As with all of our posts about indigenous cultures we go off of research we can find, which tend to be western points of perspective. So, if you have any corrections to make feel free to message us with sources or be prepared to go on record with your correction.
The Charrúa are an Indigenous People or Indigenous Nation of the Southern Cone in present-day Uruguay and the adjacent areas in Argentina and Brazil. Prior to European colonization they were a semi-nomadic people who sustained themselves mainly through hunting and gathering. Since resources were not permanent in every region, they would constantly be on the move. Rain, drought, and other environmental factors determined their movement.
Please keep in mind going forward we will be talking about a state lead genocide as well as a number of other details in our attempt cover in detail what occurred. If you would rather not read please consider this your warning.
Also, we want to caution you prior to researching this topics sources that date to around the time of European colonization and up into as recently as 1833. As sources from this time frame include many notes from what we can only describe as pseudoscience of people who obviously had white supremacist views on race and identity.
The drastic demographic reduction of the Charrúas did not occur until the administration of the first president of Uruguay, Fructuoso Rivera. He organized a genocide campaign known as La Campaña de Salsipuedes in 1831. This campaign was composed of three different attacks in three different places: "El Paso del Sauce del Queguay", "El Salsipuedes", and a passage known as "La cueva del Tigre".
According to legend. President Rivera knew the tribal leaders and called them to his Barracks by a river, later named Salsipuedes. He claimed that he needed their help to defend territory and that they should join him, however, once the Charrúas were drunk and off their guard, the Uruguayan soldiers attacked them.
The following attacks were carried out to eliminate the remaining Charrúas. Soon after, the Charrúas were then officially claimed to be extinct.
According to several accounts the aforementioned “extinction” of the Charrúa people was false. As Martín Delgado, the director of the National Council of the Charrúa puts it in a 2018 article:
“The version of history that says no one survived Salsipuedes, that they were wiped out, is simply untrue. Not all the clans at the time went to confront General Rivera, and some eluded confrontation after the massacre. They, and the survivors taken to the city, passed the language and culture to their children.”
Delgado admits in the article that almost nothing of that language or culture survives today. And at the time of the article, there is one living speaker of the closely related language Chara, in Argentina; and one historical source, an interview with survivors of the massacre a couple of years later that contains about 70 words in Charrúa.
What we hope will eventually lead to an acknowledgment by the government of Uruguay is the determination of all groups working to reclaim their indigenous identity despite years of violence and intentional neglect perpetrated against them.
“The “last Charrúa Indian” (Uruguay): analysis of the remains of Chief Vaimaca Perú” by Gonzalo Figueiro
“We are still here: The fight to be recognized as Indigenous in Uruguay” by Stephanie Nolen
“Atlas Sociodemografico y de la Desigualdad en Uruguay, 2011: Ancestry”
“Substantial native American female contribution to the population of Tacuarembó, Uruguay, reveals past episodes of sex-biased gene flow” by Carolina Bonilla
"Uruguay and the memory of the Charrúa tribe” by Wilfredo Alayón
“Where did Uruguay’s indigenous population go? The Latin American country is being confronted with its past and asked to recognize the Charrúa people” by Pablo Albarenga