My name is Tonico Benites Guarani and I am a leader of the Guarani Kaiowa people in southern Brazil.

My people were one of the first to be contacted after Europeans arrived in South America around five hundred years ago. We are a deeply spiritual people and we have a strong sense of connection to our land. We call it "the place without evil" and it is central to our religion and our culture. Our rituals and our family bonds are tied to it.

Sadly in the past few decades our land has been stolen to make way for ranchers. This has affected us very deeply.

We are suffering terribly at the hands of ranchers' gunmen who harass my people on a daily basis and are killing our leaders one by one. We are forced to live on roadsides, suffering malnutrition, disease and the highest suicide rate in the world.

I am with Survival International's Brazil team, who will be translating my answers for me.


Olá Reddit! Sou Tonico Benites Guarani, um líder indígena do povo Guarani Kaiowá e estou ansioso para responder suas perguntas sobre o meu povo, nossa cultura e as ameaças que nós enfrentamos!

O meu povo foi um dos primeiros a serem contatados quando os europeus chegaram na América do Sul há cerca de 500 anos. Nós somos um povo profundamente espiritual e temos uma forte conexão com a nossa terra. Nós a chamamos de “terra sem males” e ela é central para a nossa religião e cultura. Nossos rituais e laços familiares são ligados à ela.

Infelizmente, nas últimas décadas a nossa terra foi roubada para abrir espaço para os fazendeiros. Isso nos afetou extremamente.

Nós estamos sofrendo terrivelmente nas mãos de pistoleiros que perseguem o meu povo diariamente e estão assassinando os nossos líderes um a um. Somos forçados a viver à beira de estradas, e sofremos com desnutrição, doenças e com a maior taxa de suicídio do mundo.

A Survival International estará traduzindo meu texto para o inglês, mas podem me perguntar em português!


¡Hola Reddit!

Soy Tonico Benites Guaraní, un líder indígena del pueblo guaraní-kaiowá ¡y estoy deseando responder cada pregunta sobre mi pueblo, nuestra cultura y las amenazas a las que nos enfrentamos!


Proof – Check out Twitter. Further information, here and here.

I will start answering questions at 2pm EST

Thank you everyone for all your questions! I hope I answered them well I am deeply moved by all the interest you've shown and I hope you'll continue to support my people. Our fight goes on!


Muito obrigado a todas pelas perguntas, espero tê-las respondido bem! Estou muito emocionado com todo o interesse demonstrado e espero que vocês continuem a apoiar o meu povo. A nossa luta continua!

Comments: 243 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

rbevans149 karma

Are there any modern technologies that has improved your tribe?

TonicoBenitesGuarani228 karma

Technology helps us show the world what's happening with the Guarani, the violence, the attacks, the eviction from our lands. We are doing this through Survival's project Tribal Voice that lets us speak directly to the world.

MattBaster135 karma

What unique skills, arts or customs of your people have completely died out due to the first arrivals of the Europeans half a century millennia ago?

EDIT: thank you kind stranger for the short-lived FTFY

TonicoBenitesGuarani228 karma

The Guarani Kaiowá land was invaded about 100 years ago and our forest was destroyed, so it is difficult for us to fish, hunt and grow vegetables, but no aspects of our culture has completely disappeared. Because we are here resisting, fighting for our land, fighting for none of this to disappear.

fappinatwork115 karma

What can we do to help your people?

TonicoBenitesGuarani126 karma

There are many ways people can help - you can learn about our situation and tell all of your friends, you can follow our news so our plight isn't invisible and you can email the government to ask it to stop attacking indigenous people, for example using email actions on Survival's website and you can get involved in local groups like the Guarani's support forum in Rio

OdinB109 karma

Could you show us some pictures of how the living conditions are over there?

TonicoBenitesGuarani162 karma

This photo gallery is a good demonstration of what is happening

PunCatcher65 karma

Olá Tonico! I'd love to know more about your spirits and rituals please?

