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Story Publication logo March 8, 2021

Yanomami Peoples Defend Themselves (Spanish)

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The Jirijirimo waterfall, on the Yaigojé river, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
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The FLARES FROM THE AMAZON project seeks to warn of the increased dangers of deforestation and...

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We are between 1975 and 1976. A devastating epidemic penetrates the state of Roraima, in northern Brazil. The first garimpeiros (prospectors for gold or precious stones in the Amazon), about 500, begin to climb the Serra do Surucucus. In 1980, another 2,000 entered Yanomami territory through the Uraricuera River. The epidemic is spreading. The routes of the garimpeiros marked the course of other diseases. With them came evils that we had never seen before, such as measles and malaria , which exterminated a large part of the population; the figures are not precise.

In those years they found a lot, a lot of gold on our lands. When we found out, 150 planes were already making daily flights from the Boa Vista airport to the territory, bringing miners from there to the city, loaded with gold. Air traffic at the Boa Vista airport then became the busiest in Brazil, perhaps greater than that of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. So high was the investment of the gold seekers in our region.

A few years later, in 1987, Romero Jucá, then president of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) , brought an indigenous person from another ethnic group to sign an agreement for the entry of garimpeiros into our territory. Recorded on video, the indigenous man affirms that it is necessary to bring progress to the indigenous peoples to "support the family." The wishes expressed by Jucá, who came from far away to tell us that he was the representative of what we wanted, were not the same as ours. They were not and never will be.

Read the full story in Spanish on the El País website.