The Guarani Indigenous People in Latin America in search for the ‘land without evil’

This paper-performance was presented at the conference Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization, 10th International Whitehead Conference and 9th International Conference on Ecological Civilization, Pomona College, Claremont CA, 2015. The content and the format of its presentation wants to be more faithful to the indigenous people and also challenge some of the ways in which the academy is use to create, present and share knowledge. Please know that this  paper-performance does not have the proper citations and is still a work in process.

The Guarani Indigenous People in Latin America in search for the ‘land without evil’ and process theology.[1]


Start with singing: ore mboriahu roguereko ñandejara


Friends, I start as your small brother, the one who needs mercy and compassion. For I am more a liberation theologian than a process theologian, I am not an indigenous person even though my grandmother could have been an indigenous woman. For what matters here I am a fake, a fallacy, pretending to talk about things I am not fully aware of. So I beg for your forgiveness. The trajectory of this paper will be a short beginning about how the field of Native Studies should be engaged, then I will talk about the land without evil, a concept from the Guarani nation, then I will weave some themes in process theology and will finish with a call, an important term to process theology. While I speak I will do a performance. I beg you not to leave or be shocked. Come along with me and we can talk about it after I finish this presentation. Last thing: as I talk you will see a video of the Mass of the Land Without Evil done in April 22,1979, at the Catholic Metropolitan Church in São Paulo. The images of the mass are mixed with scenes recorded at the Guarani communities in Paraguay.


So with a request for forgiveness, a word on our trajectory and a warning about the video and the performance I can start.


Start Video:


I don’t start thinking from thinking, or metaphysics. That is too much of a luxury! I start my thinking in a concrete reality. And for that matter, if I want to do theology I must start where it hurts. For God is the God of the victims, of the oppressed, of the disenfranchised, the wretched of the earth. From there we perceive reality. And perhaps one of the most hurting people in our planet is the indigenous people. Yet, they are surviving even after 500 years of colonization and massive destruction.


When we talk about native nations we are not trying to find recognition of any kind. Recognition as Glen Coulthard[2] has showed us well is an entrapment of the academy and the white settler in general. Instead of recognition we are threading on sovereign discourses, and for those discourses to happen we need a “broad-based ideas that can fundamentally change social and political relations as well as relationships with the natural world.”[3] As Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson state, native studies need to be “based not on intellectual isolationism but on intellectual promiscuity, sympathy and solidarity.”[4] So here we are promiscuous academics trying to reach out in sympathy and solidarity with the sovereignty of native nations. Today we are going to consider the Guarani people and their concept of land without evil.


The Guarani nations are made up of diverse groups that spread through Latin America due to different patterns of migration. The nation is marked by its ongoing movements so there is no way to determine their origin nor the roots of their migration. [5]


Their main sense of life is based on “ñande reko”, that means “our way of being, our costumes, our system and condition, our laws and habits.” Due to the spreading out of different groups, each group develops its own systems and conditions, art, rituals, religion and dances. Each one develops their own specificities according to their movements and interactions. Nonetheless it is possible to talk about a generic Guarani culture, that is based on migration, agriculture, life lived in communities, grounded in extensive families and organized around the assemblies called “aty” that recognize their leaders.


It is the notion of walk that establishes their ways of living. They walk both concretely and spiritually. “Guata” means to walk, go into a path, travel or stroll. Walking and dancing are fundamental parts of the religious lives and by walking and dancing they celebrate the memory of their past and future.


The long singing called “mborahéi puku” for instance, is a march through the 13 or more skies so they can enter the house of their “Father Grandfather” at the end.

The Guarani religion is complex, with gods and ghosts and ways of dealing with energies. Their religion is based on a word that comes from “the above,” a word that becomes sacrament through dance and singing and it is organized by prophecies. Most of their prophecies are call for the people to go search the land without evil.


The land without evil comes from the words “yvy marane’ÿ” as well as “ka’a marane’ÿ” both present in the first dictionary of the Guarani language written in 1639. It has a deep ecological and realist meaning. It is about an intact soil, a mountain or a jungle that are not worked yet, a place where the wood hasn’t taken away yet. Catholicism connected that word with a virgin woman and to virgin Mary.


