The Guaraní Indians were the once the largest tribe in South America. Their home was a forest that stretched from the Argentine pampas to the Brazilian Amazon.
Four centuries ago, Jesuit priests arrived in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil to evangelize the Guaraní, a story told in the 1985 movie “The Mission.” The Jesuits coaxed the nomadic, hunter-and-gatherer Guaraní to live in Catholic missions called reductions.
Some Guaraní, however, never accepted the church, and remained hidden in the forest. Today, their descendants confront a world in which paper mills, dams, settlers, and tourism development have so diminished their habitat that, increasingly, the forest’s edge is all that’s left.
In 1992, when this story was reported, the government of Argentina was planning to relocate the last of that country’s Guaraní onto small plots of farmland. Yet one small band of Indians, in northern Argentina’s Misiones Province, was still holding out.
Narration is by Edward James Olmos, who hosted a series of 13 half-hour Vanishing Homelands specials.