Rose: Complexities in the Capital of Brazil

Hello from an airplane, currently travelling from one enriching Latin American experience to another. I have just finished one chapter of my 2020; One that was spent with nine other incredible Auckland University students on the Indigenous History and Rights Program in Brazil, our cultural advisor Anahera and Talita our campus B mum. I am now on my way to start the next chapter, in Guadalajara, Mexico doing a semester exchange at Technológico de Monterrey.

Day 1

To tie everything up, I wanted to talk about Brasilia. The very young capital of Brazil, that was built in a speedy three years during the presidency term of JK de Oliveira to move the previous capital in Rio de Janeiro inland, creating more jobs and economic opportunities. Modern Brasilia is in the shape of an airplane: The body stretches out to contain the governmental monuments, offices and councils. The wings are mirror images, containing sectors of buildings based on categorical function; The hotel sector, food, professional (with lawyers, dentists, doctors), hospital and then the residency sector. Of course, anything present on one wing, is replicated on the other. Another thing I found fascinating is the seemingly contradictory notions of industrial growth and modernising the nation, while relying on public spending and national debt. During the construction of Brasilia, the railway construction projects were discontinued and there was specifically an absence of public transport plans to try and increase car imports to ‘develop the economy’. Brasilia is very clean, structured, and with a purpose. The city and its’ people are centred around politics and economic opportunity.

Our group went on a city tour, visiting the indigenous museum, which displayed a exhibit from the perspective of a group of autonomous indigenous women, active in the resistance through their societal roles raising the young, gathering and preparing food, creating art pieces which are sold for the community to share the profit and they are currently trying to reach a more distant market and increase the prices to be fair in terms of the effort put into the pieces, which take days to complete. We have all been trying to support these initiatives by picking up little gems from collections to take home as gifts or memoirs of the experiences. We were also invited back to the Memorial dos Povos Indígenas to see a private exhibition which was incredibly touching.

Indigenous Students of Universidade de Brasília & UoA

Finally, we met an indigenous student and Guajajara chief, Fêtxawewe in the indigenous cultural campus space of Universidade de Brasília. This leader has been the face of both youth resistance from 15 years old when his father passed away and he took over the position of chief in his tribe and in advocating for LGBTQ+ , both marginalized groups constantly presenting conflicts. This was as extreme as the lack of support his father was able to give, which left him with only his mother that would speak to him from that entire familial line. But Fêtxawewe left us with his father’s saying that he still holds close- “try to see love in everything, take care of everything, treat everyone equally”.

I am so appreciative for everything and everyone that has been part of this experience and Education New Zealand for making this a reality.

Até qualquer dia,

Final Goodbyes with Talita


Rose: The Amazon Does Not Burn

Bom Dia!

There have been so many enriching cultural experiences in Brazil. Since I last wrote, I have been to a Palmeiras football match, played capoeira, learned the basics of multiple sambas, visited countless museums displaying artistic expressions of indigenous and Afro-Brasilian histories, I met a woman who my grandma hosted in the 80’s, whose son made us dinner and who is doing her doctorate in how slavery indirectly lead to widespread illiteracy and how this has shaped modern society; and our group has visited and been welcomed by indigenous, Quilombo, Landless Workers’ Movement communities and organisations and the willingness to open up to our group, demonstrate their forms of resistance and vulnerable but powerful culture is heart-warming and has led to tears with nothing left to give in these reciprocating exchanges.

I want to talk about IPAM, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute and Ane Alencar, the director of science who spoke with us. This woman was so passionate in her line of work it was inspiring. She went against the grain of the specialist ecologists while she was still a student at University. Spending time in the Amazon she started to notice purple patterns emerging on the forest floors and after mapping the pastures that these existed in, she realised it was actually standing forest that catches fire – even though apparently the Amazon did not burn. Importantly, this sentiment has stuck in certain political spaces.

Ane Alencar has a drive to seek knowledge, educate others and create public policies that, if implemented could reduce the human induced harm to our ecosystem. To have such a specialist be able to have a conversation with our group that went in the direction of all of our interests, and centred on the overriding power of Brasil – Politics – helped me to link all my learnings from my degree in Psychology and Environmental Science and from being here in Brasil talking with Anthropologists, Historians and leading members of respective communities and organisations. Politics is inextricably linked with science and this is beginning to make more sense than ever.

