Resistance and Prophesy in Amazonia

Instead of the model of plunder, the Amazonian communities propose that of co-existence with nature. And Pope Francis stands by their side.

“For us they are important names. Our city is called Açailândia, the land of the açaì, the Amazon fruit most full of life. Mother Earth, like all mothers, gives us our name. Our quarter is called Piquiá: one of the majestic trees of the forest which no longer exists ». These are the words of Tida, leader of the community of Piquiá de Baixo, a victim of the socio-environmental effects of the Vale mining company and the steel industries established more than thirty years ago on eastern Brazilian Amazonia, an area rich in iron and water.

“These companies have destroyed our history. They grind up our memory along with the mineral waste, they darken the rivers with their pollution “, reiterates Joselma who, in order to denounce these violations has also been to the United Nations in Geneva. The women of Piquiá have written on their skins a story very similar to others that we find in various parts of Amazonia. They tell of conflict between two models: the model of plunder, the predatory mining by companies and the public authorities which impose themselves from outside; and that of co-existence with the bioma, in defence of the territory that is the place where the roots of a community may be found.

The trains of Vale, the company that snatches iron ore from the bowels of the forest and export it to China and Europe, carry off the story of the people, one grain at a time (200 million tons per year). Little by little, everything becomes standardised in these intrusions of “progress” into the Amazon bioma: the ranches, monoculture, animal rearing, mining and immense exportation corridors … Instead, the natural cycle is based on sowing crops, waiting, harvesting, thanksgiving and sharing. The journey of life is to make fruitful, to generate, to educate, to create, to care for and to die.

However, the capitalist system is obligatory and always the same everywhere: plundering, producing, consuming and discarding. Nevertheless, as Pope Francis said “You can do a lot. You who are the least of all, the exploited, the poor and the excluded, can do very much. I dare say that the future of humanity is, for the most part, in your hands, in your ability to organize yourselves and initiate creative alternatives (…) and in your participation as leaders in the great processes of change”.

Pope Francis, in his second world meeting with the popular movements, emphasised that history is written by the little ones, the only ones capable of imagining new systems to preserve creative diversity.

Piquiá bears this out: for fourteen years it has resisted in a fight against giants. The community has not acquiesced in the diabolical choice between the right to work and one’s health. It has rejected the economy that kills and demands integral reparation. It has won the right to a new quarter, for everyone, in a region no longer marked by pollution. It is creating a new history without abandoning its roots.

Pope Francis sees Amazonia not only as one of the last bulwarks against the extermination of biodiversity and global warming. He understands that something new is gestating in the understanding of the indigenous peoples and the traditional communities, in the integral relationship of their society with Mother Earth. Perhaps the Synod will help us to understand it better.

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