Belo Monte – Documentary

Belo Monte – Announcement of a War/Anúncio de uma Guerra

“This is an independent documentary made during 3 expeditions at the Xingu River, Altamira, Brasília and São Paulo. It presents very serious facts about Belo Monte dam, the biggest and most polemical construction going on in Brazil today.

The editing and finalization of the movie were crowdfunded by 3.429 people in the Catarse website.”

Aldeia Maracanã has been taken

“Taken” because, ultimately, they were made to leave/negotiate.

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“The indigenous people who live in the mansion in ruins at Maracanã, where the Indian Museum was operated, met on Thursday and drafted their proposal to leave the place spontaneously. The group wants the state government’s assurance that the property will be recovered and will be used exclusively for the promotion of indigenous culture. A committee appointed at the meeting proceeded to the state’s Department of Social Welfare and Human Rights to present the proposal.

Earlier, the state secretary of Social Welfare and Human Rights, Zacchaeus Teixeira, presented a new proposal as an ultimatum to the peaceful end of the group’s property. The court identified three plots, one in Bonsucesso, one in Jacarepaguá and another in the Maracanã neighborhood as options for building a site to temporarily house the group of 22 people, until the Reference Center for Indigenous Culture in the Quinta da Boa Vista park is ready.

The group’s proposal, signed by all those living on site, plans to use the mansion as a full Indian embassy in the middle of an urban environment, open to all ethnicities existing in Brazil, as a place to showcase their culture and conduct exchanges of knowledge.

The group said it will exit the site immediately if the government accepts the proposal and provide assurances that it will be respected. The Indians asked also that a specialist goes to the building to assess whether there is a possibility of making temporary accommodations within the grounds.

Initially, the department had offered accommodation for the Indians in a hotel located in the municipality of Santana. But they had not accepted the proposal and asked to be offered a more suitable location for their culture.

- We are offering everything so that this impasse will be resolved. Transportation, lodging and construction of the Reference Center. This is our last proposal. We have nothing more to offer. The group must vacate the property purchased by the state government later on Thursday – said the Secretary, after making a new proposal.

Zacchaeus said he was disappointed with the National Indian Foundation (Funai), which, he said, although put into action, would not have participated in the discussions at any time.

Indigenous students and continue the Maracana Village

Indigenous and students occupying the building where the old Indian Museum is remained on property on Thursday. The deadline for the group withdrawing from the location was up on Wednesday at 23h59m. This morning, the mood was quiet in the camp museum. About 50 people, including Indians and activists, awaited the arrival on site of the Shock Battalion for the withdrawal of the occupiers. The group made barricades at the entrance and promised to resist the occupation of the police.

According to the site G1, the federal public defender Daniel Macedo was on site this morning, and he said the Indians are willing to fight with their lives to stay in the area. “If an Indian dies here, it will resonate internationally and domestically,” added Daniel Macedo.” – O Globo

Striking photo

As pointed out from a reader, this is not from the recent Belo Monte issues, but rather from Manaus in 2008 (link). Nonetheless, the picture is a shocking one and the information in Portuguese below, which is about Belo Monte, is important.


“Começou-se a evacuação da tribo Kayapó – um povo indígena da região amazônica de Mato Grosso-… A construção dos lançamentos de hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, apesar dos inúmeros protestos e mais de 600.000 assinaturas coletadas. Portanto, a pena de morte já foi dado ao povo da grande curva do Rio Xingu. Belo Monte, um total de 400.000 hectares de floresta inundado, uma área que é maior que o canal do Panamá. 40.000 pessoas das comunidades indígenas e locais, o habitat de muitas espécies vegetais e animais serão destruídas.

