A nonstop incline, extreme humidity, sweating so much it looks like you’ve been rained on, bug-spray-resistant mosquitoes carrying harmful diseases, giant poisonous bugs, land uneven with mud and rocks.
This was the hellish walk we had to endure for 30 minutes on the 17th of January 2020, in the Atlantic forest in Ubatuba, up a mountain, high in the clouds. All of this was to find a place called Boa Vista, a community tribe of one of the indigenous people of South America, the Guarani. Despite the walk up making it hard to look at anywhere than where you were stepping, I still managed to occasionally appreciate the new striking color palate of the Brazil Rain-forest, each green, pink, purple looked more vibrant.
Once we FINALLY reached the tribe, we were met by a man whose Portuguese name is Alex and Guarani name I did not get, he wore a headpiece with such vibrant feathers and wore layered necklaces. Alex brought us deeper into the community and allowed us access to their prayer house where we were presented with a song and dance from the young people of their community, which was fantastic to see as I have never seen a cultural performance from a culture I had no idea about before.
Finally meeting an indigenous group was a relief for me because as the days were going on I was getting agitated and confused from learning about them from people who themselves are not indigenous, and as in Brazil itself, there is a sense of almost ‘other’ when talking about the indigenous that you don’t really feel in New Zealand when learning about Maori, likely because you will be learning about someone who is Maori and the culture is much more visible in everyday life. One week in and I am very humbled and grateful for how advanced our indigenous rights are in New Zealand, obviously things could be a lot better as it could be for every indigenous group all over the world, however, in comparison, Maori have more of a voice in the government, politics, schools and are integrated into everyday society which is not seen commonly in Brazil. This is sadly and shockingly due to largely contradicting laws allowing the exploitation of their lands, racism and a large population ratio overpowering their influence.
There is a stereotype here in Brazil that indigenous are naked, lazy savages still to this day this is a common misconception, I obviously was surprised at this as a third of indigenous live in an urban environment this is ridiculous to still think they all are like this. The people at Boa Vista who live rural don’t live like that, they may not have “normal” jobs and live up a mountain but they are touched by modern life; they wear clothes, they have phones, they speak Portuguese as well as Guarani, one man even went to London, all of this was not a surprise to me however it is worth mentioning as it seems to be a common thought that this isn’t true in Brazil; that you can be Indigenous and modern.