Forgotten by the Brazilian authorities for half the millennium,
relegated to the condition of just another forest animal, at the dawn of the 21st
century, the Indians come face to face at a crossroads. Either the indigenous people
integrate into the civilization that surrounds them or choose the judgement of a certain
anthropology which prefers to see them enclosed in a zoo, for contemplation by the men of
By Janer Cristaldo
The century is coming to an end, the raging utopias that ravaged it are at the point of
death, the Internet finally transformed the planet into a village, the USSR disintegrated,
and Europe is unifying. In the middle of all this, Brazil is preparing to commemorate its
discovery 500 years ago without yet having resolved, in its half a millennium of
existence, the indigenous question. The national ego is inflated by having a Brazilian
chosen by NASA for a trip into space, while woodland tribes still live in the Paleolithic
age, depending on hunting, fishing, agriculture… and state charity.
According to legends fully divulged by anthropologists and other "ologists,"
there were around six million inhabitants in Brazilian territory at the time the
Portuguese arrived. The number is absurd and at the same time symbolic. Absurd, because
such a census never could have been done by the torchbearers that landed on our shores. If
with actual resources it is still not known if there are 3,000 or 10,000 supposed
Yanomamis, it is impossible to imagine how the few sailors brought by Cabral could have
mapped a continent of whose dimensions they didn’t have the slightest idea. Symbolic,
because they make us think of another round number, six million Jews. The figure
immediately points to genocide. Provoked by whom? By the white man, of course. According
to Darcy Ribeiroone of the devotes of the six million thesis"the
expansion of the white man was the biggest catastrophe of human history".
Let’s leave legend aside and deal in what is measurable. According to the last census
done by the Fundação Nacional do Índio (FunaiNational Indian Foundation) in 1995,
there are today 325 thousand indigenous people in Brazil, that hold 11% of national
territory. Further, according to Funai, close to 174,000 Indians survive only thanks to
the distribution of
40,000 "basic food baskets" from the government, distributed by the Programa
de Distribuição de Alimentos (Food Distribution Program). Each basket contains 5 kilos
of rice, 5 kilos of beans, 5 kilos of pasta, 3 kilos of corn flakes, a kilo of manioc meal
and two cans of soybean oil. The average cost of each one: $12. Holders of fabulous
amounts of land unimaginable in contemporary times, half of the Brazilian indigenous
population is living in misery and is fed at the cost of the government. Or rather, the
taxpayer, since the government doesn’t make money. It just collects it.
"Eu nun queru nada du brancu. Nun queru motô di barcu, nun quero panela,
nun queru ispingarda, nun queru machado. Queru vivê comu meu pai e meu avô"( I
don’t want anything from the white man. I don’t want a boat engine, I don’t want a pan, I
don’t want a rifle, I don’t want an ax. I want to live like my father and my grandfather),
said Raoni one day, the Txucarramãe, "poster boy" of the international entities
that infest the Brazilian indigenous universe. If his speech in broken Portuguese
satisfies the most Rousseauistic of the anthropologists, not all the Indians intend to
continue living like primitives. The Indians that have had contact with white civilization
understand what it is to be seen as animals and no longer want to be considered as such.
The most dramatic testimony along these lines was given to the magazine Veja, in
January 1990, by Marcelo Yanomami, a resident of Boa Vista, Roraima.
Since the reserves rest on top gold, niobium, diamonds, and cassiterita, who wants to
explore the national "subsoil" becomes the national enemy of the
"nations" of the peoples of the forest. The predator par excellence, the
bridgehead established between whites and Indians, would be the prospector. While he is
really nothing more than a poor devil that braves the jungle in misery, he is elected
scapegoat for the indigenous question. Marcelo doesn’t feel the same way:
"I am a Yanomami and I defend the right of the prospectors in indigenous lands.
