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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Monday, December 14, 2009

Yámana or Yagan

 
Book review

Last week I bought a book on Argentina's mythical beings (Seres Mitológicos Argentinos) written by Adolfo Colombres. It is basically a dictionary with over five hundred entries, each one corresponding to a mythical entity. It is superbly illustrated by Luis Scafati.

The mythical creatures span several native cultures from north to south (Guaraní, Diaguita, Toba, Wichi, etc.) as well as some "westernized" ones which belong to Argentina's Creole mythology.

book cover

Book Cover Seres Mitológicos Argentinos.

Yet I was unpleasantly surprised by the author's comment "We have not included the Yámanas because they are Chilean".[1]

This is not true. The Yámana (also known as Yagan) lived in the territory that is now part of Argentina and also Chile. They were boat people and moved around in canoes that they made with the bark of the Nothofagus trees.

As the following map shows (the Yámana territory is marked in green), they clearly extended east along the Beagle Channel into Argentina.

Fuegian natives, Gusinde

Tierra del Fuego Natives. Martin Gusinde c. 1920. From [2].

Furthermore, the name of the capital city of the Argentine Province of Tierra del Fuego (Ushuaia) is a Yagan word! It was here that Rev. Thomas Bridges headed an Anglican mission among the Yagans between 1871 and 1886. He spoke their language fluently and even wrote a Yagan language dictionary.

His son, Lucas Bridges recorded interesting information about these people and the Bridges family, established at their estancia (Ranch) at Harberton, close to Ushuaia, assisted many of the later scientific expeditions sent to Tierra del Fuego to study the place and the native people.

This made me wonder why Colombres overlooked the abundant bibliography available on these now extinct Argentine natives and decided that they were Chilean.

It also raises the question of how deep has he researched the other contents of his book. My suggestion is to us this book as a very superficial introduction to Argentine native and popular myths, but go to the sources if you want deeper or reliable information.

Bibliography.

[1] Colombres, A., (2008). Seres Mitológicos Argentinos. B. Aires: Ed. Colihue. pp. 22.
[2] Distribution of Indian Groups in the Southern Channels by Martin Gusinde, c.1920.

Further reading on the Yagans:

Bridges, L., (2008). El último confín de la tierra. B. Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.
Bridges, T., (1893). La Tierra del Fuego y sus habitantes. Informe de Thomas Bridges publicado por el Instituto Geográfico Argentino. B. Aires: Instituto Geográfico Argentino. 06-08.1893.
Bridges, T., (1998). Los Indios del último confin. Sus escritos para la South American Missionary Society. Ushuaia: Zagier & Urruty Publications.
Canclini, A., (2007). Leyendas de Tierra del Fuego. Mitos de los onas y yaganes, aborígenes fueguinos. B. Aires: Zagier & Urruty.
Gusinde, M., (1961). The Yamana: The Life and Thought of the Water Nomads of Cape Horn. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files.
Martial, L., (2005). Mision al Cabo de Hornos, la expedición científica francesa en la Romanche Julio de 1882 a setiembre de 1883. Ushuaia: Zagier & Urruty Publications.
Orquera, L. and Piana, E. (1999). La vida material y social de los Yámana. B. Aires: EUDEBA.
Orquera, L. and Piana, E., (2003). Yámana Canoeros marinos de Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia. Museo del Fin del Mundo, Biblioteca Virtual.


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Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

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