, as will be discussed

more fully in the case of Tobati, rural-rural migration was normally a

question of settling a short distance from the family valle (traditional

home), and relations were closely maintained between sister or

daughter communities. Otherwise, migration to the exterior--nearly

always to Argentina--was a response not only to economic needs, but

to political persecution in its various forms, ranging from forced

military recruitment to "the application of violence as a method in

democratic decision making" (Pastore 1983: 54). Because of the close

cultural affinity between Paraguayans and Argentines (many of

whom, in the north, are Guaranf speakers) the border between the

two countries is virtually "invisible," and Paraguayans have long

passed with ease from one country to the other.

During times of great political upheaval--such as the civil war

of 1947, for example--many Paraguayans from different social


classes "retired" to Argentina, mainly to Buenos Aires. Thus, over

time, a fairly close-knit Paraguayan community became established

in that city which provides a certain security for new arrivals.

However, with opportunities for access to new lands restricted

during and after the 1960s, and a meager industrial base in the

capital limiting urban growth, a great new class of economic 6migrds

began to gather in the Argentine capital, forming ever more dense

networks of relatives and acquaintances from place of origin who

offer support and assistance in finding jobs. The possibility of

migration to Argentina removed a sizeable burden from the

Stroessner government, since estimates of the numbers of

Paraguayans residing in Argentina for both political and economic

reasons is commonly put at up to one quarter to one third of the

entire population of the country (Rivarola 1982: 50). In more recent

years, however, with strong economic growth in Paraguay, and more

dismal economic performance in Argentina, migration has become a

back-and-forth phenomenon, since so many Paraguayans have

developed close personal and family ties in both Buenos Aires and

their valle of origin.5

The issues discussed in this section concerning the physical

infrastructure and potential resources of the country, the possibilities

and challenges posed by new technologies, the changes in economic

imperatives over time, and the overview of more recent

demographic shifts may offer only the broadest background against

which a more intimate understanding of the more subtle aspects of

day-to-day life in rural Paraguay can be comprehended. However,

detail can only be perceived with an idea of the general. A close look


at the town of Tobati, backed by a basic understanding of these

infrastructural forces and the historical imperatives should benefit

from these prior observations.


1 Paraguayan authors are certainly not unique in attempting to
identify the gestalt of their people as a result of mixtures of
psychological traits supposedly inherent in their "blood," and
somehow transmitted across generations. One scholar, for example,
explains that, along with a suite of physical traits, the Guarani
contributed the psychological qualities of ... a sweet and hospitable
character and the tendency to submit to authority; the propensity of
the women to accept the rudest of chores, including the maintenance
of the home. [The Paraguayan] remained retiring and silent, above
all in the presence of strangers. [He is] stoic, sober, and resilient."
From the Spaniard, however, the Paraguayan inherited "intelligence
and mental acuity." Happily, however, the physical traits of the
Peninsular predominated, resulting in a people that "the majority of
observers has always admitted to being a pure white race" (cited in
Pangrazio 1989: 150).

2 According to the 1992 Census, one department of the Chaco, Nueva
Asuncidn, had only 1,426 people in an area of almost 45,000 square
kilimeters. The department, also called Chaco, had only 442 persons.
The entire territory of the Chaco had a total of 97,208 people for an
area close to the size of the state of Arizona.

3 The nomenclature was coined by Nickson (1981) to describe the
strip of land between sixty and 120 kilometers wide which abuts
neighboring Brazil in the east, and was site of massive and rapid
Brazilian and Paraguayan immigration and development.

4 In any case, as will be discussed in Chapter 5, Zoomers (1988)
convincingly shows that this program did virtually nothing to reduce
pressure on lands in the central minifundia areas.

5 The valle is more than the geographical setting of the community.
It also consists of relations of real and fictive kinship, and shared
personal histories that create the identity with community.


Therefore, with massive migration in recent years the valle can be
recreated in the barrios of Asunci6n or even in Buenos Aires.


A sense of a common history is the ideological glue which binds

a population together, whether it be a kin-based lineage, a loosely

formed chiefdom, a modern industrialized state, or even an isolated

ethnic enclave within a larger, perhaps dominant, society. It matters

little whether that history is largely fictitious (idealized) or, as may

be the case, based on years of shared oppression. Premier figures

may be deified or villified by historians, but if they really do "make

history" it is, indeed, under conditions not of their own choosing. The

truest history is the result of the cumulative exigencies of a very real
world which force individuals to make decisions on a day-to-day

basis in order to survive and maintain their identity as a people. The

history of Paraguay is a fine example of this principle.