This may seem strange, but I happen to doubt that the life of the Indians is going to
improve with the departure of the prospectors, while the ecologists, the missionaries and
the government see us as solitary, wild persons, without deciding anything, without the
right to running water, electricity or television, without the right to explore the
mineral riches of the Yanomami lands, which no "civilized" person would hesitate
in profiting by if they were underneath his home. I am not the only Indian to have these
Marcelo lost his mother when he was eight and became an orphan, a fact which brought
him closer to civilization. According to his own statements, among the Yanomamis, when the
mother dies, the child is abandoned in the village. Adopted by a representative of Funai,
today he has a comparative vision of the world:
"The story ended a long time ago of the Indian being content with just a whistle.
And it wasn’t just the prospectors that had influence in this change. The missionaries,
the people from Funai, the researchers, and even the journalists didn’t let the Indian
think any longer that the world ended in his lands. The Indian no longer wants to live as
if he was imprisoned in a large zoo being photographed by tourists".
Forgotten by the Brazilian authorities for half the millennium, relegated to the
condition of just another forest animal, at the dawn of the 21st century, the
Indians come face to face at a crossroads. The testimonies of Marcelo and Raoni are
symbolic and define two possible paths: the indigenous people integrate into the
civilization that surrounds them, the normal destiny of all cultures which do not have a
written language, and therefore, without history, or choose the judgement of a certain
anthropology which prefers to see them enclosed is a type of secular space in a zoo, for
contemplation by the men of the future.
And it is precisely this anthropologya mauvaise conscience of the
Westin which dwell the hindrances to the ascent of the indigenous populations to the
twentieth century. In its name, artificial nations are created, massacres are concocted,
which malign Brazil internationally, cut the country in pieces, and absolve killers and
rapists, that besides remaining free in the jungle like birds, are hailed by the media
In the last two decades, two indigenous leaders became better known in the
international press than any writer or Brazilian politician. Raoni, the Txucarramãe
chief, marched his lip ring before the pope, kings and heads of state. Paiakan, the
Caiapó tribal chief, was on the cover of a magazine in the United States, which saluted
him as "the man that can save humanity ". Behind these images of these two show
business stars, hide a killer and a rapist. In 1980 there were at least 30 peons killed by
the Indians in two different slaughters, one of them in the Parque Nacional do Xingu, led
by Raoni. On this occasion, the Botocudo showed in the papers the club that "helped
kill 11 peons on a farm ". No Indian was charged for the crimes that were committed.
Raoni even attempted hitting with a club the then president of Funai, Carlos Nobre da
Veiga, on being asked about the massacre. Not only did he remain unpunished, totally
indifferent to Brazilian legislation, he was received with honors of a chief of state in
Europe. Pope John Paul II, François Mitterrand, and the king and queen of Spain, among
others, received him as an indigenous leader. He even had the luxury of exhibiting his
painting in Paris. One of the killer’s paintings reached $ 1,600 on a price list that
started at $1,000.
As if Raoni’s initial success wasn’t enough, the company KWay International launched a
clothing line with the brand name Raoni and ordered from the "new artist a work that
he would never dare to do: transpose on paper the body paintings of his tribe, the
geometric paintings that men and women display, like an immense tattoo, when they
participate in purification ceremonies, when hunting season starts, or when they need to
scare away evil spirits".
Raoni’s patron in this circumnavigation through the West was Sting, who created the
Rainforest Foundation in 1989 and raised $1.5 million dollars for the demarcation of the
Caiapós tribe, in the southern part of Pará. In reality, Raoni is Txucarramãe, but his
hanging lower lip and his Rousseauistic appeal serve to move the white
"colonizer". In April of 1993, in an interview with Veja, the English
"The Indians try to deceive you all the time and they can be very frustrating.
They see the whites more as a source of resources than as friends. I was very naive. I am
leaving behind my jungle days ."
Too late: the killer, thanks to Sting’s efforts, was already enthroned as a hero.
The same aura was bestowed on, by the European and American media, another of our
heroes "for export", Paulinho Paiakan. If rape, in some distant time was a sport
of primitive tribes, today it is physical violence universally penalized. Except in Brazil
and when committed by Indians, of course. In May of 1992, Paulinho Paiakan, the Caiapó
chief, hailed by the American press as "the man who can save humanity", raped an
18 year old girl, with the complicity of his wife, Irekran, and until today, both remain
free on their land. The rapists even confessed to having stuck their hands in the vagina
of the victim. The process dragged on for more than a year and Paulinhothey are
friendly the diminutive words ending in "inho"warned: if he were to be
condemned, he wouldn’t leave his reserve. In addition, he threatened make white blood
roll. And we thought that ethnic cleansing was the strategy of Serbs.
