Don Quixote of the Jungle

2000, Nature  -  58 min Leave a Comment
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817,000 indigenous people live in Brazil, 0.4 percent of this country's population, and they're endangered. When the white man arrived in Brazil in the year 1500, there were six million native people living here. What has happened since then? For the moment, our admirable and beloved Zoe, have been saved. But it takes someone other than themselves to cushion the blow of contact with our cruel and developed world, which has done so much damage to other tribes of the rainforest and their world.

These people of the remotest forest have no flag, no anthem; no nationalistic rights whatsoever. They live in peace in their tranquil republic of water and trees that is until an oil company digs its claws into their ancestral lands.

It has already happened to others. They were the masters of their world, but now they are the slaves of another, pawns on the Wall Street and Tokyo trading floors. Over the past 500 years, the white population in Brazil has multiplied by 27 while the indigenous has been divided by 20. When the Portuguese landed in this part of the Americas, human beings communicated with each other in 1,300 different local languages. Now the Indians of Brazil speak only 170 languages. Nearly all of them know how to demand justice in Portuguese, but they're not always listened to.

Someone must speak for them, one of our own, without being paternalistic, with sensitivity; a white friend of the Indians, one who feels the loss of these cultures as the greatest misfortune to befall our homogeneous Western society. Sydney Ferreira Possuelo has defended their rights on all fronts throughout his life. Earning the respect and friendship of the indigenous peoples and defending their rights at the highest levels, such as when he was the president of the Indian Protection Agency's Department of Isolated Indians.

In this way and only in this way he succeed in protecting the territory of isolated tribes such as the Zoe and in expelling those who wanted to eliminate them. It's no wonder the Zoe receive him as one of their own. Above all, Possuelo is a man of action. He's one of our own, don't forget, and he knows the destructive capacity of our marvelous modern society. Though a cosmopolitan activist, he spends half his life here, where the real struggle is, in the deepest, most remote forest. And from the very start he risks his neck.