Honors College Thesis

¿Mba’eteko, Che? : An Examination of the Roles of the Guaraní and Spanish Languages in the Cultural Identity of Paraguayan Migrants in Greater Buenos Aires

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  • The purpose of this project was to investigate the roles of different languages (namely Guaraní, Jopará, and Spanish) in the formation of Paraguayan cultural identity among Paraguayan migrants to the greater Buenos Aires region of Argentina. Though the Paraguayan community makes up the largest immigrant population in Argentina, outside of studies focusing on their participation in the labor market, very little about them has been studied. Paraguay’s role as the only officially bilingual country on a national level in South America and the only country where the majority of the people speak an indigenous language give it a unique cultural identity in which language plays an disproportionate role. Fieldwork for this project was realized in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, as well as in its suburbs in the province of Buenos Aires, in Gonzalo Catán and La Matanza. First, Paraguayan cultural spaces in Buenos Aires were observed in order to discern the language practice of the Paraguayan community in Argentina. In addition, six Paraguayan migrants from diverse backgrounds, social classes, and reasons for migrating were interviewed about how much of a role language played in the formation of their respective cultural identities. The initial conclusions drawn are that while Guaraní is seldom used in its purest form, instead eschewed for its more creole form, Jopará, it plays a critical role in the formation of Paraguayan identity. The proficiency that most Paraguayans have in either of the two languages links them to their sense of nationhood and makes them feel unique, especially when living outside their country and being surrounded by monolingual Hispanophones. In an environment where their language practice and ability make them stand out, maintaining their Guaraní and Jopará language skills is often a way for migrant Paraguayans to form social circles with other Paraguayan expatriates and stay connected to their cultural roots. Key Words: Paraguay, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Guaraní, Spanish, Jopará, cultural identity, language ideology, migration
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