When a judicial prison order was issued against the Rousseauistic guru rapist, near the
end of 1993, the Military Police of Pará refused to send troops to the Caiapó reserve in
the southern part of the state to execute the prison mandate against the leader of the
adoring Americans, the bon sauvage tupiniquim. The indigenous area is a region
where the Military Police do not have the right to act, said the Commander. "If he
leaves there, we’ll get him ".
An arrest warrant was issued because Paulinho didn’t show up at a hearing in
Redenção, Pará, for the lawsuit in which he was accused of rape. It was issued, but not
served. When the defendant is a savage, particularly if he is a star of the so-called
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)this new entrenchment of the Kremlin
widowsthe judicial order becomes a joke. It wasn’t carried out and that’s the end of
it. The disobedience to the bench rolled on for a month and the Justice Tribunal of Pará
ended up revoking the prison order.
Paiakan was later absolved, by an intimidated judge, during the trial when he appeared
backed by hundreds Caiapós armed with clubs. The judge alleged lack of evidence and
considered Irekran not integrated to the culture of non-Indians, being unpunishable before
the law. The defense alleged that the lesions in the vagina of the victim were caused by
Irekran’s hands and nails. The court appointed expert disagreed upon stating that
"the rupture of the hymen can only have been done by a penis ". According to the
prosecutor, Irekran could not be considered unpunishable for not being integrated with
non-Indians. Proof of this, the prosecutor affirmed is that she understood Portuguese.
The power of the "man that can save humanity" is shocking: for much less than
this, Clinton risked having his days counted in the presidency of the United States. But
Paulinho is an Indian and can rape at will. In spite of spontaneously confessing his crime
to journalists, the brave warrior opted to hide himself behind the skirts of his wife. He
continues free and exporting mahogany from his reserve, the same mahogany whose
exportation constitutes a crime when done by white businessmen. These two
episodesthe massacre led by Raoni and the rape committed by Paiakandeserve
some reflection. The seriousness in all of this is not just the rape or assassination,
common crimes capitulated in the penal code and occurring in any civilization. We now have
a Brazilian citizenor to what country do the Caiapós belong?with the charisma
of a savior of humanity, that tells very clearly that he does not accept the law of the
country in which he lives. For Paiakan,
a vida é combate,
que os fracos abate,
e os fortes e bravos
só pode exaltar
(life is combat
in which the weak fail
and the brave and strong
can only hail)
as Gonçalves Dias sung in "A Canção do Tamoio ("The Song of
Tamoio")". (Truthfully, Paiakan was better foreseen by Bernardo Guimarães, in
"O Elixir do Pajé", a rich parody of Indian poetry by Gonçalves Dias. See box
at end of article.)
No authority condemned the civil rebellion of the Caiapó "nation". Much less
the massacre that makes Raoni proud. Neither did the Ministry of the Army worry about
these men that refuse to acknowledge the national legislative and judicial system. On the
occasion of these crimes, the eternal defenders of Human Rights remained silent. Also the
feminists, so warlike in denouncing sexual harassment are so complacent when a
"citizen of the peoples of the jungle" is granted the right to practice
fistsexthis variety so appreciated by those cultivators of hardcorewith a
defenseless girl. Bill Clinton is not forgiven for a cigar.
The Caiapó "nation", that already has made ten million dollars in the last
few years exporting mahogany to Europe, doesn’t only not accept the national judicial
system, as it still shelters and protects rapists. According to the law, a criminal
cover-up also constitutes a crime. Except in the Caiapó country, where the laws are
others and rape is not a crime.
