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The Charrúa were an indigenous people of southern South America in Uruguay. Historically they had lived in Uruguay and southern Rio Grande do Sul. They were a nomadic people that sustained themselves through fishing and foraging. They did not build permanent structures, living instead in tents.
The Charrúa killed Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solís during his 1515 voyage up the Río de la Plata. Following the arrival of European settlers, the Charrúa were progressively killed by or integrated into the prevailing colonial cultures.
Most of the remaining Charrúa people were massacred at Salsipuedes (meaning "Get-out-if-you-can") Creek on 11 April 1831 by a group led by Bernabé Rivera, nephew of Fructuoso Rivera who was at that time the first president of Uruguay. Bernabé Rivera had invited the Charrúas to a meeting, then ambushed them. Rivera's forces slew the men and enslaved the women and children. Only a few escaped this massacre. That massacre was followed four months later by another led by Rivera in Mataojo.
Four surviving Charrúas were captured at Salsipuedes. They were Senacua Sénaqué, a medicine man; Vaimaca-Pirú Sira, a warrior; and a young couple, Laureano Tacuavé Martínez and María Micaëla Guyunusa. All four were taken to Paris, France, in 1833, where they were exhibited to the public. They all soon died in France, including a baby daughter born to Sira and Guyunusa, and adopted by Tacuavé. The child was named María Mónica Micaëla Igualdad Libertad by the Charrúas, yet she was filed by the French as Caroliné Tacouavé. A monumental sculpture, Los Últimos Charrúas was built in their memory in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Not much is known about the Charrúa due to their eradication at an early time in Uruguayan history. The only surviving documents that concern the Charrúa are those of Spanish explorers.
Uruguayans refer to themselves as "charrúas" when in the context of a competition or battle against a foreign contingent. In situations in which Uruguayans display bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, the expression "garra charrúa" (Charrúan tenacity) is used to refer to victory in the face of certain defeat.
After Salsipuedes, the Charrúa effectively ceased to exist as a people. It is said that there are no fullblooded Charrúa remaining, though physical traces may be found among Uruguay's minority mestizo population. According to the Argentine census of 2001, there are 676 Charrúa (the majority of whom are of mixed ancestry) living in the province of Entre Ríos.
Charrua is also a name of a Brazilian military tank for troops transportation.
- Burford 16
- "Uruguay and the memory of the Charrúa tribe." The Prisma. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 20 Dec 2011.
- Burford 12
- "El Parto de María Micaëla Guyunusa". chan-taekwondo-charrua (in Spanish). Charruas del Uruguay, LA NACION CHARRUA. May 21, 2012. Retrieved on the 16th of December, 2012.
- "El Nacimiento de Caroliné Tacouavé" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2012-06-24.
- Burford 119
- Burford 173
- Charrúa artwork, National Museum of the American Indian