Attention: Indigenous area

Porto Alegre - Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil

On one hand there are a lot of barriers because it takes a long time to officialize and register their territories and on the other hand the presence of the indios in the city is full of prejudices. But different from what many think, place of the indios is also in the cities.

On our way to Porto Alegre, we thought already making an register about the indigenous situation - we didn't want to leave Brazil without treating about these many fights and injustices concerning the native people. And then we came across the artwork of Xadalu, which has instigated us even more.

With several posters spread around the city, the artist passes his message. Bothered with the invisibility of the indios in Porto Alegre - which has a massive presence of different ethnical groups on the streets of the downtown - he started to draw attention on their presence. "Attention: Indigenous area" is printed in one of his interventions spread around the city.

Indigenous area and poster of the series "invisible beings" of Xadalu in Porto Alegre

The indigenous presence in the city is full of prejudices, because contrary to what many people think, the city is also place of the indios. Marcos Kaigang told us a bit of his trajectory and the fight he is facing day by day:

Marcos Kaigang, law studend at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul state

"I was born in the fight. I have 25 years of fight. For survival. If there is any people that can talk about resistance it must be the indigenous people. (...) What we are seeking is our territory, to have our basic rights such as healthcare, differentiated schools for the indigenous people - which we already conquered but is still taking time to be implemented, basic sanitation and rights that we only can conquer after having a territory. When Brazil was invaded, plundered and stolen was on cost of millions of lives of indigenous people, for the well-being of only few. Agonies that we are liven since 1500!"

As políticas públicas voltadas para os povos indígenas são fundamentais. Para nos contar um pouco sobre o que está sendo feito em Porto Alegre, convidamos Luiz Fagundes - cientista social que trabalha na secretaria de direitos humanos do município - a falar de políticas públicas de amparo à estas populações. Segundo ele, o protagonismo e a luta indígena são fundamentais nestas questões.

The public policies aimed for the indigenous people are fundamental. To tell us more about what is done in Porto Alegre, we asked Luiz Fagundes - social scientist who works at the secretary of human rights at the municipality, to talk about the public policies supporting these populations. According him, the protagonism and their fight are very important in these issues.

Luiz Fagundes - Secretary of Human Rights in Porto Alegre

"We have understandings which lead our actions. The first is to believe and respect the political autonomy of the ethnicities that are here: Charruas, Guarani and Kaigang. The second is the understanding that not the indians who are in the city but the cities have spread out above indigenous territories. (...) The indians are in their territories, which today are also cities. Hence there are overlapping territories. There is an indigenous point of view about the world and there is a point of view of the national society about our world. We believe that the indians are not out of their place - this is our first basic principle. The indians are in the places where they always have been, in its occupation of long duration.”

This way of understanding allowed Porto Alegre to have indigenous policies which are considered as reference for Brazil. As for example: the acquisition of areas by the municipality, a store of handcraft artwork managed by the indigenous ethnicities of the city and the cloths for the Guarani women.

"We try to have imagination of the public policies starting from indigenous ideas. We have several public policies aimed to the indians in the city. We have an indian artwork store at the Bomfim market which is managed by the indians by periods: the Kaigang stay in one period, the Charruas in other and the Guarani in another. (...) We have a policy which we are very proud of, which is the acquisition of areas specifically for the indians and which are transformed after in areas of cultural interest. The municipality acquired areas for the indigenous people - two Kaigang, one Guarani and one Charrua. They are areas of different size, but there are areas of life and right to use exclusively for the indios. I don't know any policy like that in Brazil. But this has to do mainly - and let's make this clear - with the fight and protagonism of the indigenous. It is not the government which gave, it suffered this demand."

For Luiz, one of the most important things for the elaboration of the public policies is to respect the differences of the populations that we are used to group in one only category: indians.

"Politics is contextual. It should respect cultural specificities. Not understand that category 'indio' as it was all the same. The Kaigang want a kind of politics, the Guarani want another thing and the Charrua other. And then you have to, in any way, dialogue with that difference within what we homogenize and understand as all the same: 'the indians'. Here in Porto Alegre there are 3 people, but in Brazil there are 308 if I'm not wrong. There are 270 languages!"

Therefore, the fairs are mostly Kaigang, because they came up as result of a Kaigang fight. The Guarani have another way of appropriation of space: they don't have fixed stands in special squares, but they position in spaces that they understand as appropriate to their traditional territory - which in the case of Porto Alegre is the city center. The attention to this specificity opened the gates for a public policy aimed to the Guarani:

"This occupation in the center is basically done by women behalf an expression that they call the Poraró, what means to extend the hand. The Guarani-Mothers don't leave their kids or put them for the education of third persons. This created problems because of the judiciary understanding that the kids have been mistreated. And that generated a criminalization process of a traditional activity. As fruit of the dialogue and the Gurani demands we created the project "Mulheres dos Panos" (women of the cloths) where cloth were made on which they can expose their artwork so that the public agents recognize their activity and their right to be there. So we could guarantee the Poraró."

Guarani artwort above cloth of the project "Mulheres dos Panos" (women of the cloths)

The sociologist and ex-coordinator Region of the South Coast of FUNAI (National Foundation of the Indios), João Maurício Farias explained us about the importance of this project, not only from an economic point of view, but also from the presence of the women in the streets, but overall cultural:

"The action of the Poraró for them is a cultural exchange. They bring elements from their culture, an artwork from their culture. An animal: a crocodile, a jaguar, a turtle, a quati; when they make this animal, they give live to this animal. This animal is an extension of their lives. And it is that element, that has the Guarani live, which - when we stoop down and buy - we take to our home. It is an expansion of the Guarani-Universe. For them, putting it in the shelf, in any moment we will dream with the Guarani; we will think about the live of the Guarani and will be connected with them; this will help us to understand their lives and become an allied. It is as if the Guarani enter through this artwork in our lives. It is a completely different act as the acquisition of a product that we are going to use from a practical point of view with our pragmatism. It is much different: there are several elements which come together: the society, their economy, their religiosity which are passing together with this little animal."

João Maurício Farias (Sociologist) explaining about the Poraró

João Maurício highlights that because of the project "Mulheres dos Panos" (women of the cloths), there was also a decree which guaranteed that the families could not be approached by the tutelary council anymore and not being removed from the city center.

Presentation of the Gauarni in the city center of Porto Alegre

But, besides these public policies, there is still a lot to do for the reparation of the historical damages which the brazilian society caused to the native people.

Zílio Jagtyg Salvador manufacturing his artwork

To discuss about that, we talked with Zílio Jagtyg Salvador, João Padilha, Merong Santos e Iracema Gãh Té Nascimento, who shared with us not only their anxieties, but also the visions and trajectories of their people which are so less spread.

Iracema Gãh Té Nascimento

We could follow a bit of this activism in Porto Alegre and soon there will be a video, telling about the fights, trajectories and territorial matters. The interviews are great. The video soon will be ready!

Merong Santos - Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe

#nativepeople #humanrights #portoalregre #xadalu