The year of 1993 will remain in the history of journalism as that of the largest bluff
registered in both the national and international press, the "massacre" of the
Yanomamis by the wicked prospectors. Even without happening, the widespread disclosure of
the farce provoked irreparable lesions in the international image of Brazil. The farce had
a double effect. In the first place, it called international attention to a massacre that
simply didn’t happen. In second place, even not having taken place, it confirmed the
existence of a tribe that doesn’t exist in Brazil. The Yanomami nation, while belonging to
the history of Brazil in some didactic, irresponsible manuals, isn’t more than a fictional
creation of the Swiss photographer Cláudia Andujarnot a very Swiss namethat
wandered around Roraima in the 70s taking pictures, vaccinating, and rebaptizing Indians
of different tribes among themselves, speaking different dialects. The lesions of the
country’s image even reached the Brazilian public: today, hardly any Brazilian accepts the
hypothesis that the Yanomamis don’t exist.
Brazilian justice took a year and a few days to officially recognize the death of
representative Ulysses Guimarães, which took place on October 12, 1992. There is a
photograph of the member of parliament entering into a helicopter that fell into the sea,
the bodies of the pilot and his wife were found, and there is absolute evidence of his
death. Meanwhile, this was only recognized on September 24, 1993, by judge Paulo César de
Almeida Sodré. Even so, Ulysses was only considered officially dead on October 15, 1993,
when the judge’s ruling was published in the Diário Oficial da União. This
delay of a year to acknowledge an obvious death was due to the fact that the body of the
deputy had not been found.
But only 24 hours were necessary for Brazilian authorities to define as genocide a
supposed massacre without any body "having taken place"… in Venezuela. The
bodies of Czar Nicholas II and the imperial Russian family have been found, assassinated
by the Bolsheviks in 1918, and until today, there is no news of one incident of any
massacre taking place in 1993, with international repercussions that threaten the
sovereignty of Brazil over its territory. Initially, there were 19 deaths, then 40, then
73, then 89, later 120, then 16, when in fact there was not one body. In short, a skeleton
was found, from an unknown date, which didn’t demonstrate any indications of a massacre or
The then Minister of Justice, Maurício Corrêa, satisfied with this old skeleton
immediately denounced genocide. The Federal Police, in spite of continual declarations
that there was no proof of the crime, did not hesitate in making a report, more than two
months after the date of the "massacre", denouncing 23 prospectors for the
assassination of 16 Indians, of which not even a bone was found. The press showed pictures
of heads that contained the ashes of cremated bodieswhich could not be examined,
since they were "sacred".
Without proof of anything, the Attorney General indited 4 prospectors for the crime of
genocide, adding one more to those listed by the Polícia Federal. For the first time, the
Federal Prosecutor submitted to the Brazilian Justice Department this type of indictment,
revealing a notable lack of what to do. The 24 people inditedin general by last
namerisked 30 years in prison. Members of parliament, bishops and cardinals,
diplomats, police, military people, journalists, all were involved with the
"massacre" and become accomplices to it. Congress, the Armed Forces, the
National Defense Council, the Catholic Church, the national press, the international
press, sending specialists and correspondents from abroad, the Brazilian government and
foreign governments, all fell for the story of genocide.
According to attorney Aurélio Rios, interviewed at the time of the
"massacre", the crime of "genocide" is "the type that requires
bodily proof. The assassination of six Yanomamis at the end of July didn’t result in the
opening of any inquiry because the bodies were not found ".
According to the Manaus Federal Police’s regional justice coordinator, Lacerda Carlos
Júnior, who accompanied the investigations in Boa Vista, "while the bodies of the
dead Indians are not found, the hypotheses of a massacre cannot be accepted that,
according to Funai and the Attorney General, killed 73 people".
With the lack of bodies, the testimony of the North American anthropologist Bruce
Albert is retraced, to give a golden lock to the affair. Not that Bruce Albert was a
witness to the facts. He merely translated the report of the Indians that
"survived" the massacre. Exclusively, he told the "secret history of the
massacre" to the daily Folha de São Paulo (10/03/93).
