Tag: Brazil

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations Part 2

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations Part 2

It remains now to illustrate the wider area of ​​the Amazonian culture, which, as mentioned, brings together the two linguistic groups Arawak and Caribe in the north and the Tupi-Guarani in the south. The stilt houses, the small house with a tendency to form villages, the hammock woven in cotton, the bitter mandioca, the cassava compressed with the special bag filter, poison fishing, single-piece dinghy are presented as properties of the northern division of bark, quadrangular vases, basket with lid, double burial, with the secondary case of the remains in terracotta urns; Tobacco wrapped like a cigar is smoked, cotton cultivation and spinning are practiced, the use of coca and signal drum is absent. In the southern division, on the other hand, tobacco is smoked in a stone pipe. The houses are arranged in a village, although it seems that this character has recently acquired, under the influence of the white man, while originally the dwelling was collective and the society monoecious. The villages are surrounded by palisades. The burial in terracotta urns is direct, not secondary.

But to give a concrete and living idea of ​​the Amazonian culture, it will be good to analyze the heritage of a specific tribe: we have chosen that of the Vapisiana, masterfully described by Farabec Curtis, located in the northern area, and which is part of an encircled Arawak nucleus. on all sides from Caribi. The villages of the Vapisiana are made up of a few houses grouped irregularly in the open savannah, near the forest; these houses have a rectangular, circular or oval plan, and have two doors, one for women and one for men; they are windowless; the armor is made of tree trunks and branches of various thicknesses, the walls of palm leaves or mud, the roof of palm leaves, and its shape can be two-sided, or conical, or in the shape of an overturned boat. The Vapisiana are mainly farmers; their fields are located in the woods at a great distance from the villages, in places specially thinned out during the dry season; usually they plant sweet potato, sugar cane, and grains, in the same field, together with mandioca; also interspersed with pineapple, cucurbit, bananas, tobacco and papaya. They understand the value of a careful selection of seeds. Men help to sow, but very little to cultivate and reap, which are women’s tasks. Hunting and fishing give a certain variety to the essentially vegetable diet of the Vapisiana; they use hunting amulets and special spells for all kinds of animals to be captured; certain species of mammals and birds are trapped. The weapons of the hunters are the bow and the blowpipe with poisoned arrows. Fishing is done with a bow and arrow, hook, traps and water poisoning. The sharp teeth of the piranha (Serresalmo) limit the use of fishing line. The traps have a great variety of forms, but the method of greatest efficiency in fishing is the poisoning of the waters with vegetable juices, and requires the participation of a large number of individuals, directed by a leader; it is used during the dry season. Foods are prepared by roasting or boiling them. A kind of bread is prepared with the cassava; the tools of said manipulation: oven, graters, sieves and cupboards, are held in high regard by the Vapisiana, who usually keep them in special buildings in the village. The poisonous juices are extracted from the cassava with the characteristic filter in the shape of a long sleeve, woven of vegetable fibers; by means of a very simple device, said sleeve reduces its diameter and compresses the pulp inside, causing the release of evil juices. They also use mortars with wooden pestles. Contrary to the generality of the Arawaks, the Vapisiana are not great potters; they manufacture pots and other vessels for cooking and storing liquids, in terracotta, with the system of the spiral braid, they dry in the shade and then cook the pots on an open fire; the decoration is painted. To transport liquids they use pumpkins instead. The men wear a belt that supports the ends of a band that passes between the legs in front and behind, the women a small apron. Men sometimes use sandals with leather or wood soles, but only to cross stony ground. Long hair, styled in various shapes; corporal mutilations are rare: they sharpen the upper incisors and perforate the nasal septum. They use face and tongue tattoo. Men wear brightly colored feather diadems. On the legs and ankles, on the arms and on the wrists, men and women wear cotton bands; other bands and cotton ropes hang from the shoulders, like a double bandolier. To protect themselves from insects they paint the body with annatto (Bixa Orellana), but for the dances women adorn the body with real decorative designs. They weave their clothes, hammocks, nets, bags, etc. spinning various vegetable fibers, mainly cotton, but also palm fibers and bromeliads. Each type of fiber requires a long and complicated preparation process. The Vapisiana are exogamous and polygamous, the patrilineal inheritance; the women go to live together with the husband in the village of his father. Divorce is not excluded, consisting in simple separation, without ceremonial, but in general married life and the related prohibitions take into account the respect of public opinion. The children are breastfed for three or four years. When a child is born, the father lies in the hammock for a month, subject to a special diet (couvade). Each village has a leader who directs the affairs of the community especially the dances and hunting and fishing parties. There is no punishment defined for crimes. Death is attributed to bad spirits; the corpse buries itself under the floor of its hut, accumulating the tools of the dead on it, and the whole, together with the house, is burned; the family moves to another nearby place. When it comes to a woman, the family continues to live there, but more often the women, and so the children, bury themselves, as beings of lesser importance, in a special external place. They do not worship the sun or the moon, but its eclipse is feared. Disembodied spirits populate their supernatural picture, but life too is a function of union with the spirit. The image of the creator is highly anthropomorphized. Shamanism is widespread. Vapisiana don’t excel in music; they use flutes and rattles. Every event is celebrated with dance, but the great dance that is practiced when a mandioca field has reached maturity is of special importance; in this case, long preparations are made, and masked individuals take part in the ceremony. Boys and girls never play together. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known.

