Pa’i ha paje - Padres y chamanes. New Sources in Guarani and Spanish on European and Amerindian Medicine in the Jesuit Missions in South America

Over the last decade, several manuscripts of great importance for the medical history of colonial Latin America have been discovered in libraries and archives in America and Europe. These discoveries have led to different approaches (anthropological, linguistic, and historical), often seriously limited by the fact that some of the manuscripts are partially written in (colonial) Guarani. The first aim of the Pa’i ha paje project is therefore to make these texts available to the global community through translation of the texts written in Guarani and transcription of the texts written in Spanish by means of an online, annotated critical edition. This edition will be accompanied by an enhanced online glossary of medical and pharmaceutical terms used in the Jesuit Guarani Missions of Paraguay and the Rio de la Plata region. Entries in the glossary will be interconnected via hyperlinks to the text passages where they occur, adding meta-data about the document, its author, date and time of production (of the manuscript) and occurrences  (of treatments), as well as three-way translations of the medical and pharmacological terms (Guarani/Spanish/Latin). This will make the information accessible for researchers from different disciplines and with different purposes and enable new types of exploration. The second (analytical) aim is to clarify the relation between these new sources in terms of transfer of medical and pharmaceutical knowledge, to assess the origin of a certain treatment or medicine, as well as to determine the evolution of terminology with respect to substances of both European and Amerindian origin. The combination of specific knowledge from different disciplines about the historical context of the 18th and 19th Century, the analysis of linguistic particularities and the incorporation of meta-data about the documents themselves (production, sharing and archiving) will result in new insights on the hybridization of knowledge in the context of the Jesuit missions.



Keywords: History of Medicine in South America, Sociology of Knowledge, Jesuit Missions, Language and culture contact Guaraní – Spanish


Pa’i ha paje is an German-Argentinian research project funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation).




Joachim Steffen (Universität Augsburg)
Ignacio Telesca (Universidad Nacional de Formosa)
Harald Thun (C.A.U. Kiel)




Fachsprecher, Lehrstuhlinhaber
Angewandte Sprachwissenschaft (Romanistik)