Bruce Albert defended his doctorate thesis, "Temps du Sang, Temps des
Cendres" (Time of Blood, Time of Ashes), at the University of ParisNanterre. The
title is suggestively alliterate: sang, cendres . Once again, life imitates art:
the time of blood, the time of ashes. The premonitory look of the anthropologist, who at
the time was working on the biography of Davi Kopenawawho intended to be a candidate
for Congress in 1994foresaw the massacre. "There was a lot of imprudence with
the numbers", said Bruce Albert. "I don’t see the possibility of more than 70
Indians having died in the region ", he declared then. Later, refuting even his
biography potential, said that he heard of 19 deaths on Rádio Nacional, reduced to 16 the
number of deaths and divided the massacre in two years But he never saw a tangible,
Bruce Albert then had the chance to brandish his thesis: "In the large
intercommunity funeral ceremonies that will be organized in homage to the dead, the ashes
of the adults will be buried together in the household ovens of their relatives and those
of the children will be eaten with banana pap. On that occasion, the gourds, baskets and
all the objects belonging to the dead will be burned or destroyed."
Rather, there were no bodies because they were reduced to ashes. They could not be
examined because they were destroyed in funeral rituals. And the killersor rather,
the prospectors in generalshould be prevented from entering into "Yanomami
territory", concluded the North American citizen, that, from the look of things, made
fun of the public faith in the presence of Brazilian authorities.
What was done with the cutoff legs, arms, heads and fetuses pulled out of the bellies
of pregnant women, disclosed to the news agency Ansa, by the then Brazilian Attorney
General Aristides Junqueira? Even if the prospectors were the most perverse
possibleand why would they be?who would have the stomach to cut legs, arms,
heads and take fetuses from human beings? The 19, 40, 73, 89, 120 and finally 16 cadavers
of the massacred, announced on the first pages of the whole world’s newspapers, never were
found. Not even the miserable three bodies initially "found" by the Federal
The bunch of Ashaninka cadavers, massacred by the Shining Path, at the same time, did
not move the national and international press. This massacre in Peru wasn’t denounced by
NGOs to the UN or the Hague. When Indians kill dozens of whites in Brazil, among those the
workers of the very entity from which they receive assistance, the word
"massacre" is never heard.
When the frontiersman Gilberto Pinto was brutally slaughtered by the WaimirisAtroaris
in 1974, it was discovered that until then the Indians had killed no less than 62 Funai
employees. Every time a massacre took placewith real, tangible bodies , Funai would
offer new presents to the Indians. In a declaration to the daily Estado de S. Paulo,
the major-engineer of the Sixth Engineering Battalion said: "The Indian begins to
believe that the evil that he perpetrates is good for the whites. And so he perpetrates
new massacres, new attacks".
But these bodies don’t deserve international headlines. They are bodies of whites, the
creators of the "biggest catastrophe in human history ".
The Brazilian Federal Police investigated supposed crimes that, if they had occurred,
would have occurred in Venezuela. This imbroglionot even the Justice Minister knew
which country he was in when he visited the location of the "crime"creates
some indignation. Since when is a crime committed in a foreign country typified by
Brazilian law and investigated by Brazilian police? What legislation would judge the 23
prospectors indited by the Brazilian Federal Police for a crime thatif it had
occurredhad been committed outside of Brazil? Since when do pictures of gourds that
contained ashes constitute proof for any tribunal?
How to cremate bodiesthat in modern ovens require 1,360 degrees Celsius for two
hours, leaving two kilos of residue of bones mixed with fleshin quick bonfires on
the humid soil of a tropical forest?
The 19th of December, 1996, Itagiba Catta Preta, a Federal Judge in Boa
Vista, Roraima, closed with a golden key the fiction fed during three years by the press:
he condemned to 20 years of prison 5 prospectors, for genocide against the Yanomamis in
1993. Two prospectors are rejecting the suit in freedom and three do know not acknowledge
Bodies, not a one. But Judge Catta Preta doesn’t have a doubt that there was a
massacre. As proof of the crime, he accepted anthropologists findings about the cultural
habits of the Yanomamisthe story of the ashes, formulated by Albert, besides
the testimony of survivors. "I don’t have any doubt that at least 12 Indians were
killed from the depositions gathered".
If they died in Venezuela, it doesn’t make any difference to Catta Preta. According to
him, the penal code provides that genocide, when practiced by Brazilians, is subject to
Brazilian law. If would be interesting to know what the Venezuelans think about this.
