The earliest records of the Mbya tell of their strong resistance both to the Spanish Conquerors and later to the Jesuit missionaries. They became known as ‘Kaingua’ (roughly translated as ‘those from the forest that have resisted’). Essentially a nomadic people, they are thought to have first arrived in Misiones, the northern province of Argentina, on route from Paraguay. Misiones shares international borders between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
The territorial wars between these countries saw the province become an area of intense conflict. All the aboriginal peoples of these regions were forced to participate in bitter and bloody border struggles that almost resulted in their extinction. This period and the ensuing years saw the colonisation of the Misiones by a variety of European and South American migrant workers.
The last of the original Kainguas died in 1918, but were soon replaced by other Mbya groups arriving from Paraguay, a migratory process that continues today. It has been raised in studies of the culture that the Mbya’s reaction to conflict is to migrate. This bonds with the principal myth that is often associated with the Mbya, that of their constant search for the ‘Tierra sin Mal’, or the ‘Land without Evil’. Known as a hermetic people, the Mbya have never integrated into part of an urban population but largely remain in the ‘monte’ (forest).