Chelsea: Marielle, Vive!

31/01/20

Marielle! VIVE! Marielle! VIVE! Marielle! VIVE!

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.

Arohanui,

Chelsea xx

Alofa: Fight the good fight

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.

A video produced by ISA to highlight the fight against stereotypes

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.

A video produced by a NGO ISA to signal the continual fight for the land

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.

Alofa: The toilet paper goes where!?

Brazil:- The land of the futebol, graffiti and Caipirinhas; where the weather rises to a high of 32°C, the subway surpasses that of Auckland Transport and toilet paper is thrown into rubbish bins, not flushed down the toilet.

The first week here in Brazil was hectic – 8am lectures that run for 2 hours, horrible traffic, strong coffee… it felt like I never left home! But hey, different country, different me – or that’s the goal at least. My intention for this trip was clear – learn more about myself by learning about others and the struggle that they face.

If you know me personally, you know that I’ve never been a hearty advocate for LGBTQ+, feminism, climate change, or cultural rights. Although I wasn’t entirely against these concepts, being a female Christian growing up in a Samoan house meant I was instinctively ‘programmed’ to remain passive on topics that I had no direct input in because I was meant to be seen and not heard. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a problem with this, but my first week in Brasil has already forced me to reconsider my position on some of these topics.

By the end of our first week we had visited an indigenous community, Boa Vista; we conversed with a representative of the tribe, watched the kids of the community perform a song and dance for us, and we managed to indulge the indigenous tradition of body paint. They told us of the struggles that they had faced since the arrival of the Portuguese and the battle that they continue to fight for their land to remain just as that – theirs. It’s actually a bit heartbreaking to see people having to fight for something that they never had to previously just because the ‘white’ person standards say so. Getting to experience a culture that is so closely connected to the land reminds me of my own cultural homeland of Samoa. The stories of the struggles my grandparents had to endure are forever engraved in my heart and experiencing a portion of that whenever I visit Samoa allows me to empathise with the indigenous peoples of Brasil despite the geographical distance of our homelands. A fellow student said it better: No matter where we go or who we are, the battle remains the same.

No matter where we go or who we are, the battle remains the same.

The way that the Brazilians and the Indigenous identify themselves is something that is commonly debated in today’s society and it’s a highlight from the first week in Brasil. As an Ancient Historian I’ve always been interested in conquest and the assimilation of peoples into the Roman or Greek identity but it begs the question – what makes one Roman or Greek? And the question echoes through the forests of South America – what defines one as Indigenous, Portuguese or Brazilian? As one of my favourite lecturers from the University of Sao Paulo had stated in her first lecture, ‘it’s not the colour of their skin, but it’s how they live and their beliefs’.

It’s not the colour of their skin, but it’s how they live and their beliefs.

Beatriz Perrone

I am grateful to have this opportunity to experience Brasil in all its natural beauty but the fact remains that I love living in New Zealand and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! (And no this isn’t just because I get to flush toilet paper in the toilet!). There is just no place like home!

Até logo,

Alofa So’olefai

Shisla: The most valuable experience

Today was our last day at Tec de Monterrey.

Four weeks, four cities, 27 students, 5 lecturers. I have to say, I will miss all of it.

It was a great opportunity that I am so thankful to have participated in. In just such a short time, I have changed and learned so much. Of course, I can write paragraphs about the people you meet, experiences you have, the relationships you form and that you will treasure forever. But anyone that has travelled can also write about that.

What I want to write about is the experience of studying in a country with a completely different culture. This is an experience that will help you grow, open your mindset, develop your critical thinking and open so many more doors up in your career.

Before I came to Mexico, most of what I expected included sombreros, Coronas and cactuses. I mean, I was right, there is definitely an abundance in all of that here. But there is so much more to it.

Bonding after a visit to Freixenet in Queretaro.

I learned more in classes and company visits than i would have ever learned just travelling or through research at home. The way classes are carried out, the content, the relationship with the professor- it is all so different, and so reflective of the culture. I feel like this sort of experience is so valuable in today’s world. Globalisation has really brought us all together and it is so important to understand how other cultures think in professional environments.

Especially with the ever increasing relationship between New Zealand and Latin American countries, it is amazing that students have an opportunity to get such valuable first-hand experience. Being here has also made me even more thankful for the support provided by the New Zealand government for students to have such opportunities. It is truly through such experiences that us, young kiwis, are able to continue the development of the great work done by the past generations.

Rebecca: The Heart of Mexico!

Built on top of an ancient lake bed, Mexico City has centuries of history beneath and among it. With precisely four days before our studies started, we set to work on getting to know the heart of Mexico!

Our first look was in the downtown Zocalo district which plays host to numerous historical sites including the magnificent Catedral Metropolitana, the ruins of Templo Mayor and the Palacio des Bellas Artes. Despite being surrounded by so many incredible sights, one of my highlights was when we discovered a clowder of cats in the government house, complete with their own cat-shaped houses and beds! Now that’s a good way to run a country!

Catedral Metropolitana
The National Palace (government house)
Palacio des Bellas Artes
Cute cats!!!
The streets of Mexico City
Cute cat houses!!!

We spent sunset up the Mirador Torre which is the CDMX equivalent of the SkyTower. With amazing 360 degree views, it really sunk in just how vast and expansive this city was. Even at 10pm on a Wednesday night, the streets were packed with people shopping, eating and dancing – it didn’t take long before we decided to join them.

Views from the Mirador Torre

Our studies started in Santa Fe where we were put up in the Novotel Hotel (!!!) which was only a two-minute ride away from the Tec de Mont campus. With plenty of classrooms, conference halls and even a NFL field, there was plenty to explore on campus alone. Our lecture content for the week was focused on globalisation and the part Mexico has played, is playing and can potentially play in it. They were all very interactive and gave us a chance to really discuss our own ideas and form our own opinions.

Technologico de Monterrey Santa Fe Campus

In between classes, we had a company visit to PepsiCo and a conference with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, both of which were full of knowledge of the cultural practices and the unique market position Mexico has from people with first-hand experience.

PepsiCo Headquarters CMDX
PepsiCo Conference

Having left New Zealand with only a (very, very) basic grasp of Spanish, the language barrier has not been as difficult as I expected. Most of this has come down to the helpfulness and loveliness of all the people we’ve come across who seemed pleased that we were making an effort and tried their best to translate for us. I feel it is so important to say that despite all the negative news, I have felt safe in Mexico. I know that we have been lucky enough to stay in wealthier areas but I still feel that the image that has been portrayed of Mexico as an unsafe travel environment is inaccurate – the helpfulness of all those I have encountered so far is a testament to that.

The Tec de Mont NZ Cohort

It’s been a great start to the trip and I’m so looking forward to seeing what the rest of it has to offer! Thank you so much to 360 International and Education NZ for this incredible PMSLA experience!

Rebecca McCulloch