Brazil, much like other settler-colonial societies, is a country rooted in land-based conflicts. Most of Brazil’s land is privately owned by 9 families. As the major cities began to expand, the workers were pushed to the outskirts of the city, where there was no work, housing or transport. This has caused large favelas to emerge in the outskirts of the city.
Despite the workers severe shortage of land, 40% of Brazils land is unassigned/in dispute. The 1988 constitution stated that if a piece of land is deemed unproductive, it should be given to the workers to make a living off. However, in most cases, this land taken over by realty speculators. The Landless Workers Movement (MST) are an organisation, 2 million strong, that seek to occupy these lands and take back workers rights.
We visited Marielle Vive, an MST community in Sao Paulo. This community was named after Marielle Franco, a black politician and LGBTQI+ advocate. She was considered a political rebel due to her views, and two years ago, she was assassinated. This community established three months after Marielle’s death. There are 880 members of this community, and 33 groups. Each group is responsible for a different area of the community e.g. kitchen, security, medical.
We were lucky enough to visit the community school and play with the kids. This was the highlight of my day. They were so excited to show me their books and toys and to run around. We were also shown the community garden that produces enough to feed everyone.
At the conclusion of our trip we performed a bracket for the community, with two waiata and a haka. This was to show our respect and to communicate that we stand in solidarity with their fight, no matter where we are in the world. The response was so beautiful. The community were crying and responded by chanting “Marielle, VIVE!”.
What surprised me most was the feeling of joy and hope in these communities. Despite their ongoing hardships and struggles, they were always welcoming and willing to share what little resources they had with us. I couldn’t help but draw connections between my experiences here with my time at Ihumātao. These colonial land struggles are not just restricted to indigenous peoples, they extend to the workers, the oppressed and the marginalised of every society. We cannot underestimate the value of community solidarity. People power is a force to be reckoned with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
E mame le tava’e i ona fulu. This is a Samoan proverb which talks of a bird, the Tava’e, that is proud of her feathers. It’s commonly used in context when describing one who speaks or displays their culture in a prideful manner. After spending a couple of weeks in Brasil, I can confidently say that this is the perfect phrase to use.
This trip to Brasil continues to leave me in awe. There is an underlying passion that can melt even the coldest of hearts – and I’m not just talking about the couples making out in the middle of the streets. Activism for the rights of indigenous people to be recognised and the fight for freedom is prevalent in every street corner. Yes Brasil may be the best country to be in for parties – especially during carnaval – but beyond that limelight, there’s a heartfelt plea that has been begging to be heard since the colonisation of the 1500’s.
In our lectures the idea of slavery was explored as well as the complexity of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. Let’s face it – no governmental system is perfect, just look at Herodotus’ debate on the three government types! And slavery? I learnt a long time ago in Ancient History that slavery was key to the rise of many empires and even up until the 1900’s it still was.
I love architecture and the Monumento o Bandeirantes definitely rates near the top, but the meaning behind it breaks my heart.
The artist Katu Mirim informed us of the fight that the indigenous continue to fight. Indigenous is not a costume that you wear for a Carnaval party but unfortunately this is something that the indigenous people have to tolerate. Katu showed us worksheets that are often handed out in class to students where indigenous are stereotyped as a naked person who wears headdresses and because of this, the indigenous continued to be discriminated against when they are seen adapting to the Western way of life.
The problem that we noticed about Brazil is that they have memory issues and many do not remember the past when the dictatorship proved to be one of the hardest period for the indigenous nor do they have a vast knowledge about the indigenous pre-colonisation besides the fact that they were ‘savages’. Indigenous people are talked about as if they were only in the past and that they no longer exist. In short, I am so glad that I live in NZ because we aren’t as bad as Brasil is cut out to be.
Growing up I’ve constantly had my grandparents pass on tala mai le vavau (stories of the past) and stories of them growing up in the islands. Even though I don’t live in Samoa, I know the customs and traditions well enough to keep my culture alive and functional in a Western society, and fortunately it informs people outside my culture about who we are. Quite frankly, this is currently not the case in Brasil – and it’s not because the indigenous haven’t tried. Their voices aren’t being heard as they are being spoken over but they continue to fight. Many of the indigenous tribes that we visited told us that they will continue to fight as they have since the beginning.
One of my favourite visits would have to be to the Quilombaque community who, amongst the discrimination and disparity, have managed to draft an urban plan to educate the population about the history of Brazil from the underdog’s POV. Although the plan has yet to be submitted for approval, the activism behind the movement and their fellowship with the indigenous community is astounding.