In order to get to that land, there must be a call from the leader and a dance is established. They dance for a certain time, some reports say some tribes danced for a whole year until directions are received and then all go walking to the land without evil. Dance was fundamental because if one could control the fatigue caused by the prolonged dance, they could move automatically move without effort, because the body lost weight and could move effortlessly. Thus, to dance was to prepare oneself to the necessary walking ahead. Moreover, to dance was to place the dancers in communication with other spiritual/real beings. The Guarani search for the land without evil was always a prophetic call done tirelessly.


When they could dance and have festivities, this was a sign that the land without evil was already somewhat there, that that place was the center of the world. For the Guarani, there is a seamless connection between the land without evil and the perfection of the person. One path led to the other. The same way that the land without evil is real and is in this land, thus personal perfection is also possible.


20150605_161543The path to the land without evil was a path from the known to the unknown. The Land without evil is a place where the land would give Jaboticaba juice and sweet corn bread. A land with abundant food and possibility for more festivities, where the land would produce without much effort and people would not die, which didn’t mean only immortality. This whole real/cosmological concept was a way of being in the world, a whole cosmology, all they need to move around the earth, to protect themselves, to search for themselves, to searched for their ancestors and a home where their gods, parents and grandparents lived.


The land without evil was another form of society, a new society, a place where we could all deeply connect with nature, a land where we share everything, a land without profit, without envy, and with no rush. This cosmological notion became a paradigm to think reality in general, nature, the outer and inner worlds, and a project, a utopia of a society that is more replenishable, and lived in solidarity. In order to get to paradise they needed to walk, to make an effort to get to that utopic place where there wouldn’t be alienation or oppression. The land without evil is understood as a new earth, a place for festivities, for reciprocity, for mutual love. A place that produces perfect people, people who do not want to die. In Casaldaliga’s terms: the land without evil is the land of freedom for all people.


However, that sense of mutuality, of interdependence, of a safe place, of a place without evil comes from the sense that they have experienced a lot of evil in this land, that the fullness of their festivity is impossible, that perfection is unattainable!

In Guarani’s traditions they tell several stories of destruction, catastrophes and cataclysms so they know that these disasters are always possible. Their experiences with prolonged draughts, exhaustion of the land, plagues and attacks from animals and their own enemies, sun eclipses, floods and so on are seen as evil, threats to deform their ways of being Guarani. But also, other forms of evil can also endanger the community. They are: violence, homicide, faults against the moral order, lack of collaboration and mutual love, and when there is no reconciliation between people.


Nowadays, the forms of evil have grown exponentially. Besides those mentioned evils, there is also 500 years of massacres, of killing (they were once 2 million people and now they are 46 thousand people), of abuse, of a clear ethnic cleansing. Moreover, there are evils that are coming now with colonization by the new-liberal economy that might have larger potential of destruction: the ongoing stealing of the land, no sustainability or ability to participate in the larger economy, the fences of farms that continue to cut and reduce their needed path to live and walk freely, the white settlers, big agribusiness, destruction of biodiversity, pesticides, turning food into fuel, land grabbers, productive soil turned into grass for cows and the big industry of meat, government abandonment, and political strategies that make new laws so they lose the land that they have “gained.” Where are the mountains and forests where they could once go? The white society has already destroyed the possibility of walking, of searching for perfection, of looking for the land without evil. It is harder now to search for the land without evil when they live in a land with endless evil.


The “mba’e meguã,” the evil thing, covers everything everywhere now. Displaced, stolen, thrown into miniscule pieces of land, they still expect to find the land without evil. However, without the land they will not have the word, the dance and the walking.


Nonetheless, they still dance and pray and dramatize the possibility to recuperate the land without evil. They are still fighting! This people of resistance has been struggling since 1756, when one of their warriors, S. Sepé, led the people to impressive gains against the Spanish and Portuguese. And even though the colonizers mercilessly killed them, the people have continued to fight They continue to prophecy a land without evil! They continue to dance! They continue to walk! They continue to prepare the memories of the future for all of us!