Despite contradicting accusations, traditional ‘slash and burn’ indigenous practices are accountable for 1% of the total fires, while 40% occur through farmers trying to land-grab and make quick profit from land with no governance. Illegal deforestation, with no one held accountable … except apparently the indigenous peoples.

Asking IPAM about the lack of indigenous peoples in their team lead to a realisation that this was something missing from the voice that the NGO forms. It was acknowledged that a space should be created for this voice to be heard, just as the youth and women have been prioritised in the movement so far, and this was particularly special to me. I have learnt so much from these interactions and always the lines of communication are still open; we leave these meetings with contact details to keep questioning, keep generating knowledge and keep resisting and I hope that is exactly what our generation continues to do.

Ane Alencar (IPAM) & UoA

Tchau for now,


Rose: When lectures come to life

Right from the get-go I have been adapting to the differences in communicating and operating as a diverse New Zealand based group in a Brazilian context. With the very basics of Portuguese that we learnt on the first day, alongside our invaluable mentor and translator, Talita, we have navigated our way through the Mercado Muncipal, Batman Alley and the Museum of Immigration.

I have been surprised by the open invitation for communicating in a lecture context. Despite not having any idea what to expect in terms of both the structure of daily routine and the lecture style in this Indigenous Rights and History program, I am still finding myself adjusting to this. There is such a high level of student lead participation and active engagement that is different from anything I have experienced in lectures back home. Our questions and personal experiences with colonial systems have had the ability to change the direction of the conversation and lead to different knowledges being shared.

This has been eye-opening in drawing parallels between colonisation in Brazil and Aotearoa. In both an alarming and humbling sense, it is becoming clear that the stories of the 305 indigenous populations of Brazil are even more oppressive and silenced than stories we are able to tell.

Our lecturers are history and anthropology academics and so are able to teach us the timeline and general political events as well as a general sense of modern tensions. However, what has truly led to the lecture content coming to life for me is having access to members of indigenous communities who are willing to share their stories.

Near Ubatuba, we visited the Boa Vista community of the Guarani indigenous population. An elder of the community, Alex, explained the traditions that are upheld and some integration of specific modern technologies such as solar panels. They utilise this naturally sourced electricity for lighting, while they maintain separation from most Western ways of being.

I particularly liked that when the missionaries introduced the Guarani populations to Christianity, they were curious and wanted to know about the Bible, listen to the mass and be shown the different ways of worshipping, however at the end of it all, they decided to keep the instruments – the guitar and violin – and use it to bring music to their people while sticking to their own cosmology narratives.

Boa Vista Community of Guarani in Ubatuba

We also had our faces painted by Alex as a token of reciprocity for the waiata and koha that we presented. This paint was sourced from their local vegetation and in reproducing this art on our faces, he was enhancing the male’s ‘strength’ and the women’s’ ‘intelligence’.

Unlike the Boa Vista community, I have experienced a few recent setbacks in sticking to my own values. This can be traced back to my lack of ability to properly communicate in Portuguese. I have so far, tried to order a vegetarian pizza “sem presunto” (without ham) and received a ham pizza, “sem bordo” (without crust), as well as a vegetarian sandwich, which ended up somehow as three bacon cheeseburgers and fries…

Day 1: Survival Skills in Portuguese

I am excited to see how this vegetarianism, Portuguese and Indigenous knowledge will continue to expand.

Tchau for now,

Rose xx

Anahera: My date with “Batman”

Heart SP 1

A bumpy start in my first trip to Brasil and specifically São Paulo, but things picked up on our first and second day.  The first day was interesting in learning some Portuguese terms, which we are constantly using on a daily basis slowly increasing our phrases. The research opportunities with the University of São Paulo are endless depending on the type of research you are looking into.  Make contact with Campus B to get an insight into the professoro/a and lecturers details.