While every integral population tends to imbue its own history
with a sense of uniqueness and glory, one is occasionally struck by a

particular case; a history which seems truly remarkable in the way

it reveals the forces behind historical change as well as the triumphs

and tragedies of a people involved in a shared struggle with the
material world. For those few scholars who are familiar with the

history of Paraguay, that country offers such an example. John Hoyt

Williams, one of the premier scholars of Paraguayan history in the

English language writes, for example, that "The Paraguayan past is

etched in acid, all sharp line and high relief, few rounded, softened

curves" (1979: ix). On the other hand, Richard Alan White, in a

groundbreaking work on the period of the Franciata (1810-1840--

the time of Paraguay's first post-independence Dictator, Dr. Jos6

Gaspar Rodrfguez de Francia), correctly points out that Paraguayan

history, like that of so many other countries around the world, was

largely shaped by the political economy of European colonialism,
which enforced dependent relationships benefiting the metropoli

over the interests of the colonies (1978).

However, an understanding of proximate causes accounts for

why history may seem eccentric. In Paraguay, for example, Dr.

Francia--"El Supremo"--quite successfully "attacked the interests of

the national and international elites" (White 1978: 8) and, in the

process, "enacted a radical social revolution." This is one specific case

in which Paraguay diverged in remarkable ways from the patterns

which are normally associated with the histories of the many

colonized regions of the world in general and the various Latin

American republics in particular. Because so many of the critical

junctures of Paraguay's history are associated with the name of a

single individual, be it Dr. Francia or General Alfredo Stroessner, the

temptation has always been to treat Paraguayan history in terms of
"great man" theories. As the previous chapter implied, though, it is

more instructive to examine that history with a constant
consideration of more basic factors such as geography, demographics,

resource bases, and political economies. These complexities and

apparent contradictions in formulating an historiography of the

country are perhaps what led a young Paraguayan scholar, Juan


Carlos Herken Krauer, to remark that "Paraguay is not a country--it

is an obsession" (cited in Warren 1985: xvi).

A basic grounding in the history of the country and society
should save the story of modern Tobatf from being "orphaned." and

isolated from a current of which the town is still a part. For example,

the circumstances which led to radical changes in the economic base

of the town are coincident with the forces of "modernization," but the

responses of the Tobatefios to those changes are very much

conditioned by relationships which were formed and proved useful

during times when other modes of production were dominant.

Likewise, some aspects of social organization and behavior which

may seem unintelligible or even bizarre make sense when observed

against the historical backdrop within which they originated. Above

all, a basic understanding of the history of the people may help drive

home the depth of their experience in struggling to survive in a

rapidly changing world which in some ways offers pitifully few overt

cues toward rational behavior.

For purposes of exposition, a brief history of Paraguay could be
divided logically into five broad time periods: the period of the

conquest (1527-1555), colonial Paraguay (1556-1810), independence

through the War of the Triple Alliance (1811-1870), the post-war

period (1871-1955), and a time which can be referred to as
"modern" Paraguay (1956 to the present), beginning soon after the

advent of the Stronato, or Stroessner dictatorship in 1954.1

Fascinating and popularly known as it is, I will treat the case of the

Jesuit "empire within an empire" (L6pez 1976: 40) as tangential to

this history. The Jesuit "state" is probably best described in its own

context, although I will discuss the role of the Jesuits in the

important junctures where they were decisive in the history of

Paraguay as a nation. The final period, corresponding to the modern

era is largely the subject of the work to follow, and will be described

in the context of Tobati.

Mohammed's Paradise or Pangloss' Folly? The Conquest
The first European to penetrate present-day Paraguayan

territory was Aleixo Garcia, an adventurer shipwrecked on the coast

of Brazil who heard tales of riches to the west. Garcia crossed

Paraguayan territory and reached Peru in 1525, but was killed by

Indians on the banks of the Paraguay River upon his return to the

Atlantic. In 1528, Sebastian Cabot sailed up the Parand-Paraguay

River, motivated by the same rumors of mineral wealth in the region.

Failing to find the silver he pursued (legend of which gave the name

to the Rio de la Plata, or lower Parand), Europeans found little reason

to stay in the area. Still, the possibility of an overland route to Peru

prompted other expeditions.

In 1536, Pedro de Mendoza led an exploratory expedition to

the region, and founded the first city of Buenos Aires. Gravely ill

with syphilis, the embattled conquistador sent two lieutenants, Juan

de Ayolas and Juan de Salazar, north up the Parand and Paraguay

rivers. The ambitious Ayolas split his party in two, and set out

overland in search of Peru, leaving his second in command, Domingo

Martinez de Irala behind at the temporary settlement of Candelaria.