Without a body there is no crime, says good legal doctrine. The prospectors were
condemned for a crime that didn’t take place. Worse yet, for the assassination of an
Indian tribe that doesn’t exist. The farce was so flagrant that even today not one
prospector is in prison. On that day in Roraima, the biggest journalistic, political and
judicial farce that ever took place in Brazil was tied up with a topknot, with serious
consequences for the territorial integrity of the country.
The press showed some signs of violence in the Venezuelan village where the massacre
was to have taken place, some pans with gunshot holes in them. And just that. We would
then have pancide, something that was never contemplated by any penal code.
If the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon verified the existence of a tribe of Yanomamis
in Venezuela, the extension of this ethnic group into Brazilian territory is far from
being proved. The bluff of the massacre of Yanomamis in 1993 lies on top of a previous
bluff , or rather, the existence of a Yanomami tribe in Brazil. Who makes this accusation
is Colonel Carlos
Alberto Lima Menna Barreto, in The Yanomani Farce" (Biblioteca do Exército
Editora, Rio, 1995). In terms of his occupation, the Gaúcho (from Rio Grande do
Sul) military man worked in Roraima since 1969, where he had close contact with the
region’s population. And never knew of any Yanomamis, a word that invaded the Brazilian
and international press only from 1973 on.
According to Menna Barreto, Manoel da Gama Lobo D’Almada, Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira,
the brothers Richard e Robert Schomburgk, Philip von Martius, Alexander von Humboldt,
João Barbosa Rodrigues, Henri Coudreau, Jahn Chaffanjon, Francisco Xavier de Araújo,
Walter Brett, Theodor KochGrünberg,
Hamilton Rice, Jacques Ourique, Cândido Rondon and thousands of anonymous explorers
that traveled in the Uraricoera and Orenoco valleys, they never identified any Indians
with this name. Neither would the reader, who today is 40 or 50 years old, ever had heard
mentioned, in his schoolbooks, such a tribe, which received a part of the national land
equivalent to three Belgiums, as its "immemorial lands". Immemorial since when?
Two decades ago?
The heart of the problem isn’t the preservation of the Indian and his traditions. In
the latest discussions about this in Brazil, one item is generally omitted, nothing less
than the most essential: the proto chancellors of the supposed Yanomami nation laid claim
for its dependents to the subsoil of land, which is very rich in gold, diamonds, niobium,
and cassiterita. Not one NGO worries so emphatically with the cultures of the Miskitos in
Nicaragua or of the Ashaninkas in Peru.
For Colonel Menna Barreto, there is nothing better than language to define ancestry and
tell the story of human groups. In his first missions to the region, he found the
Maiongonguesclassified as Caribbean Indiansand the Xirianás, Uaicás and
Macus, speaking isolated languages. Like the first explorers and foreign scientists, he
never heard anyone talking about Yanomanis.
"It is necessary to make clear, before anything else, that the Indians supposedly
found by Cláudia Andujar are the same ones from when I was there in 1969, 1970 and 1971.
It could be that, seduced by promises, they have agreed to renege their own name, no
longer being the valiant people they always were, to condescend to this sad part. Or, who
knows, they could have been convinced to don the name of "Yanomamis" on top of
their old names, thus a less detrimental type of whim against the indigenous traditions
and values. Meanwhile, it is not to be doubted that, to the utmost disdain by Brazilian
anthropologists, nothing has been done to veil the lie and that, with the exception of the
most knowledgeable, the Indians continue being the same Xirianás, Uaicás, Macus and
Maiongongues as always, leaving this story of "Yanomanis" just for Brazilian and
"But the Indians considered Yanomamis are the same that were there from 1969 to
1971. I am certain of this because I returned to the region in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988,
as Security Minister, and I saw the huts in the same places and the Indians with the same
faces as before. And, while this affirmation may seem reckless, because of the difficulty
of distinguishing one Indian from the other in the same tribe, it is easy to see that in
these 20 years there was no amplification of huts registered , nor any news regarding
epidemics or wars among them. The actual inhabitants are the same that I visited, when I
was Border Commander, or then, are their descendants".