TonicoBenitesGuarani141 karma

In the Guarani religion, our gods are like an invisible family and we communicate with them through our rituals. The Guarani need to live in a similar way of this family and we sing and dance to communicate with them, so that we can have the protection of these gods and so that we can all live well. Through our rituals, we help protect nature so it keeps on providing us with clean air and water not only for the Guarani but for all humanity.

orangejulius51 karma

What are your thoughts on Brazil's current problems with corruption in government and the impeachment of the president?

TonicoBenitesGuarani90 karma

It's the first time corruption is being seriously investigated. The impeachment could generate lots of social injustice and lead to our rights being violated even more. It could lead to an acceleration of our genocide.

two_off45 karma

How important are Tribal issues to politicians, media, or the general public?

TonicoBenitesGuarani105 karma

Politicians are attacking our rights - we indigenous peoples have the right to live in our land but politicians are trying to attack these rights and take control of the land. The politicians are pushing forward all sorts of draft bills and constitutional amendments with the aim of wiping us out. The media is often not objective, often the media portraits us in a negative way, especially if they're linked to the ranchers, our attackers. We need an impartial media to show the world everything that's going on. The public needs to sit up and realise that they can help us and that they could be violating our rights and harming us if they buy foods containing ingredients produced in our land.

byf7738 karma

What is your opinion of the upcoming Olympics? From an American perspective we just keep hearing about how many problems are going on and it would be interesting to get the opinion of someone inside of Brazil. Especially from your situation. Thank you!

TonicoBenitesGuarani86 karma

The situation indigenous peoples face is being hidden and silenced. Brazil is making out that it treats its indigenous peoples well but people interested in the Olympics need to know that there is a lot of injustice, violence against indigenous peoples, and our lands are being stolen. We need to use the Olympics; it's a great moment for us to show people the other darker side of Brazil.

meeeow35 karma

Hi Tonico Benites!

Humbling to have you here doing an AMA. I have a huge amount of interest in Brazilian indigenous people (I'm Brazilian myself) and I'm disgusted in the way our society continues to treat you. I'm disgusted by a Leftist government that had ample opportunity to protect you and did so little. I always felt that documentation and research is a very important and useful way of getting your message out and heard, as well as a way of preserving and archiving the incredible knowledge and art produced by all the indigenous people from Brazil (Personally I have written a lot about feather art - arte plumária)

My question is tri-fold. If you could tell the world one thing about your people what would it be? Do you think that research does indeed have any sort of impact? What type of action would you personally like to see from average Brazilians and people from abroad to aid your cause and stop your mistreatment?

Amor e carinho, estou com vocês.

TonicoBenitesGuarani35 karma

Oi! Muito obrigado pela pergunta! The Guarani are a strongly spiritual people. We love our land and we protect nature. Research helps us understand our past and our present and could help us reach a possible solution for the future in terms of our land conflict. People around the world need to learn about our land struggle and pressurise the government to make uphold our rights. This international pressure can really help us.

HardBender27 karma

It seems that most brazilian indigenous tribes are supporting former president Dilma Rousseff on the impeachment process. Could you explain to us why this is happening? Is it just because you believe that it is the democratic thing to do or because you think the policies of PT will benefit the indigenous people the most?

TonicoBenitesGuarani84 karma

Dilma's government wasn't great for us, we had a hard time getting our land mapped out and returned to us. Her government wasn't good for indigenous peoples and we had to make lots of demands and do lots of protests, but the new interim president is much worse, he is openly anti-indigenous.

HardBender19 karma

Can you elaborate on how the new interim president is openly anti-indigenous?

TonicoBenitesGuarani81 karma

First of all, he's got rid of the Ministry of Culture. And his allies are politicians of the rural lobby group, which wants to put an end to indigenous peoples.

rlisboa12 karma

Bom dia! Muito obrigado por fazer um AMA.

What are your thoughts on modern civilization? Including but not limited to electronics, culture, conflicts, and the internet. How does it affect you and your tribe?

