Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Guarani role-playing activities by pointing out to me that the kids were frequently
“playing” hospital, ambulance, cemetery, burial, and missionary, and by showing me
their toys. We were initially struck by a four-year-old girl carrying a small Guarani
basket with its usual geometric decorations, filled with used antibiotics containers
and a few syringes she collected at different health care centers in Mongaguá, after
being treated for spider bites, bronchitis, scabies, diarrhea, pneumonia, and various
undiagnosed tumors on her head. When the girl's “babies” cried, she gave them a
shot, because she didn't want them to “die.” While at first the activities seemed to
be make-believe performances in which the Guarani children were fantasizing or
“just playing,” it later became clear that they were also busy at work, engaged in a
world-making process informed by, among other things, their very own perceptions
of the dangers and risks they face today in a situation of “globality.” In the state
of globality, the deregulation of world markets adds to the vulnerability of a large
portion of the world's poor.
Brazil is now the world's 7th wealthiest country (by 2014 Gross Domestic Product
- GDP). It is also the largest country in area and population in Latin America and
the Caribbean. Nevertheless, Brazil faces an increasing gap between the rich and
the poor. Widespread corruption in governmental agencies - including the National
Indian Foundation, or Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio), as I have shown elsewhere
(Ferreira 1998c) - have thrown the Guarani and the majority of the country's 300-plus
Indigenous Peoples into a situation of extreme poverty. To make matters worse, the
Guarani look like poor peasants, rather than “Indians.” They do not wear body-paint,
feather headdresses or other stereotypical Indigenous ornaments. When compared to
the tall, strong, and bold Gê-speaking Kayapó, Xavante, and Suyá of central Brazil,
for instance, the Guarani appear less attractive due to their low stature, emaciated
appearance, and shy attitude. Gê populations of central and northern Brazil, who have
realized the political possibilities of dress and undress, and the advantages of wearing
body ornaments to look like “real Indians” (Conklin 1997), have received considerably
more attention from Funai, anthropologists, national and international NGOs, and the
broader Brazilian society. In this respect, their situation as bóias-frias or neo-slaves
- who either take or are given antidepressants (including Prozac) to tolerate the 12-
hour day, 6-day workweek on sugar cane plantations (Ferreira 2005), or who work
as garbage collectors on the coast - does not cause much indignation. As the white,
middle-class teenager who set Galdino Pataxó on fire as he slept on a bench in Brasília,
the country's capital, explained in 1996: “I didn't know he was an Indian, I thought
he was a mendigo [homeless].” Had Galdino been wearing a headdress or some other
bodily ornament, he might have not been killed (Conklin 2000; Ferreira 1998c).
In sum, the agonizing situation of the Guarani people in Southern Brazil, who
are confined in diminutive reservations, receiving little or no institutional support
from Funai, from the municipality of Mongaguá where they reside, and very little
popular sympathy, is a historical product in which globality and the distorted and
romanticized image of the “real,” authentic Indian play major roles. Because the
Guarani are poor, and because they refuse to conform to stereotypes of cultural
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