Tudo em ordem para a produção de electricidade mais fácil, mais eficiente e econômica, produzido principalmente por investidores. Eu sei que isso não acontece para o nosso país…. Alguns dirão: o que nós nos preocupamos com o Brasil? Como se não temos nossos próprios problemas… mas eu não sou desta opinião! Inerente a esta imagem de desespero que cara… me fez pensar…: “a história da tribo kayapó deve ir para o mundo e talvez causar uma reavaliação. “Longe da sociedade capitalista cruel engajavel, iresponsável…”

The Hyper Women of the Alta Xingu

A quick note on this. Every once in a while I’m reminded of why I fell in love with Brazil (no, it’s not because of naked indigenous women). This country is endlessly full of interesting stuff. Hopefully I can get my hands on this documentary at some point.

“Deep in the rain forest of Mato Grosso, on the upper reaches of Xingu river, the Kuikuro Indians make preparations for an age-old singing and dancing ritual: the Jamurikumálu, the most powerful ritual that Indian women can celebrate. “Jamurikumálu” means “superwomen”. One of the older women of the village feels that she doesn’t have long to live and desires nothing more than to be part of the ritual one last time. The problem is that the only woman in the village who knows all the songs is also seriously ill. The other women nevertheless start reconstructing and rehearsing the songs, with lyrics that are often humoristic as well as explicit as regards love and sex. After all the battle of the sexes is the driving force in the universe.

The three directors, Carlos Fausto, Leonardo Sette, Takumã Kuikuro, including an Indian who lives in this area, have captured the beauty of the Jamurikumálu with a great eye for detail. In many breathtakingly spectacular shots the viewer is drawn into the ritual and follows the participants as they fall into a magical trance. This remarkable documentary is far more than an ethnographic report, it is a brilliant immersion in Kuikuro culture.”

Premiado o Melhor Filme em Festival Internacional de Curitiba 2011

Link to footage of uncontacted Amazon tribe

Deep Brazil has high-quality footage of the uncontacted Amazon tribe recently (re-)revealed to the media worldwide. It’s an interesting concept, that they must be contacted visually for them to have a chance to stay uncontacted physically. Does seeing an airplane affect their belief system or is it just a strange bird?

In 2008, the story came out about this tribe (I’m assuming it’s the same one since they appear to be the same) but it was called a fake lost tribe and dismissed in the media for the fact that it was known (big difference between ‘known’ and ‘contacted’).

Stone-Age Etchings Found in the Amazon

“A series of ancient underwater etchings has been uncovered near the jungle city of Manaus, following a drought in the Brazilian Amazon. The previously submerged images – engraved on rocks and possibly up to 7,000 years old – were reportedly discovered by a fisherman after the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon river, fell to its lowest level in more than 100 years last month. Tens of thousands of forest dwellers were left stranded after rivers in the region faded into desert-like sandbanks.

Though water levels are now rising again, partly covering the apparently stone age etchings, local researchers photographed them before they began to disappear under the river’s dark waters. Archaeologists who have studied the photographs believe the art – which features images of faces and snakes – is another indication that thousands of years ago the Amazon was already home to large civilisations.” – The Guardian (more here)

The Amerindian Perspective

While reading a short paper on Amerindians in Brazil, I came across this interesting concept and thought I’d share it.

“According to Viveiros de Castro (2005), the Amerindians believe that each animal species sees itself as human. Being as such, the leopards would see humans as prey (as if they were, for example, wild pigs) and, because of this, they attack them. This is what is called an “Amerindian perspective”. In accordance with observations, Amerindians perceive animal groups as if they were societies, with social organization, chiefs, shamans, etc. In other words, they understand that these animals are organized and think just like them, the humans. Viveiros de Castro explains that, while we, Westerners, perceive that we share nature with the animals – due to being animals ourselves – that we also differentiate ourselves from them by possessing culture. The Amerindian understands that they share a common culture with the animals but that they differentiate themselves from them via nature, by being a different species.”

