Eduardo Viveiros de Castro at the “Sad Tropics” table
Eduardo Viveiros de Castro at the “Sad Tropics” table

We have to learn to be Indians, before it's too late. This was the main message given by anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro at the “Tristes Trópicos” table, held at the 2014 Paraty International Literary Festival. being transformed into an “unbreathable place”, we must learn from indigenous peoples “how to live in a country without destroying it, how to live in a world without destroying it and how to be happy without needing a credit card”. “The encounter with the Indian world takes us to the future, not to the past,” he said.

“Today the Indians are more visible than ever, but more vulnerable than ever.

Viveiros de Castro shared the table with fellow anthropologist Beto Ricardo, founder of the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), and with mediator Eliane Brum. In a refined speech, the two denounced the harsh reality experienced by Brazilian Indians today and said that there was a “campaign” in vogue in Congress to remove the rights that these peoples won with the 1988 Constitution. “Today the Indians are more visible than ever before. , but more vulnerable than ever. Congress has a majority of landowners in a final offensive against the Indians,” said Viveiros de Castro, who also criticized the federal government for almost zero work on land demarcation.

The anthropologist, famous worldwide for his theory of Amerindian perspectivism, compared the situation of the Indians in Mato Grosso do Sul with that of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. According to him, the Guarani of the state live either on the roadsides or confined in minimum reserves, from which they are often expelled by the pressures of agribusiness: “Mato Grosso has been transformed into nothingness, at the cost of planting soybeans, sugarcane there and to put cattle for export, to feed the central capitalist countries. I should call Mato Morto, or ex-Mato”. And he continued: “The Indians are seeing the sky fall on their heads. But this time it will be on all of our heads.”

Beto Ricardo also criticized the coverage given by the press to issues like this in the country. “How many names of indigenous groups could you pronounce from memory? The Brazilian press manages to pronounce very few. It speaks in a generic Indian,” he said. By presenting the series of publications entitled Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, the anthropologist took the opportunity to even nudge the public: “Whoever wants to memorize not only the names of the capitals of Brazil, but the names of the peoples, can read these books”. “The Indians have a lot to contribute to a more democratic and diverse country”, he concluded.

Viveiros de Castro's last intervention, after questions from the audience, was perhaps the one that drew the most attention due to its harshness and apparent pessimism, but it was widely applauded. The anthropologist said he felt ashamed of being Brazilian when he saw what had been done with the native peoples of that land, or when he remembered that Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery (with the exception of Mauritania). For him, however, the feeling of shame must be preserved, since it is also what generates the feeling of intimacy with the country: “If I were French, I would be ashamed of what France did in Algeria, Indochina, Africa . In other words, being Brazilian is not especially shameful. Being from any country is shameful, because every country is built on the destruction of peoples,” he explained.

Bedside book

At the traditional closing table of Flip entitled “Livro de Cabeceira”, Viveiros de Castro was once again among the participants, and brilliantly closed his passage through the literary festival. Alongside some of the most prominent guests at the event, such as Andrew Solomon, Fernanda Torres and Juan Villoro, the anthropologist chose to read an excerpt from a sermon by Father Antonio Vieira in which the religious highlighted the difficulty of converting Brazilian Indians: “How says Vieira: 'The people of this land are the most brutal, the most ungrateful, the most inconstant, the most averse, the most difficult to teach of all there are in the world. Other Gentiles, other heathens, are unbelievers until they believe. You Brazil, even after believing, they remain incredulous.'” And Viveiros de Castro concluded: “That is, this theme, the idea that the Indians have an essential inconstancy, became a kind of defining trait of the Amerindian character, consolidating itself as one of the stereotypes of our national imagination. Namely, the imagination of the poorly converted Indian, who at the first opportunity sends God, the hoe and the clothes to the devil and returns happily to the jungle. And I would say, in conclusion, that it is thanks to this that the Indians remain safe from their saviors”.

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