Uruguay and the memory of the Charrúa tribe

March 28, 2011 03:44 1 comment

The 11th of April will mark the passage of 180 years since the genocide of the Charrúa people, carried out by the then president Fructuoso Rivera, in a place known as ‘Salsipuedes’ (literally meaning ‘get-out-if-you-can’)

Wilfredo Alayón

The Charrúa were a group of American Indians who lived in the area currently known as the country of Uruguay and the Argentine provinces of Entre Rios and Santa Fe. According to a detailed study by the MP  Edgardo Ortuño, they lived on these lands long before the Europeans first set foot in the area; they ruled sovereign over their dominion and they were its natural defenders.

Historical documents record that at different times they were involved in battles with the Spanish, English, Portuguese and Brazilian empires; this defence of their dignity and independence lead to the soils of the territory becoming soaked in their blood. These same documents affirm that they were a collective of many different groups that were in turn linked to other smaller bands, hence the uncertainty surrounding their origins.

Historians and specialists maintain that they were born of a fusion between two large collectives – the caingang and the patagones – and that their languages could have been related to the mataco-guaicurú family; meanwhile, the origins of their name is still being discussed, its indigenous roots are currently doubted in favour its origin being Galician (a language spoken in the North-West of Spain). It is known that their abilities with the bow and arrow brought them relative success compared to other small tribes living on the Eastern coast, allowing them to survive from hunting, gathering and fishing.

President Rivera actually maintained good relations with the Charrúa initially, however, hostilities developed as the power of the whites advanced and the response was to attack small settlements and isolated houses.

The massacre

On the 11th of April of 1831, in “Puntas del Queguay”, the massacre known as the Slaughter of Salsipuedes took place. The banks of the Salsipuedes creek, between the departments of Tacuarembó and Rio Negro, were home to Fructuoso Rivera’s headquarters. Source documents state that Rivera convened the main Charrúa chiefs – called  Polidoro, Rondeau, Brown, Juan Pedro and Venado – and their tribes, for a meeting to discuss the protection of the State’s borders.

According to recorded accounts, after being pampered and plied with alcohol, the natives were attacked by a troop of 1,200 men under the command of Bernabé Rivera, the president’s brother. The figures given in the official history of events are 40 dead Indians and 300 prisioners – some of whom escaped and were then pursued by Bernabé Rivera – whilst nine were injured and one died amongst the attackers.

The persecution did not end with this slaughter, and particularly Bernabé Rivera had a special determination to hunt down and exterminate those who managed to escape. Four months later, in Mataojo, close to the mouth of the river Arapey in the northern part of the region of Salto, he surprised and attacked a group commanded by the chiefs El Adivino and Juan Pedro; this resulted in 15 dead and more than 80 prisioners.

According to the history professor and journalist Lincoln Maiztegui Casas, “the disappearance of the Charrúa people was a gradual process that took more than 200 years, and the root cause was territorial occupation by Europeans”.

In his writing, Maiztegui maintains that whilst the Guarani adopted a process of adaptation, the case was different for the Charrúa, who gradually disappeared.

Thousands died, thousands more escaped to the North-East of Brazil, and the rest remained as slaves where they lost their culture and interbred with whites, according to the academic. Current calculations suggest that Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina are now home to somewhere between 160 thousand and 300 thousand people descended from the Charrúa, all of whom are of mixed blood and some groups have undertaken a process to recover their indigenous identities. PL.

(Translated by Patrick Jones – Email: patrick@patrickjones.eu)

Share it / Compartir:

1 Comment

Leave a Reply


*



The Prisma News

  • Culture, Globe, Latin America, Listings, Screen, Struggles, Workers The war against democracy

    The war against democracy

    This is the title of a documentary directed by Australian reporter, John Pilger, that exposes the long history of interventionism by the United States in Latin American countries. The majority of the subject matter revolves around the failed coup d’etat in 2002 against President Hugo Chavez. The film...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Migrants, Multiculture, On Stage Circolombia returns to London

    Circolombia returns to London

    Following the success of their 2011 show ‘Urban’, the Colombian circus company returns to the UK from the 14th April to 3rd May for their new show ‘Acelere’.   With fourteen of the country’s most prominent circus performers, the new show draws is inspired by Colombia’s rich diversity of...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus London on speed

    London on speed

    The drug-related language – London ‘on speed’, the ‘rush’ of city life – is deliberate. Like an addiction, the speeded-up, souped-up urban lifestyle sweeps us along in a hectic race.   Steve Latham   James Gleick wrote his book, “Faster”, on the topic; and French...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Carlos Arango: a true journalist

    Carlos Arango: a true journalist

    Gran told me about my father’s childhood. She recalled how as a child, he took lunch to the workers on the Antioquia Railway.   Armando Orozco Tovar   Carlos Arango Z was his name and he started working at just six-years-old to help support his family. From Tulúa, in the Cauca Valley to...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Visual Arts Van Gogh: fury, genius and pain

