Paraguay is a country rich in ethnic diversity. Although the majority of the population is mestizo, there are seventeen indigenous peoples, who are divided into five linguistic families.1 The 1981 census numbered the indigenous population at 38,703 (INDI,1982), but more reliable estimates suggest a figure of 70,000–100,000, equivalent to 2 per cent of the national population (Chase-Sardi et al.,1990: 11). This indigenous minority lives in a society in which the racist attitudes of the majority have been well-documented (Chase-Sardi and Martínez, 1973). The fragmented nature of their own social organisation has exacerbated the difficulties that indigenous people face in exerting pressure on an unsympathetic national government. Forging a common unity has been extremely difficult because, traditionally, indigenous peoples do not possess centralised organisations, and intercommunity alliances are almost unknown. As a result, there is no organisation that can be regarded as a legitimate and effective pressure group representing indigenous interests.2
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