For this Gaúcho who knows close upand for a long timethe tribes of
Roraima, it is not permissible to put such different groups in one Indian nation, "to
erase the differences and cultural variations, when Anthropology has as its objective the
contrary, to differentiate them". According to Menna Barreto, the different tribes
today designated generically as the heathen Yanomani, are well defined and distinct among
Menna Barreto continues: "the Uaicás, for example, have managed, contrary to the
rest, to keep themselves practically immune to outside influences, be it from the terror
that their ferociousness instills, or be it from the instinctive precaution to conceal
themselves to avoid their own degeneration, and the decline and disappearance by being in
contact with more advanced cultures. The Xirianás, in their tribes of the Alto Uraricaá,
Motomotó and Matacuni, meanwhile, couldn’t avoid this, more subject to the human, social
force in the singular conditions in which they lived. The first maintained close
relationships with their subordinate Auaqués and a rudimentary trade with neighbors of
the Caribbean group. Those of Matacuni, for their part, linked themselves culturally and
commercially to the Iecuanás of the High Auari".
The Xirianás of Matacuni and Uraricaá, according to the author, after having
exterminated the Maracanãs, the Purucotós and the Auaqués, became tame and sedentary.
While their brothers in the Motomotó, in their limited partnership with the Macus, only
attained a certain artistic ability and a relative moderation of primitive brutality.
Another parcel of the tribe, from the headwaters of the Orenoco and of Middle Mucajaí,
continue being nomads with wild habits, being incapable of constructing huts from trees,
making canoes, or planting fields. In the same Yanomani reserve, there would be the
IecuanásCaribe, named Maiongongues by the Macuxis and Maquiritares by the Venezuelans,
plus remnants of the Guinaú and Iauaraná tribes.
"With such a profusion of languages, races, and cultures, it is improper and
absurd"writes Menna Barreto"to classify all of them as Yanomanis. To
close one’s eyes to this obvious farce is to support the hidden interest of other
countries, to the detriment of Brazilmore than a scandal, it is treason".
Cláudia Andujar, Yanomanized, a babel of tribes that had little or nothing to do with
Yanomamis. Fiction took hold in the international press and the "Yanomamis"
began to "exist". When Brasília realized that the recognition of indigenous
groups required knowledge in Anthropology, the harm had already been done: the
photographer had created a nation. It’s worth it to note that the profession of
anthropologist, like those of prostitutes or psychoanalysts, isn’t regulated by law in
Even so, in 1992, with a handful of lines in the international media, the then
president Fernando Collor de Mello guaranteed Andujar’s fiction, delivering three Belgiums
to 10,000 Indians (or maybe half of that), that only became Yanomamis after 1973. A
miracle of electronic journalism: a nation is never built in such little time.
With her photographs, Cláudia Andujar transmits urbi et orbi an idyllic vision of her
Yanomanizied Indians: beings almost ethereal, angelic, in perfect harmony with themselves,
and with nature. The photograph’s fiction contrasts with the vision of an anthropologist,
the American, Napoleon Chagnon, who has studied the problem for more than 30 years and
lived 60 months in Yanomami villages in Venezuela, precisely the country where the
"massacre", if it had occurred, would have taken place.
In Yanomanö (Stanford University, 1992), Chagnon describes a primitive people
that make war to obtain the women of the dead enemy. His study doesn’t match the Eden like
images of the photographer. Speaking of his experience with the Yanomami group Kaobawa,
the anthropologist says: "Among the more significant results of my analysis were the
following facts, which put the nature and extent of violence among Kaobawä’s people into
1. Approximately 40% of the adult males participated in the killing of another
Yanomanö. The majority of them (60%) killed only one person, but some men were
repetitively successful warriors and participated in the killing of up to 16 other people.
2. Approximately 25% of all deaths among adult males were due to violence.
3. Approximately twothirds of all people aged 40 or older had lost, through violence,
at least one of the following kinds of very close biological relatives: a parent, a
sibling, or a child. Most of them (57%) have lost two or more such close relatives. This
helps explain why large numbers of individuals are motivated by revenge.