    Van Gogh: fury, genius and pain

    The certainty that Montmajour at Sunset was painted by the Dutchman Vincent Van Gogh Dutch revives the madness that the unique viewpoint of this artistic genius always produces.    Frade Ibis Brito   In fact, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has announced to the world the discovery of this new work...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Multiculture, Music, Our People Willy Claure, on Cueca rhythm

    Willy Claure, on Cueca rhythm

    On Tuesday the 24th of March the Bolivian guitarist and composer will give his first UK concert at the Bolivar Hall in London.   With a career lasting more than 30 years, Claure is one of the most outstanding guitarists in modern-day Bolivia. His repertoire is essentially based on popular, traditional...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Democracies

    Democracies

    In principle, the term “democracy” implies that the people (demos) are in power (kratos) and thus, that they participate.   Mabel Encinas   However, by contrast with participatory democracies, in representative democracies, we need to ask ourselves whom the government represents and who the...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus Urban revolution now

    Urban revolution now

    On Tuesday I was invited to a book launch organised by the Urban Hub at University College London. The book was Urban Revolution Now: Henri Lefebvre in Urban Research and Architecture.   Steve Latham   Edited by academics Łukasz Stanek, Christian Schmid, and Ákos Moravánszky, the book was a...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Woman is asserting herself, so they are killing her

    Woman is asserting herself, so they are killing her

    On International Women’s Day, the statistics did not record a single man being killed at the hands of his female companions, as if being manly was just a matter of violence.   Armando Orozco Tovar   On this day women trotted, ran, climbed and walked in big gatherings around the world, less so in...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Lifestyle, Ludotheque, Music Music and drugs: a friendship that goes back a long way

    Music and drugs: a friendship that goes back a long way

    Music and drugs, drugs and music, they seem to go hand in hand. History has left us many examples of the degradation an artist or a group can suffer when they decide to bring the two together.     Miriam Cantalapiedra Barrocal   The fusion of music and drugs has its own history, which goes back...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Screen Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

    Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

        The 19th edition of this event will be held from the 18th to the 27th of March, where among other films shown there will be five set in Latin America.   The international organisation Human Rights Watch will present this edition of the event, which will include 16 documentaries and feature...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Multiculture, Our People, Visual Arts Malika Sqalli: home and identity

    Malika Sqalli: home and identity

    A journey within. This is the message of a group of photographs showing the different stages in the life of artist Malika Sqalli and her work, and will be exhibited at the Arab British Centre from the 17th to the 27th of March.   Photos by Malika Sqalli   This is a solo exhibition in London...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Globe, Latin America, Lifestyle, Music, Okology Latin America by birdsong

    Latin America by birdsong

      From the sounds of species in danger of extinction, various Latin American artists have come together to create original songs and make a record.   A Guide to the Birdsong of South America is the name of the project, which has the aim of exposing the dangerous situation suffered by these animals. Around...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus The man of the flame

    The man of the flame

    Who will have a photo of him? There is the one of the iconic guerilla hero taken in Havana by Korda, with a fortunate shot of his camera. But who made a portrait of Oscar Gil? Or who wrote about his short life? Because when they killed him he hadn’t reached 30.   Armando Orozco Tovar   This is...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus Immigrant music

    Immigrant music

    I met her on a Friday night. She was helping at a youth project in inner London, to which she had been invited by a mutual friend who was a youth worker.   Steve Latham   She ran some ice-breaker games with games to loosen the kids up, for the first session of a new club promoting performing arts...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Human Rights, On Stage, Politiks The Grandson… Argentina and its’ missing people

    The Grandson… Argentina and its’ missing people

    The Theatre for Identity “Teatro x la Identidad”, a movement that for 15 years has seen actors, directors and people from the theatrical world bring the message of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to the stage, returning to The Calder Bookshop and Theatre, this time with the stage play “The...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Women!

    Women!

    People say sometimes the first thing that comes to their minds (we all do, I guess; however, some of us try to avoid it or at least to rectify when we get it wrong).   Mabel Encinas   Saying things like ‘excessive traffic is migrants’ fault’, ‘English people have also the right to...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus What does UKIP mean?

    What does UKIP mean?

    Last year’s Rochester and Strood by-election victory for the United Kingdom Independence Party candidate, Mark Reckless, was a game-changer for British politics.   Steve Latham   It came hard on the heels of UKIP’s Clacton win by Douglas Carswell; both new MPs standing for seats they had previously...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus The illustrators of life

    The illustrators of life

    “There is too much blood; too much violence”,  Albert Camus.  I had thought that I would start the year with good memories and nostalgia. However, the Charlie Hebdo massacre has brought back memories of when, in the late 80s, Castaño’s paramilitaries shot down ‘JUCO’ militants –...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Multiculture, Our People, Visual Arts Angelika Berndt and the invisible culture

    Angelika Berndt and the invisible culture

    She has worked on projects in Africa, Asia and Europe, although her work is based mainly around Latin America, the region in which she grew up.   Juanjo Andres Cuervo Photos by Angelika Berndt    She first started in photography by helping the non-government organisation Anti Slavery International...

    Read more →