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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More on the Caaiguá wild men

My recent post on the Caaiguá people, wild men, left me a bit intrigued, so I did some more research and came across the original texts written by contemporary witnesses: Jesuit priests from the Missions in the jungles close to where these people lived.

The Jesuits's written accounts show that these people were quite singular:

  • They spoke a language that was quite different from the Guaraní language spoken by the surrounding tribes.
  • It had a "whistling" like sound
  • The Caaiguá lived in caves and were stone-age hunter gatherers
  • They were described as similar to both apes and men and with limited intellectual capabilities
  • They were also very belicose and violent

I am inclined to believe that they were indeed a relict Neanderthal group, human yet not human enough, feature that led both natives and missionaries to consider them authentic wild men.

Wild Men in detail

Father Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro, wrote several learned books on the native languages of North and South America, and, as could be expected, mentioned the language spoken by the Caaiguas. I quote him below (the bold font is mine):

"The Caaiguá Language.
The Caaiguá language is spoken by the nation of the same name that has settled to the east of the Uruguay River to the north, near its sources
[Shaded in red in map below] it is a peculiar language of rough and difficult pronounciation as Techo correctly notes, and speaks about the Caaiguá tongue as follows: 'The Caaiguás use their own language which is hard to understand because when they pronounce the words they do not seem to speak but instead whistle or form unintelligible tones in their throats'.
The name Caaiguás is Guaraní and means wild and because the converted and civilized Guaraní usually give the name of caaiguá to some Guaraní tribes that wander about in the jungle, some authors have believed that the Caaiguá is a Guaraní dialect and have mistaken the true Caaiguás for the nomad Guaraní tribes...
" [1]

This is very interesting, it clearly points out that these people are not Guaraní. That the also name applies to ethnic Guaraní people who live under their pre-hispanic conditions, in the jungle. But that the real Caaiguá people are a distinct group with their own peculiar language.

And a very strange language indeed, with whistling sounds!. I looked up the text written by father Techo, which Hervás y Panduro quoted, and it proved to be very interesting too:

Nicolás del Techo's text

He was born in Lille in 1611 as "du Toict" (which he modified to a Spanish version: "del Techo"), and died at the Mission in Apóstoles in 1687. He became a Jesuit in 1619 and came to America in 1640 working as a missionary, and historian in South America.

This text was published in Antwerp in 1654 as the "Relatio triplex de rebus indicis". It was a letter that he wrote in 1651 at the Mission of Santa María La Mayor, on the Uruguay River in the Missions of Paraguay.

territory of caaiguas

Map showing the probable territory of the Caaiguás and the Jesuit Missions
Copyright © 2014 by Austin Whittall

The mission is located in Argentina, in the province of Misiones, Santa María municipality. It was founded in 1626 and abandoned in 1767. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been restored.

Below I quote the intersting parts of the text (bold font is mine):

"We are taking care of here, the two of us, of two thousand six hundred indians [...] To this task we add another, not less difficult: the taming of the most ferocious Caaiguá people. [...]
The Caaiguá people are not very numerous and are the less apt for work among all the indians. They live in the jungles between the Paraná and Iguazú rivers
[Shaded in Yellow in the map below] , and for this reason the surrounding tribes call them jungle inhabitants (which is the meaning of the name Caaiguá). They speak their own language, not very easy to learn, because, they when they issue their sounds, it seems that, instead of speaking, they whistled, producing a whirlwind of inaticulate explosions in their throats.
They have very few huts and these are very far apart. Most of these indians are happy living in hovels, like animals, and do not procure their food any better than them, so they do not practice agriculture or have any farming activities. The fish and hunt with bow and arrow. Nevertheless, most of the year they eat raw worms, mice, ants and other small creaturs that they can catch easily. The fight with tapirs [...] they kil them and eat them; climbing up trees they catch monkeys with such dextrity, as if they themselves were apes. They like monkey meat a lot and eat jaguar meat without flinching [...] They are physically deformed and are monstrous, similar to both monkeys and men, especially if you look at their noses, which allows you to fairly call them stub-nosed. As they live in the jungles most of them have their backs bent and hunched, making their gaze remain fixed towards the ground. They walk in a bent over manner. However many of them have a nicer appearance, especially the women, who born and bred in the shade keep the color of their body quite similar to that of Europeans
." [2]

