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Story Publication logo October 1, 2022

The Jungle Against the End of the World (Spanish)

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The endangered Awá Indigenous people in northwestern Brazil confront the COVID-19 pandemic and other...

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This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Cerosetenta. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.



Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Maranhao could be a scale model of the Brazil at stake in these elections. A state the size of Norway with a diversity of biomes that are enclosed, coca fields and pure jungle, 80% of which has been devastated by soy, cows and mining. The economic reports talk about dollars but what you see inland is poverty, hunger and devastation on one side, and on the other, Indigenous peoples in active resistance to defend what is left standing. In this chronicle, a journey to one of those towns, the Awa Guajá: proof that another life is possible in the world today.

Maranhao, Brazil, 2022

Nothing is true except that the forest that is being killed. I write that down in my notebook and walk through the streets of Auzilândia, a village inhabited by a handful of people who seem to have been isolated by the noise and pollution of a mining train. This place also used to be jungle and now it is a place made of heat and debris: scrawny palm trees; the occasional white cow, peaceful and demonic, poor cows, eating the pastures that remain among the dry, disturbed earth; and men and women and children forgotten at the edge of businesses that are becoming more prosperous every day: soybean farms, cattle ranching, mining.


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In the northeastern state of Brazil where I am, Maranhao, 80 percent of the forest is gone. That means many things. Above all that there remains 20 percent that still breathes and beats and dreams and creates and exists. Beautiful, fierce, and resounding. Full of leaves, vines, roots, fungi, feathers, scales, skin, fangs, stings, perfume, buzzing, thickets, sweat; and songs and screams and blood and heartbeats and eyes.

The living jungle is in terminal danger while the disappearing post-truth announces exports and dollars galore, accumulating poverty and violence.

The entrance to the rural community of Auzilândia. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

The train of the world's largest iron ore miner, Vale's Carajás, runs 900 kilometers between the states of Pará and Maranhao, passing through 130 villages that suffer from constant noise and toxic dust. It also runs a passenger service three times a week. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

The train station of Alto Alegre do Pindaré, a rural town occupied by humble hotels and restaurants for Vale's workers, who come entirely from outside. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

The train station of Alto Alegre do Pindaré, a rural town occupied by humble hotels and restaurants for Vale's workers, who come entirely from outside. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.
Alto Alegre do Pindaré, a humble place, at first sight quiet, full of little caged birds. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Maintenance work on the Vale railroad are ongoing and includes the construction of walls to prevent pedestrians from trying to cross the tracks and dying in the attempt, something that happens frequently. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Awaajá Indians in a protest to demand that the education system guarantee their rights. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Guard house on Cerro da vovó, the highest point of the Caru Indigenous Land. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.
The school in Caru Indigenous Land: a space requested by the Indigenous people to learn the Portuguese language and develop strategies to defend themselves from the subjugation of the State. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Image taken during a surveillance patrol conducted by the Awa Guajá Indians in which they found an illegal cattle ranching establishment within their lands. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

The coast of the Pindaré river in Alto Alegre do Pindaré. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Residents of Alto Alegre do Pindaré. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Fishermen's huts on the shores of the Pindaré river. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

The first interview without intermediaries of the Awa Guajá Indians was for this chronicle. It was a meeting propitiated by them and by a person who helps them from anonymity, because working for the Indigenous people in the government of Jair Bolsonaro has become a risky activity. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Tautuxia'a Awa Guajá, one of the leaders of the Awa Guajá in Carú Indigenous Land. Tautuxia'a is also an artisan and teacher in his village. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Itaxĩa Awa Guajá leader of the Awa village in Carú Indigenous Land. He is also a teacher and health agent. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Awa Guajá Indians making their hunting weapons for large animals. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Awa Indigenous village in Caru Indigenous Land. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Protest of the Awa Guajá on the outskirts of their land to ask for a better education. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

Residents of nearby villages often enter indigenous land to fish and hunt. The Awa Guajá demand that the state intervene so that hunger is not another reason to destroy the forest. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

From left to right: Panỹxa'a Awa Guajá, Arawyta'ĩa Awa Guajá, Petua Awa Guajá, Amaxika Awa Guajajá, Piranẽ Awa Guajajá, Hajkaramykỹa Awa Guajá, Irakatakua Awa Guajá, Arapio Awa Guajajá, Amiria Awa Guajá, Takwarakỹa Awa Guajá, Takwariratỹa Awa Guajá, Itaxĩa Awa Guajá, Tatuxa'a Awa Guajá, Arakari'ĩa Awa Guajá, Takwarixika Awa Guajá and Jaharoa Awa Guajá. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.

A resident of Auzilândia. Image by Soledad Barruti/Cerosetenta. Brazil, 2022.