A woman takes leadership of Paraguay's Maka people (Photos AP/ Jorge Saenz) -
For the tiny Maka culture of Paraguay, political authority has passed from father to son for generations even as the band has struggled for survival, its way of life uprooted by war and migration from a vast, isolated countryside to an urban neighborhood near the capital.
So the death in February of Andrés Chemei, a widely respected figure who led the group for 40 years, posed a problem. He had no son.
The solution has been at least a small advance for women in Paraguay: Maka leaders chose his widow, Tsiweyenki to be one of the first female chiefs of an indigenous people in the South American country. "The Maka are respectful of women and in this case we have placed our trust in Chemei's widow," said Yelukín, director of a dance company that performs traditional Maka dances at cultural events.
While she still breaks down in tears at times thinking of her late husband, Tsiweyenki expressed thankfulness at her new post. "I feel good because the community shows me respect," she told The Associated Press in the Maka tongue, speaking through an interpreter.
The 68-year-old Tsiweyenki - known to the Paraguayan state as Gloria Elizeche - has a warm smile, but a difficult task.
Most of the roughly 2,000 Maka live in a 35-acre (14-hectare) colony in a city bordering the capital, Asuncion.
They're also carrying on Chemei's battle to assert ownership of 830 acres (335 hectare) of lands a little way down the Paraguay River where the Maka lived for four decades before flooding forced most to move into town.
Only a century ago, the Maka were largely hunter-gatherers in northwest Paraguay's remote Chaco region. And only a few decades ago, census figures counted their population at less than 1,000.
Chemei had been a link to the Maka's history. The son of a chief himself, he spent time as a boy in the home of a Russian emigre general, Juan Belaieff, who established warm ties with the Maka ahead of the 1932-1935 war against Bolivia and then oversaw their move from the remote Chaco region to lands closer to the capital. - 2 days ago