me that he blew smoke onto the dolls to find out “what sacred place they came
from” ( mamõ tetã guireju ). The boy wanted to transform them into Guarani xondaro,
warriors. Little Florentina remarked that she was “taking food to her relatives at the
Pindoty Village,” near the southern coastal town of Pariquera-açu, because “they
are very hungry.” In fact, like the Guarani at Itaóca, the Pindoty villagers have also
been surviving off garbage dumps. 20 When asked about the importance of xondaro,
Mizael clarified that “xondaro can help go to the other side of the ocean, where there
is plenty of food.”
Later on that month, however, I saw Mizael and some other boys planting sweet
potatoes on the hillside behind the boy's house. I was surprised because Zeferina,
Mizael's mother, had told me not long ago that “the Guarani do not eat sweet potatoes
because it is dirty food.” “Why is it dirty?” I replied, and the woman answered: “The
physician at the Pronto Socorro told me that Indian people need to eat strong food
( comida forte ), like bread, rice, beans and meat, and not dirty food ( comida suja ) like
sweet potatoes, manioc, and all those other filthy tubers ( raízes nojentas ).”
Mizael wearily asked me if I liked sweet potatoes, and I replied that “my kids and
I frequently eat yellow, orange, and purple sweet potatoes, because they are tasty and
very good for our health.” Feeling reassured, Mizael smiled, looked straight into my
eyes and said:
I am so hungry, I cannot wait for Ywy Marae'y. I want to be a strong xondaro
here, at Itaóca.
Mizael and other young leaders like Luiz Karaí reaffirm the hope that immortality
can be reached without dying, challenging the widely held belief among early
chroniclers and ethnographers of Tupi-Guarani societies, as well as present-day
government officials and the general population, that Christianity stands behind
Guarani “beliefs” in the Land-without-Evil (Clastres 1995:5). As Luiz puts it,
The missionaries around here say death is the way to the paraíso (paradise).
Do they want us to die? I can see my people dying because they are sick and
have no food, so I tell them the world has changed, that we can't go without
eating because we are weak, we are not marae'y [indestructible]. And we can't
wander around so much because we are not free like before.
Unlike the older karaí of his village - his own father, Onório de Souza, and shamans
Cândido Ramirez and Henrique Firmino - Luiz Karaí, a young prophet himself,
calls for a rejection of an austere, painful, and dangerous nomadism in favor of the
comforts of sedentary agricultural life. Can the phenomenon of nomadism survive
within societies that no longer consider themselves free? Moreover, unlike the
Christian perspective of death as the means of resurrection, Guarani religious rites
are governed by the belief that man can reach kandire , that is, attain immortality
without undergoing the ordeal of death (Cadogan 1950:50, Clastres 1995:79).
“When the Guarani die,” explained Luiz, “ é o fim” (it is the end).