Muito abrigado por fazer este AMA!

TonicoBenitesGuarani39 karma

Bom dia! We are all part of modern civilisation, indigenous or not. There is no one civilisation, one way of being, which is better than another. In terms of technology, each people can use it as they wish, in their own way and within their own culture, so that it can help them in their lives. We indigenous people pick which aspects of the industrialised world we want to adopt and we do so in our own terms. Industrialised civilisation is bringing land conflict because ranches want to own vast areas of land but for the Guarani the land doesn't belong to one particular person, we Guarani belong to our land, it doesn't belong to the ranchers.

protestor11 karma

Olá, eu sou brasileiro. Parabéns por tomar essa iniciativa de fazer o AMA!

Algumas perguntas:

  1. Você mora em uma aldeia?

2 Como é a organização social na sua comunidade?

  1. Como o trabalho é dividido entre as pessoas? Existe comércio com pessoas de fora da comunidade?

  2. Como é o acesso à tecnologia de fora, como energia elétrica, geladeira e eletrodomésticos?

  3. Existem pessoas que não são indígenas morando em sua comunidade? Há sempre uma separação de quem é índio e quem não é?

The same questions (in English)

  1. Do you live in an indigenous village?

  2. How is the social organization in your community?

  3. How do people divide the labor? Is there trade with people from outside the community?

  4. How is your access to technology from the outside, like electrical energy, friges, appliances?

  5. Are there non-native people living in your community? Is there always a separation between who is indigenous and who isn't?

TonicoBenitesGuarani16 karma

Olá! Sim, eu moro na aldeia. Nos casos onde existe a terra regularizada, pessoas tem a possibilidade e o direito de ter acesso a essas tecnologias então eles podem escolher quais eles querem utilizar conforme sua necessidade. Para os que moram à beira da estrada, as pessoas enfrentam tantos problemas e é um risco tão sério a sua sobrevivência que isso acaba sendo secundário. Na minha comunidade não moram pessoas não indígenas.

HardBender10 karma

How is the leader of the Guarani Kaiowa chosen? By birthright or there is some kind of election process?

TonicoBenitesGuarani13 karma

We have several community leaders who represent the Guarani in our Aty Guasu Guarani Assembly. We choose leaders who have experience in our land struggle, there are some leaders who focus on politics, some who focus on education and the leaders learn for 20 or 30 years before becoming leaders.

Ai_32116 karma

Sorry to hear about your depressing situation. I have a few questions:

  1. What is a good book/source that I can read to know more about your tribe?

  2. How is the leader of your tribe chosen in the first place?

  3. What is one ritual in your community/religion that external people find the weirdest?

  4. How are you trying to combat the ranchers?

Thank you for doing this and I wish you gather a lot of attention to the plight of your people.

TonicoBenitesGuarani11 karma

  1. There are lots of good sources of information, Survival's website, CIMI and Aty Guasu facebook; and people can look up other websites with many articles about the Guarani. Search for my name in the internet and there are lots of articles and books. I also recommend the film "Birdwatchers"
  2. We have several community leaders who represent the Guarani in our Aty Guasu Guarani Assembly. We choose leaders who have experience in our land struggle, there are some leaders who focus on politics, some who focus on education and the leaders learn for 20 or 30 years before becoming leaders.
  3. I can't think of one!
  4. We are denouncing the ranchers' violence and actions to the authorities, demanding that they're punished so they stop killing us. That's the only way as they're sending their gunmen to attack us constantly.

havebananas5 karma

What does an average day in your life look like?

TonicoBenitesGuarani12 karma

For me, a normal day is a day fighting for my land. Everyday is different - sometimes I am studying, sometimes I am visiting the communities in the conflict zone, sometimes I am spreading our news, sometimes I participate in meetings or protests.

joelmooner4 karma

Can you tell me about your religion?