In the meantime, the Salazar expedition succeeded in establishing

the fort of Nuestra Sefiora de la Asunci6n on August 15, 1537. The

fort was strategically located on bluffs overlooking a protected bay

on the Paraguay River, and the countryside was heavily populated

with seemingly peaceful Guarani Indians who likely viewed the

Spaniards as possible allies against the marauding Chacoan tribes on

the opposite bank of the river. Meanwhile, Mendoza, the captain-
general and adelantado of half the continent, sought to return to

Spain after Buenos Aires was ravaged by hostile Indians, but died in
mid-voyage. Ayolas and his party fared no better. When Irala,

patiently awaiting his chief's return from Peru, learned that the
party had been massacred by nomadic Chacoans, he joined the

Salazar group in Asunci6n and took command. Popular and able,

Irala would be the dominant figure during the settlement of the

province until his death in 1556.

Irala hardly usurped his new position as adelantado. The
remarkable circumstance regarding his succession concerned a

cddula signed by the King, who heard of the death of Mendoza, but

did not know if he had named a successor. In the case that there

were no clear successor, the King empowered the survivors of the

expedition to gather and freely elect their own governor. The

importance of this event is clear, for as L6pez (1976: 7) explains,

"The c6dula of 1537, which one historian has called the Magna Carta
of colonial Paraguay, is unique in the history of the Spanish
American colonies. No other part of Spain's empire in America
received the privilege of popular elections." Whether the c6dula was
to be applied only to the particular case of Mendoza's heir is unclear,

but the people of Paraguay invoked it often during the next two

centuries to maintain an independent position with regard to the

metropolis--a position tolerated by the Crown only to the extent that
the upstart colony was unimportant in the overall process of New
World conquest and settlement.
As governor, Irala acted decisively. In 1541, he ordered the
few survivors of the Buenos Aires settlement to abandon the fort and
regroup in Paraguay. At this time, the entire population of Spaniards
in the province of Rio de la Plata numbered from 350 to 400, and all
were now in Asunci6n (Service 1954: 20; L6pez 1976: 8). The official
act of foundation of the city was signed on September 16, 1541, and
the first five regidores were elected by lottery from the names of ten
nominees, placed in a water jar with a mouth "small enough to fit the
hand of a child who is presumed to be without malice" (Aguirre T.II,
pt.l 1948: 240). That election was a radical step, for it established
the first town council, or cabildo, "which was to develop into one of
the most independent political institutions in Paraguay and was to
remain so till its abolition by the Dictator Francia in December 1814"
(L6pez 1976: 8). The c6dula of 1537 granted certain unique powers
to the small colony, but this action clearly went beyond the wishes of
the king. However, there was no move to crush the council's
authority, and with the help of the cabildo, the governor provided for
the defenses of the city, increased construction, encouraged the
planting of crops, and "[kept] an eye on the neighboring Guaranis,
who were becoming increasingly unhappy with their Spanish guests"
(L6pez 1976: 9). In the meantime, the city of Buenos Aires ceased to
exist until it was refounded in 1580 by an expedition of settlers from



Irala immediately set about to control the Indian population,

expand the colony, and provide for its defense. He also created a

number of pueblos de Indios, or "Indian towns," which ringed

Asunci6n. Already, by 1539, Irala had designated fourteen such

towns, of which Tobati was one, along with the towns of Itd, Acaf

(Acahay?), Yaguaron, AreguA, Altos, Yois, Ipan6 (Ypan6). Guarambar6,

Atira (Atyri), Maracayi, Terecanf (Terecafiy), AbirapariyA, and

Candelaria (Azara 1943a: 174). This policy continued, and in 1555

thirteen other towns were established. Close to the date of

independence, 53 pueblos de indios had been founded, although

some were destroyed by Portuguese invaders or consolidated with

other towns (Azara 1943a: 174-75).

Irala was replaced in 1542 by Alvar Nufiez Cabeza de Vaca, an

adventurer of some fame for his explorations of Florida and central

Mexico, who brought "the first and only important reinforcement

that the young colony was to receive for many years, [bringing] the

total number of Spaniards to about six hundred" (Service 1954: 20).

Cabeza de Vaca was unpopular with the Spanish colonists, possibly

because of his attempts to limit the exploitation and abuse of the

Guarani allies (L6pez 1976: 10, and Graham 1901: 41; but see Service

1954: 22, and Prieto 1988: 65) and was deposed upon his return

from a disastrous and profitless year-long expedition toward the

west in 1543-44. Citing the c6dula of 1537, the citizens of Asunci6n

again chose Irala to lead them. Cabeza de Vaca was thrown in chains

and returned to Spain the following year, accompanied by Juan de

Salazar. the actual founder of Asunci6n, who had supported him


during the revolt (L6pez 1976: 12). Only Irala would be forever

remembered as the "Father of Paraguay" (Warren 1949).