Our first haerenga was to the Mercado Municipal, where the small Português we knew came in handy, but also was a hindrance.  The ability to introduce ourselves “Meu nome é Anahera” and say “Não falo e Português”, stopped them in their tracks.  But that they couldn’t speak English meant having the wonderful Talita from Campus B to translate on our behalf was really handy.  The kai as always is something that we look forward to and these were outstanding, different and wonderful.

Mercado Municipal 1

The sandwiches and pastie that were recommended was massive to say the least.  It was like a triple Big Mac burger but just meat and cheese. The local fish (cod) in rememberance of the relationship with Portugual, and olives was divine.  There were very few considerations for Vegan and Vegetarian, but we were lucky to find something that suited our students with different dietary needs.

This was a warm up for my final destination in having a date with “Batman”.  On our entrepid journey we met a group of students from Brasil and currently in São Paulo who had a 12 month exchange in Aotearoa New Zealand.  My moko kauae, confirmed for them where I came from. It was fun to catch up  with others from Aotearoa New Zealand, but it was our first day and I had other things on my mind!

Batman 5

As we continued our journey things started to get exciting as we viewed the local graffiti in “Batman” alley.  Starting with Joker and Two-face to the group taking a picture with Adam West (Batman) hugging Pele, a famous football player from Brasil, finally seeing the Batman spotlight symbol.

Batman 2

As we move into the discussion on Indigenous rights and Brazilian politics, opened the eyes of all participants in the frankness of the questions being asked by the lecturer.  The open discussion was well received and the following trip around old São Paulo into the new was fantastic.  An orientation that met our cultural needs in connecting with the whenua and the history of the land.  Something that we normally do when having a pōwhiri onto the marae into whakawhanaungatanga and then the kōrero nehe of the region.  There are some beautiful buildings which you possibly would not note if you did not do a tour of the city.

It would be an excellent opportunity in the future to exchange with Campus B or University of São Paulo students if they get a chance to come to our city and university.  I know that we have the skills to manaaki our manuhiri (visitors) well.

Tchau for now whānau.  Catch you when we hit Ubatuba.

Chelsea: Brazil ~ First Impressions

Kia ora whānau!

Where do I even start?? What a wild 24 hours it has been. Eleven of us set off for São Paulo on the 12th January 2020. It was fairly smooth sailing, bar one of us losing their suitcase eep. We were greeted at the airport by Campus B’s AMAZING Talita! She was SO patient and helped us translate everything.

In the morning, after some much needed rest, we had our orientation followed by a beginners Portugese class. I have never travelled to a place where English is spoken so infrequently, so this was definitely helpful. Giselda was our teacher and she kept us super engaged and made the class fun. We learnt how to introduce ourselves and say our basic information and a few key phrases such as “Tudo bem” (how are you?) and “Obrigado” (thank you). I didn’t realise how gendered all of the words are in Portugese. There are different words for ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ things. It makes me think of how hard it must be for gender fluid people in Brazil to be addressed with the correct pronoun.

Next stop was the Municipal Market of São Paulo. This is basically a giant food market with a tonne of fresh fruit and Brazilian delicacies such as pastilles . The street vendors offer you a lot of different fruits that I have never tried before. Thanks to Talita, I was able to find vegan options that I could eat and she translated for me.

Municipal Markets, São Paulo

After our tummy’s were full (and jet lag was kicking in), we decided to visit the popular Batman Alley, named after the famous batman window (pictured below). This is basically the Hosier Lane of Brazil. It was very hipster and had a bunch of call artsy vendors and beautiful artwork. We all really loved this spot.

Our afternoon group trip to the supermarket was so much fun. Some of my favourite parts of travelling are going to foreign supermarkets. I love getting to see all of the different brands and snacks, and Talita told us all of her favourite foods.

To end the day, we went to our welcome dinner at an all you can eat steakhouse. As a vegan, I was not very excited for this. However, it was more of a buffet, with meat served to the table. I had lots of options including sushi, and my new favourite vege mandioca (cassava in English). Its like a fried potato but sweeter, so yummy. I also got to have my favourite Brazilian cocktail, caipirinha. I have had these before but not in Brazil.

If this is day one, I am so excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store for us. Will check in very soon to update you all.

Aroha nui,

Chelsea xx