TonicoBenitesGuarani6 karma

Hi joelmooner, thank you for question. Here's an answer to a similar question that was asked earlier:

In the Guarani religion, our gods are like an invisible family and we communicate with them through our rituals. The Guarani need to live in a similar way of this family and we sing and dance to communicate with them, so that we can have the protection of these gods and so that we can all live well. Through our rituals, we help protect nature so it keeps on providing us with clean air and water not only for the Guarani but for all humanity.

Bernardo54 karma

Los bosques y selvas indígenas tienen de promedio 11 veces menos deforestación que las tierras a cargo de gobiernos y el sector privado, y el 80% de las zonas con mayor biodiversidad del Planeta, como aquellas de los tigres en la India, han sido cuidadas por los indígenas durante milenios.

De esta forma, los indígenas y pueblos tribales son considerados los mejores conservacionistas del Planeta.

¿Cree usted que proteger los derechos de los indígenas, especialmente el derecho a la tierra, es la mejor y más rápida forma de contribuir a la mejora del cambio climático?.

Muito obrigado unha vez máis.

TonicoBenitesGuarani8 karma

Claro. Protegiendo las tierras indígenas estás luchando automaticamente contra el cambio climático y a favor de la defensa de la biodiversidad y de la vida. Yo siempre estou conociendo otros lideres indígenas de Brasil y de fuera de Brasil y siempre es obvio que sus tierras son las mejores protegidas y su lucha es para eso.

Bernardo53 karma

¿Cual cree usted que sería la mejor forma en que la gente no indígena podría ayudar a los indígenas de todo el mundo?. Muito obrigado.

TonicoBenitesGuarani5 karma

Todas las personas del mundo tienen que saber como están siendo tratados los indígenas en Brasil y si sus derechos están siendo respectados. Ellos pueden enviar cartas, mesajes a los gobiernos para instar que mejoren la situación de los indígenas, sobretodo cuando estamos sendo maltratados y pasando miseria. Necesitamos esa ayuda cuando hay esas situaciones de emergencia.

Magolors_Realm3 karma

Im sorry for your current situation. What is the dark side of Brazil like that the media isn't telling us?

TonicoBenitesGuarani14 karma

The media is hiding all the violence, for example, sometimes communities are attacked, leaders killed, their bodies hidden, kids shot with rubber bullets, so much suffering but the media just says that the Guarani decided to voluntarily leave their land. We need the truth to come out.

milkcloudsinmytea2 karma

Boa tarde Tonico! Thank you for taking the time to do this AmA and for those responsible for making this possible! I'd like to ask, How do you perceive the Brazilian people's position towards all the abuse your people suffer ranging from the law's neglect about the heritage of your culture and traditions, to the armed bullies acting in name of big rich farmer's interests? And, if being displaced and heading to more urban areas, what are the possible outcomes? Does one end up homeless and or the fringes of society, or are there entities that look after the well being of the displaced people? Thank you very much!

TonicoBenitesGuarani12 karma

Boa tarde! In 2012, Brazilians on social media put 'Guarani Kiowa' as their surname on facebook. It was a way to raise awareness and push the government to recognise our demands. And there are lots of Brazilians from around the country who support our cause. The Guarani who were evicted are living on the edge, they are very vulnerable and they don't have many local organisations supporting them directly. When we are evicted, we end up living in makeshift huts with tarpaulin roofs, this leaves us feeling humiliated and in a state of despair and this leads to some of the younger Guarani to commit suicide. The solution is simple - the government needs to map out our land and put a stop to all of this.

elielfj2 karma

Tonico, como é pra o povo Kaiowá a luta pela igualdades de direitos entre mulheres e homens? Como ela é entendida e vivida?

TonicoBenitesGuarani8 karma

Oi! A nossa luta pela terra e pelos direitos é igual, sem distinção de gênero - é feita tanto por homens quanto por mulheres lutando juntos.