Regarding this formative period in Paraguayan history and

society, scholars traditionally emphasized the fraternal relations

existing between the Spaniards and the indigenous Guarani noting,

principally, the rapid rate at which the Spanish took Indian wives

and began the process of mestization, and the symbiotic nature of the

reciprocal relations between the two groups (cf. Service 1954: 29;

Roett and Sacks 1991: 88). While there is perhaps much truth to this
interpretation, especially during the time of initial contact, it is often

stressed to the point of suggesting an idealistic fantasy (cf. Gonzalez

1948: 109; Diaz de Guzmin 1980: 147-148; Benitez 1967: 87-95) or,
otherwise, a situation of voluntary--perhaps even pathological--

submissiveness on the part of the Indians (e.g., Miranda 1990: 13;

Burton cited in Warren 1949: 95-96). One author (Sacks 1990: 12)

neatly summed up a difficult period in the country's history by

simply noting that "In 1610 Philip III (1598-1621) proclaimed that

only the 'sword of the word' should be used to subdue the

Paraguayan Indians, thus making them happy subjects."

In fact, all of the evidence points to the fact that the relations

between the Spanish and their Guarani "hosts" did not differ

significantly from the usual patterns of domination and exploitation

practiced by European conquerors in all other areas of the

hemisphere. However, the particular forms by which domination

and exploitation were expressed probably were unique to Paraguay,

and served to veil the true relations between the two groups. The

circumstances which largely determined these relations can be

briefly summarized. First, Paraguay lacked the moveable

(principally, mineral) wealth which could attract a significant

number of settlers, and assure regular traffic in and out of the colony

and a steady rate of immigration. Second, the very small number of

Spaniards who did settle in the colony included a mere handful of

women--probably less than ten-- some of whom likely returned to

Spain (Bertoni and Gorham 1973: 113). Third, fairly low population

densities of natives, probably due to the catastrophic mortality rates

of the Indians (Garavaglia 1983: 164-5; Necker 1990: 133) precluded

the availability of a ready source of labor necessary for the

establishment of a plantation economy. Finally, the physical isolation

of the territory and its great distance from the sea made trade in

what products the colony could produce difficult in the extreme.

These same factors also severely limited the primitive accumulation

of capital, which would delay the establishment of true economic

classes, although this had no effect on the institutionalization of

significant social strata.

The first alliance between the Spaniards and the Guarani was a
military one. When Salazar first arrived at the bay which would be

Asunci6n, he encountered Guarani Indians "who were hard pressed

by the raids of other [Chacoan] Indians" and who "chose to receive

them [the Spaniards] as allies rather than as enemies" (Service 1954:
19).2 Citing Rubio, Service continues to explain that "the alliance

then made between the Guarani and the Spaniards was a factor of

extraordinary importance, without which it would not be possible to

explain the action of the latter in Paraguay, for, thanks to this

friendship, the conquest was possible.'" The importance of this


military alliance cannot be denied in the survival of the colony, for

loyal Guarani consistently aided the undermanned Spanish force in

battle against recalcitrant Indians3 (be they traditional enemies of

the Guarani or other Guarani rebels), the always threatening
Portuguese expansionists or slavers invading from Brazil, or even
between rival factions of Spaniards themselves (L6pez 1976: 62).

The Guarani benefitted from the superior weaponry of the Spaniards,
while the Spaniards benefitted from the superior numbers of the

Guarani, but the relationship between the two groups, as explained
below, was by no means truly symbiotic.4
Of equal importance, especially in terms of the eventual
formation of a Paraguayan society, was the Spaniards' practice of

taking Guarani women as mates. While this would seem perfectly

explainable by the fact that there were so few women accompanying

the Spaniards (Potthast-Jutkeit 1991: 218), many authors take a

more romantic view of this aspect of history. Cardozo (1987: 24), for
example, explains that the Guarani "Offered their daughters, as was

the custom, as a sign of friendship, and provided food and auxiliary

warriors. This alliance, pacted on a marriage bed of love, was to be

the foundation of the new community" (see also Gonzalez 1948: 101,

and Diaz de Guzman 1980: 147).5 In this respect, the Guarani would

seem to have been exceedingly generous, for the Spaniards not only

took their women, but took them in exaggerated numbers. Scarcely a

single author writing about this period fails to highlight the

prevalence of polygyny in an extreme form among the Spaniards,

warranting the reference to the colony as a "Mohammed's Paradise"
(L6pez 1976: 16; Potthast-Jutkeit 1991). Actual numbers of


concubines may have been inflated for various reasons, but reliable

sources do indicate that each Spaniard kept an average of ten Indian

"wives" (Garavaglia 1983: 265; Warren 1949: 132-33).

