The Chiquitano are an indigenous group of people who live in a region divided by the border between Brazil (western Mato Grosso) and Bolivia. The total number of individuals is around 55,000. Almost all of them live in Bolivia, while only 737 live in Mato Grosso.
The Chiquitano people were formed by the union of different groups of people, who were put together in Jesuit missions during the 17th century. Those who live in Brazil have been subject to abuses and exploitation as cheap workers by land owners (fazendeiros). Their territories are also at risk of indiscriminate invasion by foreigners. The Chiquitano tried to obtain rights for an Indigenous Land, which is in the process of being identified by Funai, which would allow them to preserve their cultural identity.
Name and location
The word "chiquito" means 'small' in Spanish and it is used to designate some indigenous groups who live between the Chaco Boreal, in Bolivia, and the outskirts of the southern Amazon forest. The belief regarding them being short or small people came from the fact that their huts aren't very high, but they were made so to prevent mosquitos from coming in, rather than because of their height.
In Bolivia, Chiquito is the fourth most spoken indigenous language, after Quechua, Aymara, and Chiriguano. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 people speak it. The Chiquito language is the result of various indigenous languages blending together due to the fact that many natives from different tribes lived in the Jesuit missions (reducciones) between 1680 and 1787 (Albó,1991).
Meétraux (1948) asserts that there are four dialects of the language: Tao, Manasi, Peñoqui and Piñoco. Grammar varies between each dialect and is not standardized.
There haven't been any official linguistic studies among the Chiquitano that live in Brazil. A sample of words from their language has been compared to other words which the bolivian indians speak, and it has been suggested that the brazilian Chiquitano speak the Tao dialect.
The Chiquitano are the largest ethnic native group in Eastern Bolivia, with a total of 55,000 individuals. Studies about these people in Brazil will be carried out in a specific context, because of a survey regarding the construction of a gas pipeline through their area. There are around 700-800 Chiquitano in the state of Mato Grosso.
Location and land status
In Brazil, the Chiquitano live in the State of Mato Grosso, on the border with Bolivia, in the municipalities of Vila Bela, Cáceres and Porto Espiridião. In Bolivia, they are in the Department of Santa Cruz, in the Provinces of Nuflo de Chávez, Velasco, Chiquitos and Sandoval.
In Brazil there are some small communities comprised of 5-8 families, along the road that links Cáceres to San Matías. There are some larger communities, with ten to thirty families. Some groups live in military garrisons near the border, abd they have 'permits' for living and planting in these areas. A few families live in fazendas with the apparent approval of the owner (Silva, 1998).
*Chiquitano on socioambiental.org, in English