By Luiz Bolognesi

The evangelical, Jesuit, Capuchin and now neo-Pentecostal Protestant violence, which is based on this evangelical Protestant church that comes from the United States and invades Latin America from the 1960s onwards – begins, in fact, in the 1950s, but it is in the 1960 that it invades –, which takes over here, is an ideological process of capital domination. These neo-Pentecostals are also attacking indigenous villages, places of African religiosity, Candomblés and Umbandas, and destroying everything, but it is a process that begins in the 16th century, so we have to have this historical, retrospective view.

I understand that it is an extremely violent process. Alongside gender violence, it is the most violent process in America, one of the most violent on the planet in the history of homo sapiens, because the holocaust of these original peoples that I am reporting in my films, and which began with biological warfare, was consolidated by an ideological-religious process, a process of burning, an inquisition against local religions in which shamans were burned. There are reports, in Jesuit letters, of taking a shaman, in São Vicente (SP), putting him in the mouth of a cannon and firing a cannon shot in front of everyone. They called all the Tupiniquins here and said: “Ah, is this your badass? OK". They tied the guy up, put him in the mouth of the cannon and exploded the cannon. For everyone to see, the guy's body was torn apart, and then they said: “This is how we do it with your medicine men”. 200, 300 locals saw that. “Then come to our religion.” And it was like that, an extremely violent process of domination. And it's not over, it continues.

Ex-Pajé is a documentary in which we follow the life of a shaman who is being slaughtered by the arrival of the evangelical church, and the film is all about that, but it actually reflects what has been happening since the arrival of the Europeans, the Portuguese and the French, mainly. Because the French also arrived here with the Capuchins, the Capuchin priests, in Rio de Janeiro and Maranhão, and did the same extremely violent evangelization work that the Jesuits did in the Portuguese colonization process. And there are reports from both to attest to this. We have reports on the activities of the Capuchins in Maranhão, we have reports on the activities of the Capuchins there on Ilha do Governador, in Guanabara Bay, with the missionaries Jean de Léry (1536-1613) and André Thevet (1516-1590), and there in Maranhão, Claude D'Abbeville (d. 1632).

In their description of the evangelization process in Maranhão, they report that they burned shamans and shamans. And we have reports of the Jesuits writing to the Pope, also writing to Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who was the head of the Jesuit congregation. Loyola stayed in Spain for a while, then he was in Rome and the letters at that time were addressed to him and the Pope, hundreds of letters that are all collected in separate correspondence from the Jesuits in the 16th century. I read, I read not all, but some considerable of them, there are three or four giant volumes published in Italian and Portuguese, of which I have both editions.

They are impressive accounts of the evangelization process, in which they describe with extreme violence how the great enemy of evangelization were the shamans. That they achieve several “advances”, but that the shamans’ resistance was an impressive feat against them, and that therefore they needed to be eliminated. So, since the 16th century, in the conquest of America, the focus has been on destroying the cultural identity of the local people. And they understood war very quickly. The Jesuits were strategists.

We cannot forget that the Jesuits have a military origin because Ignatius of Loyola, this priest (and I think he was even beatified) who founded the Jesuit congregation, and received a lot of money from the Church in the 16th century, he was a military man . He fought, I don't remember if for the Kingdom of Castile, he participated in troops, he led troops. So he took to the Jesuit congregation of the church, which he founded, the Society of Jesus, a principle of military strategies, of field diagnostic analysis, of how to act. The structure of the Jesuits was very military; It is no surprise that they formed indigenous armies, formed the Seven Peoples of the Missions, which was highly militarized, and waged a war against the Spanish that was of interest to the Portuguese Crown, when the Spanish tried to enter the south of the country to expand the territory in a war against Portugal. And those who held back the wave were the Jesuits, with an army of Guaranis. So, they had this military structure. This is, if I'm not mistaken, from the 17th century. But, before that, they always worked like this and these letters, which are many, have several reports in Bahia, reports in São Paulo, reports on the coast of São Paulo, of them talking about the evangelization and village process, which is what they called it. The strategy was to bring several villages to the same field, to the same territory, to the same place and evangelize these people. Evangelizing, understand, consisted of selling the idea of ​​Christ and destroying the ideas of spiritual religiosity that existed here in America.