You would assume with how the world is going that it is everyone for themselves but in Brasil, those who aren’t against you are actually for you. There are a lot of things that we can learn between the relationship of the Quilombaque and the Indigenous tribe of Jaragua and the world would be a better place with this knowledge. The only problem is, the lesson to be learnt can only be felt with the heart by spending time with these people and listening to their stories rather than me telling you.
So if you ever get the chance to come to Brasil and talk to these amazing people, I high advise that you listen closely because you might learn a thing or two. The fight is continuous – it doesn’t stop. If only we had the determination that these indigenous do, then maybe democracy could actually work.
Upon returning to São Paulo, we had the opportunity to explore more of the city and activities related to this city. One of my favourite things that we got to do was Capoeira. Fortunately there was a Capoeira teacher who practiced only 2 minutes down the road from us. Although this activity was already scheduled in the itinerary for a later date, one of the other students and I wanted to check it out earlier and start classes.
Capoeira is a martial art created by the African slaves during the slave trade period here in Brasil. Although very much a self-defence art, the practice looks a lot like a dance and this is no accident. When slaves wanted to train their skills for defeating enemies if they wanted to escape, they had to come up with a way that slave owners would not recognise their dissent. So they disguised their fight training as a dance, so as not to alert the slave owners of any suspicion. There’s something truly special about participating in this martial art knowing that this is how it was formed. Capoeira for me represents a fight for freedom and a building of one’s own strength in this fight. Even in our first class you could feel this straight away. It has been one of my favourite things so far about visiting Brasil.
Similarly, we had the opportunity to participate in a Samba dance class which was also so fun. I learnt a lot about dancing, especially the idea that when dancing the samba there are no rules. You learn the steps and then from there you just listen to the music and let it take you wherever. I never thought I was so into dancing, and hopefully I will get to do more of this in the future.
One of the last things I want to talk about in this blog is the best burger I have ever tried. Our trip guide took us to a place that she believes has the best burgers in the city. I was skeptical at first, seeing as I have tried a lot of burgers before and Brasil isn’t particularly known for its burgers. To my surprise I was treated with a culinary experience that I shall never forget. The place was called MEATS. Probably because it specialises in the “pattie” aspect of the burger. I ordered something called the Zagallo. On paper a pretty basic cheeseburger, the only difference being that it had two 200g mince patties inside. I knew this was going to be different from the get go when the waiter asked me how I wanted the meat to be cooked. A luxury I had never previously experienced. I took my first bite and I was taken to heaven and back. It felt as though an orchestra should have been playing in the background while Morgan Freeman narrated the slow sequence of me indulging in the specialty that was the Zagallo. No amount of words will do justice to the explosive rush that burger gave me, So all I can do is give the recommendation for you to try it yourself.
E ngā iwi taketake o te whenua nei, tēnei te mihi maioha ki a koutou i whakamārama mai ōu whakaaro, āu mahi, hei whakapakari ai tō ao. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, erangi he toa takimano. Nō reira, tēnā koutou katoa.
Ka huri atu ahau ki a rātou ō tātou tūpuna i rere atu i te ao, i te pō. Nā rātou i tuku mai ngā taonga tuku iho, ka tiaki ai ngā uri whakaheke o te ao nei. Ehara i te mea nō nāianei, nō ngā tūpuna i tuku iho ngā pūkenga, ka tirohia ai te ara tika me te pono o tātou katoa.
Ka hoki nei ki a tātou o te hunga ora, auē ngā tauira i haere tahi ai, tēnā koutou. Nā koutou i whakaako mai tō koutou ngākau mīharo, tā koutou kaha ki te mahi i te mea tika. Nō reira, mā koutou e marotiritiri ai te māra o te mātauranga, ka māea ngā hua tika, kia awhi ai te ao katoa. Tēnā koutou katoa.
Ko tēnei te pīki mihi ki a Campus B (ko Gabriela te tino), koutou ko ngā kaiwhakaako, auē te hōnore. E ngā rangatira i whakarite ai tō mātou haerenga ki wīwī, ki wāwa, ka huaki ai ngā ārai o te ao rerekē, wekeneru, ka mau te wehi!
E Talita, tō mātou tino kaitiaki o te haerenga nei. E kore e mimiti te puna kōrero ō mātou i haere pai ai mai Aotearoa ki tō whenua nei. Ko te mahi a te rangatira, he kōrero. Ko te tohu o te rangatira, he manaaki. Ko te mahi a te rangatira, kia whakatiratira ngā iwi. Koia rā tāu mahi anō i ngā wā katoa, hei āwhina ai te rōpū i hīkoi haere nei, i te ao, i te pō. Kua ea!