Process theology


Now briefly, I want to engage some themes in process theology that can help us engage with the Guarani people in a deeper way.


  1. Primordial nature

As Nathaniel Lawrence puts it: “The primordial nature is the repositum of all possible value, but only as possible. In this repositum there lies the entire multiplicity of eternal objects, which are all the qualities, characteristics, or properties that could characterize any event or set of events. There is no single final ordering of these eternal properties, but the possible ordering of them are themselves complex eternal objects and are therefore part of this multiplicity.” [6]


That sense of the repositum is where the Guarani’s Gods live with the potentiality of its many multiplicities. Their Gods however, have both the primordial and the consequent nature, since they have consciousness and have conceptual and physical feeling. The Guaranis Gods also “proffers possible values and serves actual values.”[7]


Whitehead says that “the purpose of God is the attainment of value in the temporal world.”[8] But this temporal world is not necessarily measured by time by the Guaranis but by space. The purpose of the Guarani Gods is also the attainment of value in the world but this value, this repositum is measured by the existence of the land without evil, a land that proffers values and serves these values and not by time. Perhaps the cosmology of the Guaranis can help us move with/from temporality to spatiality. Then, we might realize that the Guaranis cosmology might be enough for us. Perhaps.


  1. Creative Transformation


The second notion I want to use is “creative transformation.” The Guaranis live under this “creative transformation” as well against that which destructively transform their land and put in danger their very lives. They have used their creativity to transform their environment and their lives since their appearance. They use this creative transformation through their rituals, cosmology, dancing, and walking. But also through their words too. As Bartomeu Melià said, “the history of a Guarani is the history of his/her words. The word represents everything in the life of the Guarani and it is through the words that they establish a communitarian education that is at the service of all.”[9]


Monica Coleman has combined Womanist theology and Process theology in her book “Making a Way Out of No Way.”[10] In it, she argues that ‘making a way out of no way’ and ‘creative transformation’ are complementary insights from the respective theological traditions: Womanist and process theology. In the same way, the theologies of the Guarani people hold a sign of strength that have kept themselves and ourselves alive. They have kept the promise of a land without evil to all of us by walking, dancing and talking. To discover the “creative transformation” in the Guaranis is to find the repositum, the very source of that which keeps them (and ourselves) alive!


  1. Power of persuasion and a call


There is no sense of superpower God for the Guaranis. But there is a power of doing the values that will be coming back to us. The power of persuasion can be found in the endless dancing and walking and calling forth for a land without evil for all. This cosmology is a power of persuasion that calls people into this mode of being and creation which is the same the sense of God in process theology.


In that movement, we can also bring into this discussion a sense of call from process theology. Because for the Guaranis, the prophetic dance and rituals and walking is always calling them to move towards the land without evil. The power of persuasion is always issuing a call to all of us to commit, to be in solidarity and to be in sympathy with the indigenous people.


A Call

As John Cobb says: “The sense of being called is widespread and in Whithead’s vision arises from the fact in every moment we are called to realize what is then possible.”[11]


The same way that “the Bible testifies to dramatic experiences of being called,” we also have dramatic experiences of the Guarani people to continue their path, to dance franticly, to issue a word of order and hope. The Guarani land without evil is the political calling into the living of the eschatological life. A call from the future lived in the present. And a call to the present to be lived in the future. A land without evil here! A call to an utopia of justice for all!




This call begs for what Mendieta calls, a “cosmopolitanism of dialogue.” Or what Walter Mignolo defines: “cosmopolitanism of critic and dialogue.”


This cosmopolitanism encompasses the marginalized, the foreigner, the poor, the indigenous and it goes against the globalization that creates a cosmopolitanism not of critic or dialogue but of acceptance and recognition of those in power. Our present neo-liberal globalization denies a cosmopolitanism for those who cannot be part of the consumerism societies. David Griffin talks abut “a new cosmopolitanism on a base of resistance against the homogenization that is currently being at work by a globalization lead by corporations.”


