Terena - Orientation

Identification. The Terena are a Guana or Chane ("many people" in the Terena language) subgroup that originally lived in the northeast of the Paraguayan Chaco.

Location. At present the Terena are located almost entirely in the municipalities of Miranda and Aquidauana, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, except for a small group living in villages in the state of Sao Paulo. The Aquidauana-Miranda region lies between 20° and 22° S and 54° and 58° W. The elevation of the region is less than 200 meters. The climate is moist-tropical.

Demography. The Terena are among the few native Brazilian populations that have displayed population growth. In the 1840s, when they migrated into Brazilian territory, the Terena numbered about 3,000. At the end of the 1950s, there were around 3,800. Official data note approximately 12,000 village dwellers during the mid-1980s. Informal estimates suggest that up to 8,000 Terena live on the outskirts of the main towns in Mato Grosso do Sul. Birthrates are high, as are mortality rates. This give the population structure of the Terena an appearance similar to that of the Brazilian population in general—a pyramid with a broad base and a narrow top. Until the 1950s infectious diseases in general and tuberculosis in particular were the main causes of death. Today the causes of death are mixed, with infectious as well as chronic degenerative causes. Among children, the main causes of death are infectious diseases, especially gastroenteritis and respiratory infections.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Terena language is part of the Arawak Language Family, with elements of the MbayáGuaikuru cultural module.

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