In 2012, 295 Brazilian land-reform activists received death threats.

Land Occupation, Brazil

Last year was particularly difficult for Brazilian Indians, who reported 1,276 violent crimes, from arson to contract killings (up from 378 in 2011), and 125 illegal land invasions (including explorations by mining and lumber companies) to Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council. According to advocacy group Landless Workers’ Movement, two-thirds of Brazil’s arable land is now owned by three percent of Brazilians.

On March 22, 2013, a dozen Indians in feathered bonnets danced and sang inside Aldeia Maracanã, an abandoned mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They had been living there since 2006, and this was their farewell ritual; Aldeia Maracanã had been marked for demolition ever since state authorities realized that the neighboring Maracanã Stadium needed a bigger parking lot. Police broke in with a fog of pepper spray before the dance was over.

It cost US$27 million to buy the Aldeia Maracanã property, part of $13 billion spent by the Brazilian government to prepare the country to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That total also includes $280 million to build Amazonia Arena, a 42,000-seat soccer stadium in the middle of the Amazon forest, where local league matches usually attract about 900 people per match.

“FIFA go home” and “No World Cup” read signs in hundreds of Brazilian cities on June 20, 2013, when more than 1 million protesters took to the streets, also chanting against corruption, inequality, homophobia and government spending. Protests inflamed the country again on September 7, Brazil’s Independence Day: in Brasilia, hundreds of demonstrators against World Cup spending clashed with the police in front of a brand new $600 million soccer stadium.

With Aldeia Maracanã’s demolition stalled by protests from local activists and politicians, the evicted Indians returned and reoccupied their former home on August 5. On August 12, the governor of Rio listed the building as a protected historical site, to be converted into a cultural center or museum. But the Indians aren’t leaving yet.


From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.