Not everybody matters in our globalization. This cosmopolitanism happens in the fractures of this system through difference and diversity. Catherine Keller says that this cosmopolitanism needs a cosmology. But instead of a cosmology exclusively from Whitehead or process theology, we need a plurality and diversity of cosmologies, especially those found in the indigenous traditions. The one I am focusing today is the land without evil. This is a decolonizing cosmology that resisted the three colonization movements Walter Mignolo mentions: The Christian Mission Portuguese/Spanish colonization of the XVI and XVII centuries, the civilizatory mission of the British and French empire in the XVIII and XIX centuries and the new economic and military mission of United States in the XX century. [13]


From the Guaranis cosmology, we must accept the very irrationality of the logos in our own irrationality. Because if only consider the Guarani cosmology as a kind of irrational knowledge, then ours must have the same fate.


And if we think that the philosophical thinking of Whithead or any other philosopher, or the theological thinking of John Cobb, or any theologian, is better than the philosophy and theology of the Guaranis, we should all indeed perish in a land of endless evil! Let us remember that Whithead’s cosmology is as fractured and insufficient as any other indigenous cosmology;


Still the calling


The call for us today is our insistence on calling the “initial aim,” the “Ñande Ru,” the “Great Father, the First Grandfather and the Without End” as well as the

Holy Spirit, as the “hardcore common sense notions,” so we can gain a certain consciousness and mutual love to follow the wisdom of our Guaranis brothers and sisters. We must go along with them and sing the ‘mborahéi puku’, the ‘long chanting’ so we can call forth the land without evil for all of us!


We must start with the decolonizing of our own mentalities, our own sources of thinking. We must decolonize our sense of reasoning and proper forms of knowledge. For there are other forms of knowledge in the indigenous people that instead of being not enough, they will embarrass our rationality by showing how irrational we are in our powerful safe ways of thinking and believing.


So we must begin by listening to their histories and making their stories our own so we can create a cosmopolitanisms that embraces all the diversity and challenges the hospitality of our ethical demands!


As Catherine Keller said: “A decolonial and decolonizing cosmopolitanism will only be possible if voices of local histories that are silenced by the emperial globalization are heard and brought back.” As we think about the indigenous people we must think about nature. And “Nature, the sacred other of the human community, is this thinking together under a structure of ethical responsibility.”[14]


Concluding I’d say:


* Let us go against the anthropocentric androcentric modernity that avoids histories, sensibilities and subjectivities of indigenous people. As Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson say, the displacement of Indigenous stories is an imperial tool to take away both the “intellectual and the political agency” of the indigenous people;


* In an ethics of mutual responsibility, we must use the creative transformation to make appear the conditions of the possibility of the life of the indigenous people, that is, the material conditions of the possibility of their flourishing, just as any one of us have.


* We must learn with the Indigenous people that our relation to nature is more than fundamental and the movement of the earth must set the pace of our life and not the other way around. It is on us to learn better and deeper about the indigenous ways of living, knowing, celebrating, hoping, etc.


* the land without evil is also a classless society! To wrestle with class is to wrestle with the land without evil. And while Marx must be criticized, he knew that humankind must be in constant connection and process with nature otherwise we will die;


* Let us say no to the discourses that indigenous people are dying so we can prepare the way for their disappearance;


* The very presence of the indigenous people in our research, and prayers and daily life will make us think about diversity in a much expanded way. We will not only talk about the struggle against ethnocentrism, against the white settlers and the ongoing colonization, but also, about the homogenization of the earth and the destruction of the diversity of nature. As Catherine Keller says: “The reduction of non human diversity corresponds to the homogenizing impetus of the imperial cosmopolitanism.”[15]


* Buy taking the indigenous people seriously, we will gain a deep sense of mutual belonging and “promiscuous intellectuality,”[16] mixing up people, themes, and situations. I am yours, you are mine. The Guarani are ours, we are the Guaranis. We belong to the planets, the planets belongs to us. We are all intertwined interrelated interconnected, in our DNA, in our flesh and incarnation, in the indwelling of God, in the breath of God is all of us. If Eric Garner can’t breath, God is losing its breath! We are losing our breath.


If the Guarani cannot walk anymore we cannot walk. If they cannot pursue the land without evil we cannot either. And that means our collective death.


