Exploring Misiones Province: A Journey with the Indigenous Guarani

By Ivan PetrenkoJan 27, 2024 07:09 AMNews
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Rainy and cloudy view of Iguazú Falls
Rainy and cloudy view of Iguazú Falls. Source: unsplash

The Iguazú Falls, a majestic UNESCO World Heritage site, attracted nearly three million visitors in 2022. Yet, just beyond this renowned spectacle lies the Misiones province, a hidden gem in Argentina's northeastern tip. This region, home to the Indigenous Guarani people, offers a unique perspective on the area's natural beauty and cultural richness, often missed by tourists.

A Day with Nature and History

My adventure began with a tranquil kayak journey along the Yacu-I River, weaving through the Misiones province towards Iguazú Falls. The province, comparable in size to Belgium, sadly retains only 6% of its original Atlantic rainforest. Here, Awasi's 14-villa lodge, perched on the edge of Iguazú National Park, aims to preserve this biodiversity by introducing visitors to its splendors. I set off early, traversing the vibrant Route 101, lined with rosewood trees - a poignant reminder of the region's history and exploitation since the Spanish conquest.

Culinary and Survival Insights

In the heart of the jungle, survival knowledge is paramount. The Guarani, with centuries of experience traversing the forests of Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina, are the masters of this domain. During my exploration, I was treated to a traditional asado barbecue, complete with mbeju, a cheese-stuffed cassava flour pancake, expertly prepared by my guides, Chito Victor Dos Santos and Nona Silveira De Asis.

Encounter with the Guarani Community

A special invitation led me to a Guarani village, where local guide Karaí José introduced me to a community deeply rooted in respect for nature. Here, children played outside mudbrick houses, and parents tended to their crops, maintaining traditions of using plants for medicine and setting traps for sustenance. Karaí shared their sustainable practices and legends, highlighting their intrinsic connection to the land and its preservation.

A Legend and A Natural Wonder

The Guarani's rich storytelling tradition was evident when Awasi guide Josefina Stocca recounted the legend of Iguazú Falls' creation, as we visited the national park. This narrative of love, wrath, and transformation into the Devil’s Throat and a nearby tree captures the essence of the area's mystique. Witnessing the falls, with vultures and swifts gliding above and a rainbow momentarily bridging the water and forest, I felt the powerful symbolism of these tales and the Guarani's enduring spirit.

The Misiones province, with its lush landscapes and the profound wisdom of the Indigenous Guarani people, offers a journey that transcends the conventional tourist path. It's a reminder of the intricate connections between nature and culture, urging us to look beyond the obvious and explore the deeper stories of our world.

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