This essay aims to make an accurate description of the way of life of the warlike Querandies, as well as their death at the hands of the invading Spaniards. I will try to recover their spiritual world, as well as their practices and ferocious resistance to the colonizer from the few surviving testimonies on the subject.
The Querandies violently opposed the conquest to the point of confronting and defeating the Spanish in a historic conflict which I will describe below.
I am writing this work since I consider the lessons that this episode can teach us to be vitally important. This essay will be about a war that has already been waged in southern lands. We hope that others will use it as inspiration for the war that is currently being waged here, since, even though centuries have past, the hostility remains the same. Because of the neglect and silence of centuries, little trace remains of the savage Querandies. Nevertheless, I hope to rescue the little that’s left of our knowledge of the now extinct Querandies who were exterminated quickly after the arrival of civilization. Added to this is that the little we do know has been taken from the perspective of the colonizers with their repulsive Christian morality and their sick civilized mentality. Thus, I cannot guarantee that 100% of what I describe here is accurate, though I can say that I have relied on various sources of information, trying to avoid only depending on one. I have also tried to avoid falling into the questionable tendency of portraying the natives as politically correct beings, with gentle customs, “just”, without hierarchies, and the like. And on the other hand, I don’t want to portray them as “pure” savages, giving a false vision of their resistance. After that introduction, let us enter a bit into the world of these savages.
May the fiery arrows of the ancients invade the fire of our spirit!
May the spirits of our warlike ancestors return and torment the civilized!
Who were the Querandies?
The Querandies were a truly nomadic hunter-gatherer people. They inhabited the pampas for many centuries before the arrival of the Spanish, and their way of life was centered around their habitat. Their extinction in the 18th century resulted in their replacement by the Araucanos coming from Chile who were also accustomed to a way of life on the pampas. The substitution of one people for another was somewhat slow until the end of the 18th century when the Araucanos totally replaced other peoples on the pampas.
The Querandies inhabited an area from what is now the current city of Buenos Aires north to Carcarañá, east to the sea and the Rio de la Plata, south to the banks of the Salado River, and west to the foot of the Sierra Grande in Cordoba.
The Querandies dominated the eastern region of the primitive pampas. They were divided into two groups: the Taluhet, who inhabited the humid pampas, and the Diuihet, who were in the western and southern region, the dry pampas.
They were tall in stature, with an elongated head, similar to the inhabitants of Patagonia. The skeleton that was found in Fontezuelas is thought to be more ancient than the inhabitants of the pampas in the historic era. The same can be said of the skull fossils found in Arrecifes. This origin determined the form of how the Guarani referred to them: “men with fat,” due to their practice of covering their bodies in grease.
Unfortunately there is not a lot of testimony concerning the beliefs or cosmovision of the Querandies. We only have recorded references of two deities of what modern people could interpret being of “good” and “evil,” though it is unlikely that they would have thought of these deities in this manner. These two deities were called Soychu and Gualichu. The first is known to have been their supreme deity and was the deity to whom humans went upon death. This is why they tended to refer to the dead with the expression, “Soychuhet.”.
Of Gualichu we have many more stories. We know that he is the entity who was identified with problematic or painful occurrences that happened in people’s lives. Gualichu is shown before us as the hidden. His place of habitation is the dark cave, and a large dark tree symbolizes him. The fury of Gualichu could fall upon you if you behaved in a disrespectful manner on the paths where he lives, namely unknown roads. One way to placate his fury is to walk on his paths with respect and silence.
Gualichu is all that his apart from the human. He manifests himself in fights and interpersonal disputes, in “accidents” such as when a person falls into a ravine, but also in plagues, illnesses, rains, storms, tornados, etc.
The Querandi tribes had their partial chiefs who maintained their independence and possessed their territories for hunting and fishing. They were a sort of “intermediary group” between the Tehuelches and the Guaikurues of the plains. It was known that in these communities there was no differentiation between members, and even guests were accepted and treated equally along with the original members.
As in other southern people, brides were bought and divorce was frequent, at least in the western sector.
As they were accustomed to walking the pampa in search of their prey, or staying on one place where food was plentiful, they built their shelters. These were huts that could be disassembled and transported with ease. To create a hut they used sticks and painted and tanned deerskins. Later they would used horse skins to cover their huts. Their homes served as shelter from the wind. They worked with stone and possessed stone mortars. They hunted using stones balls tied together that they would launched at their prey. In the territory once occupied by the Querandies can be found remnants of ceramics decorated with geometric engraved patterns which may have been unique to them.