While the relationship between Spaniards and Indians was

esteemed to be reciprocal--the Spaniards acquired warriors and
wives, and the Indians received protection through alliance bonded

by affinal ties--it is rather more obvious that the relationship was an

unbalanced one.6 As much as warriors and "brothers-in-law," the

conquerors obtained, initially, food, and soon after, virtually free

labor. More than a wife, the conqueror acquired a "mistress, worker,

mother, companion, and slave" (L6pez 1976: 16). A superabundance

of wives and "brothers-in-law," therefore, was much more significant

to the Spaniards as a captive labor force and source of heritable

wealth than a source of sentimental solace (Susnik 1965: 13).

The Spaniards began to abuse the generosity of the Guarani
soon after their arrival in the territory. Requests for assistance in

food and labor soon became demands enforced by violent actions,

and the grateful acceptance of a valued sister or daughter soon

metamorphosed into an expected right, coerced through rape and

abduction. In a territory where metal (and, therefore, coinage) was

virtually absent, the only source or sign of material wealth was

through the control of captive labor, which was had through the

simple accumulation of "wives" and affinal kinsmen. It was not long

after the arrival of the Spaniards before the Indians had ceased to
"volunteer" their labor and women, and the Spaniards became

accustomed to going among the villages and forcing them to work

(L6pez 1976: 48). As one scholar explains,

S. this relation of kinship which, in the framework of
community life, involves a series of functions
indispensable for the reproduction of the group (from the
political to the ceremonial) had been converted by the
whites, to an economic relation almost completely
despoiled of its initial complexity; to a servile relationship
(Garavaglia 1983: 264, author's emphasis).
While it could be pointed out that nearly all "functions indispensable

for the reproduction of the group" have an essentially economic

basis, it still seems overly apologetic to explain, as did Service, that

The relatives of these women also helped provide food
and labor for the Spaniards in the same manner in which
they customarily provided for the heads of their own
lineages. The Guaranf apparently considered this situation
a normal consequence of the alliance (1954: 20).

There is simply too much evidence that the Guarani did not
consider these relationships to be "normal," for the first years of the

colony were fraught with threats and actions of bloody rebellion by

the Indians against the Spaniards. While unknown numbers of

Guaranf simply refused to collaborate with the invaders and

continued to retreat further and further into the forest until well into

this century (Rehnfeldt 1983), those who were in contact with the

Spaniards began to express their displeasure very quickly. One of

the most well documented of the early revolts occurred on Holy

Thursday of Easter week in 1539, when 8,000 Guarani arrived in

Asunci6n, ostensibly to view the ceremonies, but with the true

purpose of massacring the Spaniards (Diaz de Guzmin 1980: 146-47).

However, the Spaniards were tipped off by a chief's daughter, who

was "in the service" of Salazar, and routed the Indians. The chiefs

were summarily tried, hanged, and quartered although the warriors

were pardoned and, as a result, learned to "fear and love" the

Spaniards even more, moving them to more eagerly "volunteer" their

daughters and sisters to the Spanish captains (see also Gonzalez

1948: 103). Prieto (1988: 60) declares that this indicated to the

Indians "the necessity of changing their procedures," and that

"violence would give way to the astuteness of love."

That was not necessarily the case. Besides constant, isolated
acts of rebellion, serious concerted efforts to annihilate the "anarchic"

Spanish occurred in 1543 and 1545. Such incidents during the

period were frequent enough to reveal a strong pattern of

generalized Guarani resistance against foreign domination (Necker

1990: 131-32). The last major revolt, in 1560, was nearly successful.

but after it did fail, the Guarani could never afterwards muster the

strength to rid the land of the invaders, although scattered conflicts

occurred well into the seventeenth century (ibid.).

Ram6n Fogel (1989) gives a more thorough account of these

and other important violent uprisings in the early years of the

colony. Otherwise, beginning early in the period and extending well

into the present century, shattered groups of Guarani expressed their

despair through a long history of messianic movements leading to

often suicidal migrations to a legendary "land without evil"

(yvymarae'y) (Hay 1986; Melid 1988: 115; Nimuendajt 1978).
Despite the fact that "Spanish-Guarani relations are usually described

by modern historians as having been amicable from the period of

their first contact" (Service 1954: 1), collaboration of the Guarani was
"not a spontaneous and voluntary decision, but rather a forced and