Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes
The historic building known as the Brazilian Indian Museum, located next to Rio’s even more famous Maracana soccer stadium, was donated to the Brazilian government by the Duke of Saxe in 1865. The Duke’s intention was to create a center for research into the Indian cultures, but by 1910 it had become a center for the protection of Indians, the predecessor of what is today known as the National Indian Foundation, or FUNAI.
In 1953 it became the Indian Museum, and remained that way until 1978, when the museum was moved to another location and the building became abandoned and derelict. In 2006 a group of Indians squatted in the building and ambitiously named it Aldeia Maracana, or Maracana Village.
Those Indians, who survived by making and selling crafts, dreamed of making it a cultural center for their tribes. They lived in the building for nearly 7 years, until last Friday when they were forcibly evicted.
As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup, the Rio state government decided to demolish the Indian Museum to make a parking lot for soccer fans. The proposal was recently modified, thanks to the Indians’ protests, but only to transform the building into another type of museum – a sports museum.
I began photographing the Indians’ protests at the Aldeia Maracana when they began. Apart from the permanent residents, other Indians would stay there when they were in town for any reason. I met fascinating people at the Aldeia, such as Zahy Guajajara, an Indian who dreams of becoming an actress and singer, and who spends long periods of time on Facebook.