To say that this trip has ticked off so many things that were not part of my bucket list is only a small indication of what I have personally learnt on this trip. The people whom we have met and discussed or debated issues surrounding indigenous peoples and the complexities of their world has been invigorating. It has lifted the spirit to know that we are not alone in wanting the best for the world, and that we all play a small but important role in the future.
The past two days have again highlighted the complexities but also the collaborative opportunities between countries and universities. To a large extent it will have a global impact, especially with the view of research surrounding sustainable development goals and climate change. These have also been at the forefront of my perception since viewing the impact the fires in Australia had in Aotearoa. Since I was a small girl at school, I have been aware of the environmental impact that the Amazon has on the world. We could definitely learn from some of the best practices taking place in the region. I’m hoping that the decision making people are able to ensure that we have some solutions so that my own future generations see how beautiful the world can be.
I am still optimistic that our youth will build a brighter future and actually learn from the good and bad decisions that have been made within their families, communities, regions, nations and the world. That tertiary education facilities can collaborate to provide information and statistics or datasets that will help those in decision making roles to make the right decision is only one of the many tools. There are organisations around the world that are providing the information, or are actively implementing best practice models. When will we begin using this data to improve upon past decisions?
Personally I have missed two kapa haka regionals and couldn’t even livestream it because they only do it for Australia and Aotearoa *sigh*. That I was able to use social media platforms to watch the kōrero taking place at Waitangi, and the mahi taking place in Tāmaki was fantastic. It highlighted a couple of home truths where we differ as a people and our understanding of indigenous peoples. The attached video highlights how indigenous people are still viewed. When I saw this video, I was like “Whaaaaaaat? Reeeaaaalllly?” The satire made me chuckle but in reality it highlights incorrect perceptions of whom indigenous people are today. We also shared a bit of our own indigenous history, which was great for our colleagues and students to understand where we come from.
The best food was having a burger from MEATS restaurant. Holy hika, they even ask how you want the meat cooked! All I can say is “MEAN!”
Finally, I hope that we are able to invite some of these wonderful people to our University and reciprocate the manaaki shown to us. Thank you again Brasil, and our final meeting at the Indigenous Museum was beautiful. This off the cuff meeting was a beautiful way to finish our visits on this whenua sharing waiata and of course enforcing the kupu of Te Rauparaha and having his footprints heard around the world.
Thanks again to Education NZ and the Prime Minister Scholarship Latin America, its been a blast, but I’m ready to get home and see my mokopuna and whānau. To the whānau who have had to put up with me over the past 4.5 weeks, BELEZA!
Papaki mai ngā ngaru nui, e ripo, he rehutai, hei konei rā. Hei te wā ka hoki pai ai ētahi atu o mātou. Nō reira, tēnā ko koe, tēnā ko kourua, tēnā ko koutou katoa.
One week down, where do I start? Despite having only been on this trip for a quarter of its total planned time, I am already hugely overwhelmed by how much I have already been exposed to. This does not mean to say that I am in any way finished though, and in fact this first week has only made me eager for more. I feel like this is mostly because I haven’t really travelled internationally to this extent before. There were many things that happened during our first week here, but I would like to focus on two things I felt were the most interesting.
Firstly, I have taken a huge interest in learning Portuguese while I am over here. One major thing I have learnt straight away here in Sao Paulo is that there are barely any English speakers. This makes it difficult to do the things that we would take for granted back home such as order food, ask where the bathroom is and even introduce yourself. Although difficult, one of the best parts of this trip so far has been being forced to learn their language. Furthermore, there is a certain feeling that comes with connecting with people in another language, something you aren’t able to do back home so much.
Another highlight for me this week came in our trip to Ubatuba for three days. Going from Sao Paulo to here was a very contrasted move. Sao Paulo very much feels like a busy city in which you are constantly surrounded by amazing architecture and skyline, whereas Ubatuba feels like a town planted smack bang in the middle of a jungle and next to over 50 different beaches. Highlights from Ubatuba included going to the beach and meeting many Brazillians who were up for a good time in the heat. But perhaps our most interesting part of our time in Ubatuba was our visits to the Boa Vista Guarani indigenous community and also to a Quillombos community who had a very impressive sugar cane processing plant.
It was amazing connecting with the Boa Vista community, getting a taste of their culture as well as how they live. We were able to go for a walk through the rainforest to their community buried within. We were guided by a man named Alex who showed us around his community and told us of their various practices. They welcomed us through waiata, much like we would do back home in Aotearoa.
I am very much looking forward to the rest of our time here, especially the community visits we have planned for next week!