"The most unusual and impressive finding, one that has been subsequently discussed
and debated in the press and in academic journals, is the correlation between military
success and reproductive success among the Yanomanö. Unokais (men who have killed)
are more successful at obtaining wives and, as a consequence, have more offspring than men
their own age who are not unokais.
"The most plausible explanation for this correlation seems to be that unokais
are socially rewarded and have greater prestige than other men and, for these reasons, are
more often able to obtain extra wives by whom they have larger than average numbers of
children. Thus, `cultural success’ leads, in this cultural/historical circumstance, to
Chagnon shows us a group of individuals for which physical violencekilling and
even infanticideare part of daily life. An undesired child is killed immediately
after its birth. Women are continually beat even cut with machetes and axes and further,
they receive wounds from arrows in non-vital areas, like the breasts or legs. All this
when they are not killed. The author narrates a dialog for us between two women, who
discuss their scars on the scalp. One thinks that the others’ husband must like her very
much since he beats her so frequently.
The attacks on neighboring villages to kill one or more residents and kidnap women
constitutes normal practice for the warriors. In reading Chagnon’s book, we have a parade
of killings and massacres of Indians by Indians, narrated to the author with the
naturalness of someone who is making an Indian hut social chronicle.
A Cuba for
The Uaicás, Xirianás, Iecuanás, Macus and Maiongongues, according to Menna
Barretoor Yanomamis, as Andujar rebaptized themtoday possess 9.4 million
hectares, a territory that they will never manage to control. As if this immense area,
delivered by Collor de Mello to a handful of primitive beings, incapable of establishing
and administering a state wasn’t enough, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso just
demarcated an even larger area, of 10.6 million hectares (equivalent to the size of Cuba)
in an area known as Cabeça do Cachorro (Head of the Dog), in northwestern Amazonas.
The demarcation, done with the patronage of the G7 (a group formed by the United
States, Japan, Canada, Germany France, Great Britain, and Italy) revokes and lumps
together 14 discontinuous "islands" created during the Sarney government
(198590). Before the new demarcation, the 14 "islands" had just 2.6 million
hectares. This Cuba will be given to close to 30,000 Indians, almost 10% of Brazil’s
indigenous population, spread out in 600 communities of 23 ethnic groups, such as the
Baré, Suriana, Maku, Baniwa and Tucano, among others.
Holders of 11% of the national territory, the 325,000 Brazilian Indians are candidates
to being the largest landowners on the planet. Ironically, they inhabit the same country
in which the Movimento dos Semterra (the Landless Movement) (groups armed with rifles,
sickles and machetes, organized by the Catholic Church) invade and raze productive
properties, with guerilla tactics and under the flags of Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara. The
defenders of the "peoples of the forest" claim that all of the Brazilian
territory belongs to them, since before the arrival of the Portuguese. It happens that the
natives didn’t ask Cabral for his passport, nor a visa to entry the country. Without a
constitutional State, no people can lay claim to the possession of any territory.
Put in quarantine by militant anthropology, isolated from this century by the official
politics of Brasília, a melancholy option is left to the natives of Pindorama (Brazil,
land of palms): die of hunger or depend on public charity. Integrate into the 20th
century never: the anthropologists need to preserve, frozen in time, their objects of
And so, Brazil prepares to enter into the third millennium. Leaving behind, lost in the
past, its first inhabitants.
Translated by Barbara Maglio who can be reached at email@example.com
Janer Cristaldo is a writer, translator and journalist. He got a Ph.D.
in French and Compared Literature from Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III)
with the thesis La Révolte Chez Albert Camus et Ernesto Sábato (The Revolt in
Albert Camus and Ernesto Sábato). He published among other books: O Paraíso Sexual
Democrata (The Democrat Sex Paradise) (essay) , Assim Escrevem os Gaúchos
(Thus Write the Gauchos) (anthology), A Força dos Mitos (The Power of Myths) (crônicas),
Ponche Verde (Green Poncho) (novel), Mensageiros das Fúrias (Messengers of the Furies)
(essay). You can get in touch with him via his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Que tens, caralho, que pesar te oprime
|Translation coming soon|