Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
me, instead: “Are you a missionary?” I said: “No, I am an anthropologist working
for the Xavante community in Sangradouro.” The Sheriff looked at me in disbelief
and responded: “Missionária comunista?” - communist missionary? The Sheriff
was probably referring to progressive missionaries, also known as lay missionaries,
oftentimes related to the Theology of Liberation movement in Brazil. A chill went
down my spine because I knew of many Indigenous persons, scientists, missionaries,
and lay individuals unjustly persecuted in Brazil for their social justice activism.
Even after the downfall of the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1985, progressive
scientists, journalists, missionaries and ordinary citizens have still been punished
for advocating for the rights of minorities and peoples of color. The assassination
of Indigenous leaders and journalists is common practice in Brazil to this very day.
Sister Leonora Brunetto is a recent case in point. In “Promised Land. Will Brazil's
rural poor ever inherit the earth?” journalist Glenn Cheney (2013:59) reports on
Sister Brunetto's dedication to poor communities in Mato Grosso, “bearing on
her sixty-four-year-old shoulders the weight of slavery, kleptocracy, landlessness,
lawlessness, forest fires, hit squads, environmental devastation, and the ravages of
capitalism.” Cheney describes the century-old pattern of human rights abuse in Mato
Grosso, central Brazil, where impunity reigns. In this respect, Joaquin's assassination
was by no means unique, but part of a pattern of human rights violations against
Indigenous Peoples worldwide.
Death threats against the Idzô'uhu villagers, especially against one of their
leaders, a former president of the Associação Xavante Warã, started to circulate in
the form of small handwritten notes. The first one in June 2002 read: “Stop what
you're doing or you'll end up headless in a trash can.” What bothered big landowners
and their thugs in particular is that we were questioning the “disappearance” of
Joaquim Maradezuro. While Funai and the police used the term disappearance, the
community knew he was assassinated. You see these issues reflected in the narrative
and drawings presented in this chapter, when the Xavante clashed with farmers and
the police. You will see in detail how the principles and language of human rights
have entered the Xavante way of thinking and what has happened to the color red.
One month after the first death threat, as we were driving on BR-80, in April
2002, the highway that outskirts the southern border of the Sangradouro Land, a
huge rock was placed in front of us on the highway just after our truck took a sharp
turn heading West. We managed to avoid hitting it, which would have thrown us
down a deep canyon killing all five passengers riding inside. Soon after that incident
we noticed a white government pick-up truck following us closely on a dirt road
that led to the Volta Grande Village we were trying to reach. 6 The driver used his
vehicle to try to push us off the road and then sped off towards Volta Grande. When
we arrived there, a group of Xavante men were waiting, bows and arrows in hand,
asking us to leave. I knew they were very angry. But I only understood the details of
what the men had said when we drove back to Sangradouro that very evening.
Funai employees riding in the white truck had arrived at the Volta Grande Village
before we did and told the villagers we were trying to “trick the community to
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