And they had work. Historical and anthropological research, based on these original letters, makes it very clear to us that they were successful in this process not because the Christian narratives were so strong and better than the shamans' narratives. No, then they took a beating. (Ailton) Krenak himself, Viveiros de Castro, this great anthropologist, philosopher and thinker, they say that original peoples are very curious and open to others, unlike the process of the European civilizational vision which is “the other is someone I fear and that I need to dominate, control and destroy”; the original peoples, no, they are extremely curious, they want to taste, they want to taste, they want to eat, they want to fuck, they want to lick, they want to have dinner, they want to have lunch, they want to ask and to this day it is like that, you will When you live with them, they start asking you a million questions, they want to know “how do you live, what are your daughters like? What are your children like? How do you get laid? what do you drink? why do you drink? Why don’t you drink?” They're ultra-curious, that's really cool. It was a characteristic of the process, of the civilizational encounter, but the Europeans were in this place of control the entire time. So, in the narratives, the shamans won over the indigenous people; they experimented with Catholics but returned to their habits. The problem started when the pandemic came. The problem was “Covid”. Because Covid didn't start now, Covid started in the 16th century with the arrival of Europeans. But Covid was called flu, called measles, called chicken pox, called smallpox, called rubella: a series of viruses that didn't exist here that decimated the people. And that's when the pig twists its tail, that things were reversed: the shamans had a “health plan”, the shaman's card solved everything, there was hospitalization in the network, there were all things from the forest, the shamans already they knew how to do everything with medicine from the forest.

With healing from the forest and all the spiritual treatment of prayers and such, the process here was very healthy. A series of worms that Europeans suffered from, the indigenous people did not suffer from because they knew the stomach and intestinal cures. There were botflies here, a series of mosquitoes laid their eggs in the Europeans, their flesh creating mosquito eggs. And there are a thousand reports from indigenous people, saying that shamans cured this with spider venom. Now they are using spider venom to cure cancer (there is new research from the Butantã Institute that shows the potential of spider venom against leukemia).

So, the shamans already mastered this, but the shamans had no knowledge against “Covid”. They didn't know how to deal with chickenpox, smallpox, measles, there was no such knowledge. So when these outbreaks arrived, entire villages died from the pandemic with the covid at the time, which was the flu.

And then there are hundreds of reports in these separate Jesuit letters, hundreds of reports from Father Manoel da Nóbrega, Father Anchieta and a bunch more Jesuits saying that everyone was dying in the surrounding villages. It was a race that killed more than Covid, it decimated the original peoples. And what did the evangelists say? What were these sons of bitches talking about? “You are being punished because you did not accept Jesus; your shaman is a demon, and my xapiri, my great Spirit, who is Jesus, is killing you all.” In the cosmogony of the original peoples, there was a war, and Pierre Clasters (1934-1977) himself says this: the shaman is the shaman, he is a spiritual warrior, he even lives at war with the shaman from the neighboring place. If a storm hits and knocks it down, if the wind rips the hut from a village, they think it was the shaman from another enemy village who sent that wind and knocked it down here, therefore, it's a sign that their shaman is weak. Then, they either changed shamans or even killed a shaman, sometimes. “Wow, you don’t protect us.” There was a spiritual war and the environmental tragedies, the climate tragedies, everything was largely attributed to the strength or weakness of their shaman. So, when the Jesuits arrived saying “you are being punished by my God because you don't follow Jesus”, they believed and migrated to Catholicism. That is until today.