He also mentions that they were wild and fierce, muderding anyone who dared to go into their territory, that the Guaraní killed them whenever they could. And that when captured they were "difficult to tame [...] refused food and died in a few days". A missionary, Father Claudio brought up a Caaiguá boy and taught him the Guaraní language so that he could be an interpreter for him (a clear indication that Guaraní and Caaiguá spoke distinct languages) and went to their territory to convert them, enticing some to come down to the mission:

"So some of them came out of their caves and [...] canme to the town of Santa María La Mayor.[2]

They did this again and: "After a journey of nine days this illustious hunter of souls went into the caves of the wild men and through his interpreter managed to get eighteen of them to agree to be converted and follow him [...] he found the inept to retain and obtuse to undestand clearly." [2]

The Jesuits fought against a slaver raid by the Brazilian Mamelucos and freed several Caaiguá natives, earning their gratitude.

The Brazilians hunted natives to capture them and sell them as slaves. This decimated the native tribes of what is now Southern Brazil, Paraguay and the Argentine provinces of Misiones and Corrientes. The Jesuits organized armies to fight them off, but when the Spanish cronw expelled the Jesuit Order from America, their missions quickly dissolved and became ghost-towns, swallowed up by the jungle. The natives disbanded and returned to their old customs.

The region remained forgotten during the independence and civil wars of the early XIX century. It returned to the limelight during the war between Paraguay and Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina in the 1860s and its borders were drawn up during the late 1800s. At that time Argentine explorers such as Ambrosetti and Lista visited the region (which was part of a border dispute between Brazil and Argentina). Both of them mistook the ethnic "wild" Guaraní people for the original Caaiguá people.

Juan Ambrosetti (1886) called them Kaingangues, Caigua, Caingua and Ramón Lista (1883) Caayguás, but these were not the real Caaiguá mentioned by del Techo, who had probably already become extinct due to the slaving raids of the late 1700s.


[1] Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro, (1800). Catálogo De Las Lenguas De Las Naciones Conocidas, Y Numeracion, Division, Y Clases De Estas Segun La Diversidad De Sus Idiomas Y Dialectos: Lenguas Y Naciones Americanas. Rank, Vol 1. pp 296.
[2] Nicolás del Techo, (1654) Relación Sobre la Gente Caaigua que se empezó a convertir. Republished by Arturo Nagy & Francisco Pérez Maricevich, (1967), Tres Encuentros Con América. Ed. del Centenario, Asunción.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. I have an interest in amerindians (specially south americans) and the peopling of the America and just found your blog intriguing, to say the least. But if I understood well, it seems that you believe that Neanderthals came to the Americas and mixed after the crossing of Beringia. Is that correct?

  2. Matheus, yes, I believe that it is feasible that either Neanderthals or even Homo erectus managed to get across Beringia and into America long before the 40 kya oldest date for H. sapiens entry.
    They mixed with modern humans in America and modern Humans back migrated to East Asia, in an O.O.Am trek.
    The mtDNA lineages exclusive to Amerindians but almost lacking in East Asia and the Y haplogroups also exclusive to native Americans is intriguing. They are assigned to bottlenecks and founder effects, to a "waiting" period in Beringia so that they could evolve....
    What if modern man reached America earlier than expected, and had plenty of time for these mutations to happen in both mtDNA and Y choromosomes?
    Admixing with Neanderthals in America too?
    Open minded interpretation of data may give us some surprises in the future. Thanks for your comment.


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