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Paraguay: Spreading the Guaraní Language Through Blogging

In Paraguay, where only 3% of the population has access to internet [es] and where the indigenous language of Guaraní is spoken by 88% of the population and also an official state language, Mirta Martínez saw an opportunity where nobody else did. A journalist and a Guaraní teacher, she became the first and only blogger writing in Guaraní in the world, captivating readers not only in Paraguay but also around the globe.

Mirta Martínez

Mirta Martínez

Guaraní is a language originally spoken by the Guaraní people, a local indigenous community that inhabits Paraguay, and parts of Argentina, Brasil and Bolivia. Although Guaraní spread all the way through these countries, today it is most widely spoken in Paraguay, together with Spanish (brought by the Spaniards when they invaded South America). The remaining Guaraní indigenous population in Paraguay is now very small, but most Paraguayan citizens inherited their language. Up until a few years ago, Guaraní was considered a language spoken only by “lower class citizens,” and people from the country side. It was only in 1992 that an educational reform made it mandatory that classes should be taught both in Guaraní and Spanish.

Photo courtesy of Mirta Martínez

Photo courtesy of Mirta Martínez

Martinez figured out that internet could be a great way to spread the Guaraní language, so she presented a project to her bosses at ABC Color, the largest nationally distributed newspaper, to make a Guaraní version of the online version of the newspaper and to write a blog in the Guaraní language, and it was approved. Today, people from all over the world who are fascinated by this beautiful language get in direct contact with Martinez through her blog ABC Rogue.

The following is an interview with this visionary journalist:

Global Voices: You are the first person blogging in Guaraní…

Mirta Martínez: Yes, this year it’s going to be 10 years that I've been writing news for the Guaraní online version of the paper called Marandu (news) and since October 2008 we have the first and only blog in Guaraní. Many topics get covered in the blog, you will find posts on (US President Barack) Obama and (Paraguayan President Fernando) Lugo, they both surprised everybody when they got elected… we also talk about health issues such as the H1N1 virus. Any topic that impacts me and that I believe can be of general interest.

I can tell you that the readers of this blog made it their own.

As an anecdote, last year a French-Paraguayan reader visited Paraguay, he is one of the assiduous readers of my blog ABC Rogue, Oscar Uberti. He’s a retired engineer and he’s very interested in the Guaraní language, so he started writing a Guaraní dictionary based on the technical vocabulary engineers use. So he uses the blog to learn and speak with other Guaraní speakers while in France.

GV: Being the majority of the population Guaraní speakers, why do you think there is only one blog in Guaraní?

MM: First of all one has to be in constant training and moreover keeping up with the new technology tools that develop new spaces for the spread of language. Also, to be able to write in a newspaper one has to have journalistic skills and education, and you must love it. Working in a newspaper requires a lot of sacrifice, because it absorbs plenty of time and your family must collaborate by providing trust and balance. I’m now finishing my Masters degree in Guaraní, I would be part of the first graduating class, and there are 30 of us classmates, among them poets, journalists and professors.

GV: Who reads your blog more, Paraguayans or foreigners?

MM: The ones who read my blog are mainly from foreign countries, students at universities from Japan, United States, Kiel y Mainz, (Germany) students in Canada. Also Paraguayans who live in Spain, Brazil, and in Paraguay, people who admire the language and Guaraní students. Also people who are surprised to find the blog, it’s a novelty. Nobody ever imagined that this could be done.

GV: Do you think the amount of blogs in Guaraní will increase?

MM: I believe they will increase, there are a lot of people who write well and there are very good journalists who had studied Guaraní to be able to write blogs, but until now they hold back from doing it, it seems like I’m the only one who isn’t afraid of making mistakes.

It’s just a matter of taking the courage to do it. It will make me very happy because it is a space given to a language that still many feel ashamed of having or speaking. And they haven’t realized the value of expression that emerges from the same words that describe the teko (essence) of the human being.

8 comments

  • John Doe

    The past is the past. It would be more useful to prepare Paraguayans for the new knowledge-based economy (move away from farming, smuggling or Itaipu), rather than waste precious resources on a tribal (and trivial) language such as Guarani. Also, don’t get me started on higher education in Paraguay. If you feel so bad about the former Spanish empire, there are probably other ways to express it. Best regards.

    • Kero

      I think your right about to move on with the knowledge-based economy, but our culture it’s something we are very proud about it and that includes the learning Guaraní couz it’s a beautiful and really expressive language.

  • Celia

    that’s so sad John Doe that you don’t even give your real name but you called trivial and a waste of time to our language… is so important to keepour culture knowledge… and i’m sure most of paraguayan will defend this language… It’s one of the most important thing that make us different from the rest…

  • Luis

    John’s comment reflects ignorance.

    Apart from that, I don’t even feel like wasting my time trying to give explanations to someone who expresses its opinion with no criteria…

  • […] We don’t yet know if Jaqi Aru will be successful in creating a critical mass of Aymara-language bloggers, but we do know that it would never take place unless someone started somewhere. (Ruben Hilari from Jaqi Aru will speak about the project at the Global Voices Summit in Chile in a couple weeks. Also, I see via Belen that a journalist and Guaraní teacher in Paraguay recently became the first blogger to write in Guaraní.) […]

  • John Doe

    Guarani language is absent from the internet due to severe deficits in education and economic development in the country. I apologize for calling Guarani a ‘trivial’ language, I should add that the target of my comment was journalism, not Guarani. Hopefully when Paraguayans can gain access to quality education and the latest technologies, we shall see a natural increase in Guarani content over the internet. I mean, Paraguayans love Guarani, so why not. Best regards.

  • From a historical perspective at the very least a spiritual one we all reserve the right to learn a larger world view of what Paraguay offers. I hope you can appreciate this article and comment on your thoughts of. http://www.backyardmystic.com/2010/11/we-are-indivisible-a-world-view-from-paraguay/

  • Miximi

    Xe americano. Ahakuri Paraguay ojapo 20 anos. Ane’e va’ekue heta la Guarani, pero ko’aga miximi. Ahexaga’u…..mo’oime el blogueo??

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