Utsualot2 karma

Estimado Tonico, ¿cómo sería la vida para los guaraníes si por fin consiguieran vivir en "la tierra sin mal"? ¿Hay algo que podamos hacer para ayudarles a recuperar su hogar? Muchas gracias.

TonicoBenitesGuarani7 karma

Los Guarani volverían a vivir felices, como vivíamos antes, praticando nuestra cultura, produciendo nuestra comida y nuestra forma de vivir Guarani podría reactivarse. No sufriríamos más violencia. Por eso estamos luchando, por eso estamos arriesgando nuestra vida, para recuperar nuestra 'tierra sin mal'' Ustedes pueden apoyar la lucha indígena, es muy importante para nosotros suya ayuda. He dado mas detalles en como ustedes pueden ayudar in otra respuesta en esta pagina.

Chumbeque1 karma

What do you think of the situation of the Guarani people in Paraguay? Does the fact that Guarani is an official language in that country better or worsen off relations there?


TonicoBenitesGuarani7 karma

It's a similar situation to the Brazilian Guarani, in some cases they're worse off because they don't have access to social security that we Guarani in Brazil have, which we need because we don't have our land recognised. I think that some Guarani in Paraguay are living on their lands and being attacked less than we are in Brazil but I would like to get to know the situation better. I think it's good that Guarani is an official language in Paraguay because it shows that it's the only country that really values this indigenous language.

ytrof1 karma

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

What's for lunch?

Any special plans for dinner tonight?

Keep fighting the good fight my friend!

TonicoBenitesGuarani10 karma

I am in London at the moment. This morning, I had coffee, bread and cheese for breakfast. At lunchtime, I went to a café where there was a dish called "Brazilian chicken" so I chose it, but it was very spicy for me! Tonight, I want pizza! Thanks for the support

Pacanar1 karma

De qué forma el actual gobierno brasileño está fallando a los pueblos indigenas? Muchas gracias

TonicoBenitesGuarani5 karma

No sabemos todavía porque son pocos dias del nuevo gobierno pero los políticos anti-indígenas ya están presionando el actual gobierno a analisar los procesos de tierra, queriendo dar un paso atras en los avanzos de nuestra lucha y queriendo atacar a los pueblos indígenas de lo país. Estamos pidiendo que el publico acompañe lo que está pasando y apoye las demandas de los indígenas.

Revanchist_lopez1 karma

was/is it hard to keep your faith strong against Europeans and outsiders while protecting Terra sem Mal (land without evil),?

TonicoBenitesGuarani2 karma

We Guarani continue to practice our own faith and religion, despite all the pressure and outside influence. Our faith gives us the strength to keep on fighting.

Bernardo51 karma

¿Podría usted ayudar a las personas con una forma de vida industrializada a comprender el verdadero concepto de "riqueza"?. ¿Cómo la definiría?. Obrigado outra vez.

TonicoBenitesGuarani7 karma

Oi! Para la mayoría de la gente en la sociedad industrializada, la riqueza es el dinero - mucho dinero, y las posesiones materiales, pero para los Guarani la riqueza es vivir bien de manera colectiva, tener una buena relación con la naturaleza y respetar nuestro espirites que cuidan de nuestra naturaleza. Eso es la mayor riqueza para los Guarani.

bolsonaro_neto1 karma

What do you think of the recent rise of conservatism in Brazil, and how can that affect the indigenous peoples?

TonicoBenitesGuarani11 karma

It could put an end to indigenous peoples hard-won rights, which would be a disaster.

Pacanar1 karma

Cuantas personas forman el pueblo Guarani Kaiowa en la actualidad? Y en el pasado? Gracias.

TonicoBenitesGuarani9 karma

Hoy hay 47,000 Guarani Kaiowa en Brasil, en el año 1500, había más de 2 milliones. La población cayó porque fuimos masacrados y asesinados por los invasores en nuestra tierra. Por eso estamos luchando contra la continuación de esta violencia contra nuestro pueblo para las generaciones futuras.