My film Ex-Pajé is a heated commentary made while this process of destruction of the shaman is taking place, he is being humiliated, being deprived of his place of power and strength, being treated like a demon. And how the prayers, the songs, the magic flutes, which until yesterday were the cure, were the transcendence of the Paiter Suruí people, were becoming something of the Devil, and this in the mouth of a pastor who arrived there with all this narrative, with medicines, the thing that took down the shaman Perpera. Contact between the Paiter Suruí only occurred in the 1960s, and contact brought diseases. There were more or less 800 Paiter Suruí when contact was made in 1969. By 1972, more than 400 had died of flu, measles, chickenpox, the same thing as in the 16th century. And then the evangelizer arrives, the one who is in the film, at the end of the 1970s, bringing cures with medicine, antibiotics, aspirin, saying that the shaman is a demon. This German shepherd (who is not the dog, he is the shepherd), he came from Germany, he took a group of evangelized indigenous people and went from house to house burning their hammocks, saying “those who are Christians sleep in beds, in beds horizontal”, and burned the networks. Until then, they had a Paiter Suruí place of prayer, which was a stick with a feather that was not blessed, but they kept it at home as a spiritual center; was also burned. So this process that I describe in Ex-Pajé has a certain subtlety, it is the tip of an iceberg of extreme violence that is at the origin of the entire colonial process and the success of the European violent conquest.

Because in local wars, the indigenous people, in the first 30 years, won all the battles; They started to lose when Covid took hold and they became extremely fragile, and then they started to migrate towards the invader's religiosity, understanding that that invader had a spiritual force that they didn't know about – and it wasn't spiritual force, it was biological warfare. And then they start to join in and make agreements and fight wars on the side of the Portuguese.

This is what I saw among the Paiter Suruí (an indigenous group that lives in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso). A German spectator, at the Berlin Festival session where the film Ex-Pajé won the Special Jury Prize there (in 2018), in a session for 800 people, asked Cabena, my character: “Why, if she was cured By the shaman, did you go back to the evangelical church?” And she replied: “Because I’m afraid of going to hell.” What the Jesuit and Capuchin evangelizers told the original peoples was that they were dying from Covids because they did not accept Jesus, so they had to come to Jesus' side and when they came to Jesus' side it was: “Destroy your shaman! Because he is the devil.”

At the time that Cadena was bitten by a snake, while she was on the verge of death in the hospital, and the doctors were not paying attention, the evangelized people called the shaman Perpera, he went there, prayed and saved her. And she says that she was already going to the area of ​​the dead, she was already seeing her father-in-law dead, her relatives dead, she was already arriving at the village of the dead. She said that she then heard Perpera singing when she was dying in the hospital and Perpétua's singing made her father-in-law who was receiving her in the village of the Dead turn to her and say: “No Cadena, you go back there because you There are a lot of my grandchildren who still need you, so you won't come for the Day of the Dead. Come back". And the way back was following Perpera's song. So, when it comes time to see, the shamans decide. It is the shamans who will save Brazil from the apocalypse that is coming. The future is ancestral or there will be no future. When I made The Last Forest (2021 documentary), which is also a film about this, it was to follow a great, very strong shaman, who is Davi Kopenawa, a great shaman.

Kopenawa is at the epicenter of the resistance, he did not accept the evangelical church. He was evangelized. His name, David, was given by a white pastor. He was almost on the verge of becoming a pastor, and then he had the insight that it was a monstrosity. He carried out a confrontation, expelled the evangelicals from his area, from his village, he does not accept this and carries out a struggle of resistance that has no longer become a resistance of his own; This shaman's resistance is a resistance of the forest. He is saving the rivers from mercury. He is saving Brazil from the apocalypse. This is the shaman's place. This fight is not over, they have not been destroyed, they are the winners. But it's a very tough, very difficult fight. And I, as an artist, am in my trench, with my machine gun, which is a movie camera, reporting all of this, bringing awareness. This is how resistance is done.