“Segundo Viveiros de Castro (2005), os ameríndios acreditam que cada espécie animal se vê a si mesma como humana. Assim sendo, as onças veriam os humanos como caça (como se fossem, por exemplo, porcos selvagens) e, por isso, os atacariam. A isso ele chama de “perspectivismo ameríndio”. De acordo com suas observações, os ameríndios percebem os grupos de animais como se fossem sociedades, com organização social, chefes, pajés, etc. Ou seja, eles entendem que esses animais estão organizados e pensam da mesma forma que eles, humanos. Viveiros de Castro explica que, enquanto nós, ocidentais, percebemos que temos uma natureza comum com os animais – por sermos também animais – mas que nos diferenciamos deles por possuirmos cultura, os ameríndios entendem que compartilham com os outros animais a cultura e que se diferenciam deles pela natureza, por serem de espécies diferentes.”

The Indian Museum – Pará

Back when I was living in Pará, I had a chance to visit the Museu do Índio (Indian Museum) in the Solar da Beira building (initially for tax collection), near the famous Ver-o-Peso open-air market. As you walk in, the left side showcases enlarged photos of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon region, most notably, the Xingu people. On the right side, you will find handmade indigenous artifacts for sale in the ‘Koisas do Índio’ store which are retrieved from expeditions undertaken every three months. A trip to visit the tribes that make the artifacts, according to the museum curator I spoke with, requires one to travel by air, boat and foot and routinely take 12 hours one-way.

I came close to going on the next expedition but the plan never quite came together. In any event, I found it to be a nice little part of Belém that I’m sure visitor’s don’t get to see when they visit Ver-o-Peso market.

More Info

For some reason, both sites that have to do with the museum are static pages with dead links.

Museum site (in PT)
Ipiranga Foundation (in PT)

The Folkloric Curupira – Protector of the Forest

In most of the versions, curupira is a small boy or a gnome, with a red head of hair, that has inverted feet with its heels in front. This image agrees with the meaning of his name, which is formed by “curu”, a contraction of “curumim”, that means “boy” and “pira” that means body. From there, “curupira” means something like “body of a boy”, or creature with the body of a boy.

In other variations, however, the curupira becomes a giant. Its characteristics, incidentally, are modified in agreement with geographical displacements, says folklorist Luis da Câmara Cascudo. In some regions of Pará, the curupira is four palm trees tall. In the Rio Negro (Amazon), he is bald and has a hairless body; in the Solimões (also the Amazon) he has blue teeth and big ears.

Regardless of any variations, he always has backwards facing feet, which perhaps is justified by being the protector of the trees, animals and of the forest. Leaving backwards tracks, the curupira disorients hunters and makes them get lost in the forest. To confuse them even more, he makes whistling sounds that seem to come from one direction when in fact, they come from another.

The curupira also tends to be the explanation of mysterious forest rumors, lost hunters or losing one’s way in general. According to some legends, this little (or big) protector makes deals with hunters, providing them with guns that have infallable aim in exchange for food, smokes or cachaça.

The offering of presents in the jungle, in order to calm the curupira so that he doesn’t attack humans, is a registered practice among indians and even rubber tappers and farmers of the Amazonas state. However, the presents often change: the indians offer necklaces, bracelets and feather ornaments, whereas those who are only part indian offer food, drink or cigarettes.

One myth very close to the curupira is that of the caapora. “Caapora” comes from “caa” which means jungle and “porá” which means resident. The caapora looks the same and, like him, he also is a protector of the forest. Although, he doesn’t have inverted feet and usually rides a pig or wild hog.

Whether talking about the curupira myth or that of the caapora, both are passed on through all the regions of Brazil. The myth itself is quite old and the first register of it was via a letter from the priest José de Anchieta, on the 30th of May, 1560. In it, the priest speaks of the indians of Piratininga (São Paulo) and how they told him of demons that walk the forests, attacking the indians and needing to be appeased with presents.

In the state of São Paulo, a law from 1970 is devoted to the curupira as a state symbol of the protector of the forests. – Source (in PT)