Home Institution

New York University

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Southern Cone: Regional Integration, Development and Social Change


The indigenous populations all over the world have been and continue to experience drastic transformations in these past decades, each at its own pace and in its own form. Although throughout history all cultures and societies experience transformations, for the most part the recent transformations have been forced on these communities to a degree more brutal than ever. The powerful effects of the modern capitalistic system are quickly displacing and endangering indigenous populations. Practically every square foot of land and air has been privatized, sold to big corporations and exploited to benefit productivity without even the consideration of sustainability. This brings up the question of the essence of development and the different forms it can be carried out. In my project, I use the concept of human development as a necessary element of development overall, although it is evident that neoliberalism puts these two notions are in conflict. Those who had inhabited the land for thousands of years before the corporations came into play quickly have become displaced but not without a fight. The Guaraní community in Paraguay is a very clear example of an indigenous population fighting their extinction because of the drastic consequences of the development of monocultures on the land that they use to survive. The high costs of development is particularly visible in this community because only a decade or two ago did they lose the forest, the base of their livelihood, to deforestation and the plantation of genetically modified soy beans. Since the time when the Spanish arrived the Guaraní has had contact with “los blancos,” in forms of work with the extraction of “yerba mate. Studies have proved that they were able to maintain their traditions and culture; adapting for the most part with ease. In general, this is because of the fact that the forest continued to exist and they were able to continue practicing their hunting and gathering, and slash and burn forms of encountering food. Now a hunger exists that they never experienced. The development of some has become the poverty of others. This investigation is focused on one community of Mbya Guaraní in the department of Caaguazú as well as the perspectives of different social actors who are involved in this issue. Through the case study of one community I was able to get close to the stories and opinions of a few indigenous, as well as to the challenges they are experiencing as a community. After visiting and observing the organization of living in Nueva Esperanza I compiled the different opinions and perspectives of those who play important roles in this intense question of the consequences of development: indigenous, anthropologists, NGO’s, the government and the Mennonites. I think it’s important to note that the development in Paraguay is a very drastic one where there is very little regulation, and exploitation seems to go unquestioned. Development doesn’t have to be what it has been in Paraguay, completely unsustainable. How to find that balance and sustainability is part of the question I am asking.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Economics | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change


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