* We must continue to walk, dance and speak.


* We end where we began. We start not in abstract ideas but in the hurting of our people! From there we collect our strength, we learn with one another and we move on in the struggle for justice and equality. But don’t forget! We are up against mighty forces that are taking us down! Nonetheless we will make a way out of no way, and we will hear the stories of the Guaranis and the indigenous people from everywhere. And if we are wise, and if we want to create new process of creative transformation, and if we want the aim of world to be a collective planetary community, then we must start where it hurts, where the indigenous communities are in danger. We all vow with Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson: we will offer our “intellectual promiscuity, our sympathy and our deep solidarity.” As if we are saving our own people!


* Their thinking must be our thinking. They weapons our weapons, their clothing our clothing, their walk our walk, their dance our dance, their word our word!

Let us sing one more time: Oré Poria Juverekó, Ñandeyara

From the Mass The Land Without Evil

In the name of Father of All Nations,

Maíra of all,

And exalted Tupã.


In the Son’s name,

Who makes us all brothers and sisters.

In the mixed blood of all bloods.

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberation.


On behalf of the Light of every culture.

In the name of Love that lives in every love.


In the name of the Earth without evil,

lost in profit,

won through pain,

In the name of Death won,

In the name of Life,

We sing, Lord!




Heirs of an Empire of extermination,

children of secular domination,

we want to repair our sin,

we came to celebrate the new option: Resurrection.


In the Supper of Death and Life,

the ancient lost memory;


the death of the Peoples of the past

in the Feast of the expected people: Resurrection;



the history of the whole American continent,

in this memory of liberation;


in the Risen Easter,

Amerindian Easter

still no resurrection … the resurrection,

without resurrection …


Indigenous singing , or recited or sung. All (Singing)

I am the American continent,

am the People of the Earth,

Earth without evil,

the people of the Andes,

the People of the Jungle,

the People of the Pampas,

the People of the Sea


[1] Paper-performance presented at the conference Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization, 10th International Whitehead Conference and 9th International Conference on Ecological Civilization, Pomona College, Claremont CA, 2015. This paper performance does not have the proper citations and is still a work in process.

[2] Sean Coulthard, Glen, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, (Minessota: Univ. Of Minnesota Press, 2014.

[3] Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson, Theorizing Native Studies (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2014), 11.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The session on the Guaranis is based on the following resources: Melià, Bartomeu, “A história de um guarani é a história de suas palavras,” por: Patricia Fachin, Tradução de Moisés Sbardelotto in ; Chamorro, Graciela, TERRA MADURA YVY ARAGUYJE: Fundamento da Palavra Guarani, (Dourados, MS: Editora UFGD, 2008); Métraux, Alfred, A Religião Dos Tupinambás (Sao Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional,Coleção Brasiliana, vol. 267), 1928; and ROSSI JUNG, Roberto, Esta Terra Tem Dono, Esta Terra é Nossa: a saga do índio missioneiro Sepé Tiaraju (Porto Alegre: Editora Martins Livreiro, 2005).

[6] Lawrence, Nathaniel, “The Vision of Beauty and the Temporality of Deity in Whitehead’s Philosophy,” in After North Whitehead: Essays on his Philosophy, Editor: George a. Kline (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963), 172.

[7] Ibid., 173.

[8] Whitehead, Alfred North, Religion in the Making (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 87.

[9] Melià, Bartomeu, Op. Cit.

[10] Coleman, Monica A., Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008).

[11] B. Cobb Jr., John, Theological Reminiscences (Toward Ecological Civilization) 2014.

[12] This part is based on Catherine Keller’s paper “ Decolonizing Cosmology: Cosmopolitanism in Process,” (unpublished presentation in Bogotá, Colombia, April 2008).

[13] Mignolo, Walter, The Prospect of Harmony and the Decolonial View of the World,


[14] Keller, Catherine, “Decolonizing Cosmology: Cosmopolitanism in Process,” Op. Cit.

[15] Catherine Keller’s paper “ Decolonizing Cosmology: Cosmopolitanism in Process,” Op. Cit.

[16] Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson, Theorizing Native Studies, Op. Cit.

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