Finally, in the other film I made, A Story of Love and Fury (2013), a cartoon that won the Anecy Festival, the most important in the world, I address the vision of a 16th century Tupinambá warrior who is turned immortal by the shaman. This is the story of the film, which goes through four, five centuries of Brazilian history, until it reaches the year 2096. The problem in 2096 is that the most expensive commodity is water, and the president of the republic is Pastor Armando. So, there you see my prospective diagnostic reading, of trying to interpret what has been happening, leads to this dystopia of 2096, projecting that we are going to have a war over water, that outsourced privatized militias will provide security and kill children who steal water of water pipes.
The President of the Republic is an evangelical pastor. Why do we arrive at this prognosis? Because we are living in Brazil a project and a process that goes back to the Jesuits, through the arrival of neo-Pentecostals, which has to do with that book A Ética Protestante o Espírito do Capitalismo, by Max Weber, in which he explains how the ethics of the Protestant religion served to strengthen American capitalism, and the arrival of American capitalism as hegemonic, how much this is due to the triumph of the Protestant ethics.

And, after the United States, the philosophy of prosperity, of controlling pleasures, of saving, of saving money almost as a way to buy your place in heaven, spread. How this idea served American capitalism and how it was played out here in our America. In this process, Catholic Liberation Theology, which had a vision of economic and social inequality, a vision of violence, of the colonial process, and this even led the left to come to power. But then there is a huge mistake from the left. Perhaps the left's biggest mistake in the history of the New World is that it came to power and forgot this extremely important connection, which was Liberation Theology, letting it be replaced by the Prosperity Theology of the neo-Pentecostals, who come with another narrative that it serves the right and now we are seeing the extreme right has learned to deal with this. There is a project linked to segments of extremely conservative thought, which is the fastest growing on the planet, this ideology and this ultra conservative worldview that has to do with a homo sapiens crisis. A resource crisis that homo sapiens is facing right now, something he has never seen until now. Man has always found resources in nature to be able to prey and continue building a comfortable way of life. Now, resources have run out, and man finds himself on the verge of killing his own sapiens in order to compete for resources. There is already a lack of water and the water will be disputed and man knows that now it is no longer a question of killing Neanderthals, wolves, panthers, jaguars, wild boars, insects, entire biomes to survive. He will have to kill Sapiens himself. It's already happening, right? This is already happening and within this ideological thinking of the extreme right, which has already realized this, it needs to identify the other and take the front line, arming itself, because the idea will be to eliminate the other. This is the process of the extreme right, and in this sense they are taking great advantage of this process of winning hearts and minds through the neo-entecostal church, creating the tendency to create a fundamentalist state, like Iran. Yes, Brazil is becoming Iran if we are not careful, if we do not create (containment) devices. If we don't think about a large-scale confrontation to maintain the secular state, in 15 or 20 years we will enter a fundamentalist state. See for example the case of the Brazilian Senate. There are evangelical cults inside. Alright? It might be. But what if he wanted to do some dirty work at a crossroads in the Senate corridors. I could? I don't think so. So, we are already in this process.

It's not about focusing and saying that the evangelical church is an enemy, it's about giving light and visibility to what is happening, the process that is happening and what consequences this will have so that people can make their decisions. choices. An example of a fundamentalist state is Iran, where women have to cover their faces, women are hanged if they leave their faces visible, their hair showing. That's what we're heading towards. I know, I have friends from my youth in the south of Bahia who played ball with me and who today don't play ball anymore because the church won't let them. They don't go to forró anymore because the church doesn't allow women, so no way. A friend of mine, a capoeira student who became a capoeira master, who became one of the greatest capoeiristas in the southern region of Bahia and who stopped capoeira because the pastor said that capoeira is not something to do, that it disrespects Jesus. And then the Grand Master of capoeira from Southern Bahia abandons his art for the sake of the church. This is what is happening in Brazil, we are moving towards the configuration of a fundamentalist state, a fundamentalist church.

*Screenwriter and filmmaker Luiz Bolognesi directed, among other productions, the animated feature film A Story of Love and Fury (2013), Best Feature Film in Annecy (France); the film Ex-Pajé (2018), honorable mention for best documentary at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, Best Photography at the Festival Présence Autochtone (Canada, 2018) and Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival (2018), in addition to Best film at the festival documentary It's All True 2018. His most recent work, The Last Forest, about an isolated Yanomami village, had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in 2021. ✱

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