* Alex Tajra

In the heart of the largest forest in the world, the last rubber tappers in Brazil seek to continue living on extractivism, despite the constant devaluation of latex. In the heyday of rubber, the region, which would become the future state of Acre, was the center of a diplomatic dispute between Brazilians and Bolivians. In 1903, therefore 110 years ago, the intervention of the Barão do Rio Branco was necessary so that the territory, inhabited mostly by Brazilians, definitively belonged to Brazil.

Today, the difficulties are still immense. Threatened by squatters, the rubber tappers of Acre are the main targets of farmers, who intimidate them all the time. The struggle for land in this hidden corner of the country generates deaths, breaks up families, and keeps rubber tappers in a constant state of alert. The dream of growing old living in the forest is a daily battle, which has already victimized simple people and leaders, such as Wilson Pinheiro and Chico Mendes.

The murder of Chico Mendes, in Xapuri, in 1988, was the trigger for the claims of forest peoples to reach the public authorities. However, 25 years later, what is seen is the abandonment of many projects and cooperatives idealized by the leader of the rubber tappers.

Google honored the birthday of rubber tapper and union leader Chico Mendes – Photo- Reproduction:Google
Google honored the birthday of rubber tapper and union leader Chico Mendes – Photo- Reproduction:Google

With latex unprofitable, extractivists are looking for new ways to earn a living. Cocoa plantations and the production of nuts for export are activities that guarantee the survival of the Acrianos who resisted. Resist seems to be the correct verb to pronounce in Acre. Like extractivists, the forest resists the actions of loggers.

The program report Reporting Paths he went to the banks of the Rio do Rola, talked to those who have always lived there, interviewed those who are there only for profit. On paper, all the lumber companies claim to manage the exploited areas sustainably. In practice, it is clear that the illegal cutting of Amazonian vegetation has increased in recent years.

Nothing could be further from the ideal that Chico Mendes had for the region, where workers, gathered in cooperatives, would manage to survive while respecting the limits of the forest. Acre, with its more than century-old history; Chico Mendes, his struggle and his legacy; and the harsh reality of forest peoples; are the themes of this Caminhos da Reportagem.

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