This article examines Jesuit-signed texts written in the Brasílica lingua franca and used in the religious conversion of native peoples in colonial Portuguese America (1549-1759). I study translation strategies for conveying the sacrament of Communion, arguing that doctrinal explanations and word choices recorded in catechisms and dictionaries reflect Tupi-Guarani beliefs that shaped Christianity. These translations merged the theophagous doctrine of the Eucharist with Tupinambá vengeance and exocannibalism, which were central to rituals enacted to bring about that earthly utopia that the Indians called the Land Without Evil. Thus did a distinct eschatology form, compressed with thick layers of Tupi-Guarani and Iberian Catholicism in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In late colony, these became reinterpreted by non-Tupi-Guarani Indians who renamed the Eucharist. But in every telling, the promise of the Eucharist remained the same: that the eating of an other gave access to salvation and eternal bliss.
José Ribamar Bessa Freire“Da ‘fala boa’ ao português na amazônia brasileira,”Amerindia8 (1983): 39-83; Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues Línguas brasileiras para o conhecimento das línguas indígenas (São Paulo 1986). The mutually-incomprehensible tongues included Amerindian language families (Tupi-Guarani Arawak Jê Karib); Indo-European tongues (Romance; Semitic Germanic); and African tongues (Kwa Akan Ajan Yoruba and Bantu) to name the more prominent ones.
M. Kittiya Lee“Translation as International Collaboration: The European Promise of Militant Christianity for the Tupinambá of Portuguese America, 1550s-1612,” in Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Latin Americaed. Davíd Tavárez and Louise Burkhart (Boulder forthcoming).
NóbregaCartas do Brasil e mais escritos21; Abbeville História da Missão 371; Léry History 134 though Tupinambá recognition of an immortal soul separate from the mortal body led the French Calvinist to concede their awareness of an eschatological order 136. See also the discussion in Viveiros de Castro The Inconstancy of the Indian Soul 11-18 38-44.