might very well be “a subtle mixture of hope and despair, passion and action, and
its disavowing appearance conceals a powerful affirmative impetus: in the midst
of their misery, men are gods” (Viveiros de Castro 1987: xxiv). This driving force
would probably be the source of power conjured by Mizael, as the boy tried to
transform the evangelical missionaries into xondaro, the Guarani warriors. Doesn't
Mizael anticipate that men can become their own gods?
Finally, what do Guarani children teach us about childhood and about the
human condition? I hope this chapter has shown that seeing Indigenous children as
individuals whose autonomy should be safeguarded and fostered is an enormous step
towards making the rhetoric concerning children's survival, protection, development,
and participation in making the world a better place a reality. Guarani cosmological
foundations are refashioned in view of the kids' current Guarani worldview, in its
modern configuration. Tupi-Guarani apocalypse as a futuristic outcome of Nhande
Rekó is reconfigured by the children's distinctive temporal and bodily rhythms. The
future is thus turned into the present in their mapping of time and the body, so as to
recreate the abundance of the promised land.
I end with a passage from a letter sent to me by Mariano Tupã Mirim, the health
agent at the Itaóca Village, in July 1999. Mariano wrote in response to my queries
about the situation of the children he cared daily for at Itaóca (my translation from
The children are not going to school because we still have none. But they still
play in the opy. They learn a lot with the shaman, what our ancient history was
like: the children played, danced, and worked. Then times started to change,
and now we need to learn how to read, write, and live documented, because
everyday we need documents.
Many children do not like to be taught in the white men's religion, because
we Indians need to have our own culture. Because the [Guarani] law does not
allow us to forget it or put the culture aside. The children think about this and
disapprove. Since I arrived here at Itaóca, many missionaries have tried to
teach the kids their religion, but no one has succeeded.
This chapter was originally presented at the 122 nd Annual Meeting of the American Ethnological
Society, March 23-25, 2000 in Tampa, Florida. The first Portuguese version was published as “Divina
Abundância: Fome, miséria e lixo entre os Guarani de São Paulo” in Criança Indígena. Ensaios
Antropológicos. Aracy Lopes da Silva and Angela Nunes, editors. São Paulo: Global Editora/MARI-
USP/FAPESP, 2002. A more elaborate version was published in The Journal of Latin American
Anthropology 7(1):128-169, 2002. Research was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa
em São Paulo -FAPESP in Brazil, grants # 94/3492-9, 98/09100-6 and 99/05689-8.
All photos and all translations by the author, unless otherwise noted.
Ministry of Health, Ordinary law ( Medida Provisória ) # 1.911-8, Article 28-B, July 29, 1999.