Maká - History and Cultural Relations



The ancestors of the Maká were almost certainly a southeastern tribe of the Mataca area; by around the mid-eighteenth century they were living on the right bank of the central Río Bermejo. There they absorbed the full impact of massive immigration of peoples on horseback, a result of colonial pressure in the west of the region. They adopted an equestrian life-style, and migrated toward the north, occupying the eastern portion of the Pilcomayo Delta, in the midst of the Patino marshlands of Paraguay. From then on, they were at least partially identified with the late-eighteenth-century Enimagá because they became part of the groups of marauders and robbers who kept the Paraguayan border of the Gran Chaco in a state of war until well into the nineteenth century. Immediately before the Chaco War, the Maká were contacted by explorers and travelers who began to penetrate the area from Paraguay. Among the newcomers was Juan Belaieff, a Russian military topographer-ethnographer in the service of the Paraguayan armed forces. Some Maká formed a privileged relationship with this military humanist, and, for the services they rendered as scouts and auxiliaries to General Belaieff behind Bolivian lines, the Paraguayan government rewarded them with possession of land opposite the city of Asunción, land that they now occupy.

Besides Western influence, which has intensified recently, the Maká have maintained cultural relations with many other inhabitants of the Chaco during their tangled history of the last 250 years. In Maká locations to the south of the Río Bermejo, Toba, Mocoví, Pilagá, and Vilela influences were superimposed on a cultural base that was surely Mataco. Later the Maká established relations with the Mbayá-Guaycurú of the northern Chaco. At the end of the nineteenth century, the northern nucleus was allied to the Lengua and the central nucleus to the Chulupí (Nivaklé) and Toba-Mirí. Both groups warred, especially against the southern Toba and Pilagá. The southern nucleus, on the other hand, lived with the Pilagá, possibly from the end of the eighteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth century.


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