When they adopted the use of the horse their nomadism increased and then they began to adopt basket weaving with renewed intensity
They used leather for boots, harnesses, and huts. They dressed in skirts and blankets, and furs served as their capes.
Being close to rivers, they devoted themselves to fishing that they did with nets. There is some disagreement concerning the use of canoes among the Querandies: some say that they did not possess canoes, other information indicates that they were one of the few Tehuelche peoples that used them. They used stone mortars to create fish flour. They also collected river mollusks. But mostly they dedicated themselves to hunting species then common on the pampas: nutrias, rheas, partridges, and deer. They were capable of running 30 miles without tiring in pursuit of their prey. On the occasions of long journeys, when water was scarce or they did not find any at all, they would drink the blood of their prey. They would also consume thistles to satiate their thirst with their bitter juice. When locusts swarmed the pampas, the indigenous peoples lit the grass on fire, thus cooking the voracious insect. They would then go about collecting them, grinding them into flour, and making a sort of pasta out of them that they ate with relish. They rounded out their diet with the collection of fruits. After Buenos Aires was first abandoned in 1536, they began to consume the cows that were left by the Spanish that reproduced themselves easily on the pampas.
Conflict with civilization
With the arrival of the first colonizers to the lands of the Querandies around 1536, many misfortunes befell the Spanish in those accursed lands. The following are from the testimonies of those expeditions:
“In the foundation of the first Buenos Aires in 1536 by Don Pedro de Mendoza, all went badly from the start. The first six Spaniards who disembarked were eaten by tigers, according to Antonio Rodriguez, a sailor in the expedition.
The seat in Buenos Aires, of a numerous population, brought with it a great number of unsatisfied needs. Food was scarce, and if there was a possibility of acquiring sustenance from hunting and fishing in their surroundings, it seems they were not very effective in these endeavors.
Of course these conditions were not the same for all. Mendoza lived hidden away in this room on the Magdalena ship, docked on the shore of the river. As member of the expedition Bartolome Garcia stated, he and six other crew members needed to hunt partridges and quails daily to satisfy the appetite of Mendoza and his circle.
Seen with hindsight, it seems irrational that they would go hungry on the humid pampa, where they were surrounded by resources. But one has to put this in context: the Spanish who inhabited that settlement were noble knights, and were bound to their philosophy of life. They believed that necessary manual labor was below them, as was mentioned in the royal ordinances in Castile.
It was clear that there were no luxurious palaces there, nor kings to be captured for ransom. There was only fertile soil that offered prosperity to whoever would work it.
In contrast, the first contact with the natives was quite cordial as they who would offer food and other gifts to the Spanish during the first days of the initial encounter. Here is what Ulrich Schmidl wrote:
“These Carendies brought to us and shared their poor fish and meat for 14 days without fail except for one day. Then our general Pietro Manthossa sent a mayor named Johann Pabon. He and two others went on horseback. They approached the Carendies who they found four miles away from our settlement. They were attacked and the three had to return to our settlement.
Upon finding this out, our captain Pietro Manthossa, sent Diego Manthossa, his own brother, with 300 foot soldiers and thirty armed cavalry. I was with them and the orders were to capture or kill all of the Carendies and take over their settlement. But when we came close to them 4,000 men had already assembled against us.
When we attacked they defended themselves with such vigor that we were quite busy that day. They also killed out Captain Diego Mathossa and six noblemen who were mounted and on foot. From our number about 20 fell and from theirs about 1,000. They drove us back so vigorously that we came out quite crestfallen.”
Ulrich Schmidel gave the following description of the arms that the Querandies used:
“Those Carendies fought with bows and arrows, darts, a type of lance with a three-tipped stone point. They also used stone balls secured by a long cord; they are of the same size as the lead balls we use in Germany. With these balls they would tie up the legs of a horse or deer when they run and take them down. It is with those balls that they killed our captain and his noblemen. I saw it with my own eyes, and they took down many of those on foot with these weapons.
