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Struggles to survive in the Amazon

Me Txanava, Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

A day of navigating along the muddy Envira River brought us to a village of the Huni Kui tribe known as Me Txanava, or village of the Singing Birds.

The moon shone bright in the starry sky over the silent village that lies in the municipality of Feijó – part of Brazil’s Acre state, which borders Peru.

The night before, a Huni Kui woman had lost her newborn daughter while giving birth in a boat on the Envira River. The mother and daughter did reach a hospital, but the baby died an hour later.

In mourning, the community gathered inside a house where a small, closed coffin illuminated by yellow candlelight held the child’s remains. Village shaman Ninawa, the father of the dead child, accepted the presence of strangers openly.

“Be happy,” he said. “You’ve come home.”

Later, while strolling in the village, I stopped in front of the largest hut and stood there for a while. The starry sky was enchanting. This was a house of prayer called a shubuã, which the Huni Kui consider a type of university, a place where they learn and share their traditional knowledge. That night it was closed in mourning for the child who never had a name.

Village of joy

By Ueslei Marcelino

Deep in the Brazilian heartland, where the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin dissolve into the central plateau,  I had the opportunity last week to spend a few days in the village of joy.

What I dubbed the village of joy is the home of the Yawalapiti tribe. One day last week, a group of us were escorted into the Xingu National Park by members of the Darcy Ribeiro Foundation and the Cavaleiro de Jorge cultural center, and arrived at the circular Yawalapiti village under an enormous full moon.

The mood was one of celebration. The Yawalapiti, one of the 14 tribes living inside the Xingu National Park, were preparing a new “quarup,” a ritual held over several days to honor in death a person of great importance to them. In its original form, the quarup was a funeral ritual intended to bring the dead back to life. Today, it is a celebration of life, death and rebirth. From the very oldest to the very youngest, all the members of the Yawalapiti tribe participate in the preparations.

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