Thus, God, who can do all, was able to give us the victory, and let us take the town. But we were not able to take one Indian since their women and children had enough time to escape before we attacked. The only thing we found in the town were cloaks made of nutria furs, much fish, flour, and fat of the same…”
The delusional Spaniards thought that they had defeated the ancients, but they could not be further from the truth. The Querandies were building their forces from among the surrounding tribes in retribution for the massacre that they had committed against their people. In this manner, they attacked and destroyed the first foundation of the city of Buenos Aires. Here is a testimony of that memorable violent attack:
“After this we spent a month together suffering all sorts of deprivations in the city of Bonas Ayers until they could prepare the ships. During this time the Indians attacked the city of Bonas Ayers with great force and power , with their numbers growing to about 23,000 men. There were four nations among them: the Carendies, the Barenis (Guaranies), Zechuruas (Charruas), and the Zechenais Diembus (Chanas Timbus). Their mind was to finish us off, but Almighty God favored us. To him we give praise forever and unto the ages; since of ours only thirty fell with the captains and the second lieutenant.
And they came upon the city of Bonas Ayers and they attacked us. Some tried to assault the city, others began to shoot burning arrows at our houses, as our roofs were made of straw (except for the captain who had a tile roof). Thus they burned the city to the ground. Their arrows were made out of cane and with a fire on the tip. They have a special type of stick they makes these out of, and once lit and fired they leave nothing. And thus the houses burned, as they were made of straw.
Aside from this they burned four great ships that were docked a half mile (league) from us on the water. The crew was aboard but did not have cannons. When they saw the mass of Indians, they fled from these four ships to another three that were not far from them that were armed. Upon seeing the four ships set ablaze by the Indians, they prepared to open fire and they put the balls in the cannons. The Indians perceived what was going on and they heard the fire. They then quickly fled and left the Christians quite joyful. This occurred on St. John’s Day, in the year 1535. (This was probably June 24th, 1536.)”
After the initial attack, the disgusting city was put under complete siege, and the Spanish fell quickly into desperation, as the following lines state:
“From the time of the Querandies’ siege of the city, the Spanish started to starve to death. When cats, mice, and snakes were not found, they ate shoes and other leather. Finally three Spaniards ate a horse that they had stolen. They were discovered and hanged. At night, three Spaniards cut the thighs from the hanging bodies so that they could eat them.”
This was only the beginning of the torment, as the siege lasted many days and with the passage of times people began to eat each other.
Finally, as we saw at the beginning of the essay, the crews of the ships that the Querandies attacked began firing on the natives who decided at that point to leave. They left in their wake memories of blood, hunger, death, and torment that would always be lodged in some corner of the memory, in the deepest recesses of the civilized mind. That corner in which is left a place for the unknowable, the hidden, all that which for the hyper-civilized are their worst nightmares.
Lessons from the Querandies
We believe that it is very important to recall these stories, to deepen the lessons that savage humans who once lived in these places left us. We should see in these that the civilized world is ephemeral and fragile compared to the flow of things. The wild flourished here once, where many animal species coexisted without imposing their power over wild nature. In this environment there were humans who acted like truly wild animals, and not as automatons that now constitute the members of our species in modernity. The Querandies were pushed to extinction, or worse, total domestication and they resisted. In a suicidal and violent manner they lashed out against an enemy that was superior in numbers and weapons. They resisted like animals and not soldiers or armies. They fought like the Puma would have done, crouching at the scorpion in the plains. They brought down their fury and revenge without measuring the costs, without thinking of tomorrow or future conditions. If that is not the lesson for us, I do not know what is.
Their disdain for the civilized world was evident. Promptly they developed a hostility to that which was foreign to them. As a testimony to this, the Spanish only recorded five or six sentences from their language. Two of these indicate their attitude toward the newcomers: “Codí codí guahiph gomalat” (Traitor, traitor, we must kill him!). We can only imagine what the Spanish heard when they attacked the Querandies after they had been given food and help, only to try to take more provisions by force. The other phrase has an imposing spiritual presence: “Agassaganup O Zobá” (The Moon will make them regret this!) This saying was a prediction coming true in the present.
The moon has brought together eco-extremist warriors in the southern lands. She speaks to us and incites us. She wants for us to take revenge for the memories of our ancestors. She wants modern people to pay for what they have done, and they most certainly will.
The lands of the South are now cursed. Ajajema is on the loose, Gualichu is angry, Anhanga is desiring the taste of blood. And the moon, the moon will make them all regret what they have done.