We cannot close this brief review without mentioning the quite recent results of general ethnology, which, in the footsteps of Foy, Gräbner and mainly W. Schmidt, managed to diagnose, by means of the comparative method, the assets of each of these areas, coming to establish that each of them represents in South America the extension of well-defined cultural areas in the Pacific Ocean. Leaving aside the most elementary cultures, which summarize the correlative forms of the old world, we find the Amazonian culture to correspond to Melanesian (Schmidt’s free matriarchal), to which elements of Polynesian (free patriarchal) were added, functioning the western triangle as a species of oceanic totemic culture reservoir (Gräbner).

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations 2

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

The borders of Brazil contain a much greater number of indigenous tribes than any other South American state, and some of them are still today almost untouched by the White civilization; these two characters are enough to explain the importance that starting from the century. XVI up to the present day have preserved the studies of Brazilian ethnography. From those remote times the problem of a classification of ethnic groups arose in the first place, a problem that today has a long history and includes many attempts. The so-called races, or nations, or, more modernly, indigenous groups were from time to time defined on the basis of corporal, ethnographic, social and linguistic characters. Of course, none of these characters, used exclusively, can constitute a criterion of discrimination, for the complicated phenomena of domination and internal migration of the groups and the consequent acculturation, to which we owe the presence of tribes that have a mixed ethnographic heritage, or that belong to one group for ethnography and to another for language, or which, having already been separated from the central nucleus for a long time, acquired aspects of profound variation, or, finally, they appear at a very large distance of space from the original fire, and enclosed in a completely foreign area, like drops of oil. Discouraged by these practical difficulties, the authors also resorted to purely geographical classification, which, to tell the truth, surpasses the problems just mentioned, but without resolving them.

Whatever the theoretical importance to be attributed to economic means and material sustenance in the existence of a society, we will have recourse to this criterion to isolate from now on a first great mass of ethnic groups, on whose unity, moreover, they are d ‘ both linguists and ethnographers agree. It is about thirty tribes grouped on the Brazilian plateau, which constitute a large, almost homogeneous mass, called the Gēs group or the Puri-Coroados, and whose distinctive economic character is the absence of a true agriculture. All the other aborigines of Brazil will enter a vast division, that of the agricultural peoples, which we will later divide into a number of special groups.

The Gēs live by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruits, and if any tribe shows agricultural traces, these are scarce, rudimentary, and probably acquired very late. To their nomadic life is connected the precarious dwelling, the type of which is the hemispherical cupular hut or the simple screen. The weapons represent the bow with arrows and the throwing pole, but the most salient negative character, which alone is enough to distinguish this culture from that of the farmers, is that the Gēs do not know navigation at all, while the other it is a true “dinghy culture”. To describe with a certain system the heritage of these hunter-fishermen of the eastern massif, we will choose a characteristic tribe of the Gēs or Puri-Coroados group: the Crenak, excellently illustrated by the Manizer. For the home, the Crenaks build various types of screens, one with a simple horizontal pole resting on two poles planted in the ground, and supporting palm leaves or branches and tree barks, and the other formed by a real intertwining of large leaves on a rectangular frame. During the march, you walk in single file along impassable paths; the women carry their children and the scant domestic equipment suspended from the back by means of bands and net bags; once they reach the new station, they thin out the ground and raise the screens, aligned in a rudimentary but constant order, with the old ones gathered at one end. Each tribe is assigned its own area for hunting, fishing and gathering, considered as an inviolable property. The harvest is entrusted to women, and consists of the wild fruits of theLecythis, some nettles, pods, wild pineapples, tubercles, tips of lianas and shoots of bromeliads. Add, for a few tribes, a temporary crop of mandioca, bananas and sweet potatoes, which produce food for at most two months of the year. The task of providing meat is reserved for men: small animals, such as birds and lizards, as well as monkeys, wild boars and deer, the former taken by hand or with throwing sticks, the latter with a bow. Meat smoking is practiced; for cooking they use pots and other bamboo containers. Wild honey is collected and mixed with water as a ceremonial drink. They know no exciting drinks, nor tobacco; but the leaves of different herbs smoke in the pipe. The bow is of palm wood, as tall as a man or more, the rope of twisted palm fibers; arrows of various shapes, according to the destination, the most common is that of bamboo cut in the shape of a knife. Babies carry their penis raised and tied to the foreskin. The men wear short hair, the women and children wear hair of various shapes; collars and bracelets are not unknown; the characteristic big lip and ear buttons (botocos in Portuguese) which originated the name Botocudos, although somewhat in disuse, are still preserved. The Crenaks, men and women, go naked; in exchange, the use of body painting with the reddish vegetable juice of urucú is general, as a protection against the cold and insects. Polygyny is rare, but allowed, and more often the capricious change of wives is practiced; however, there is a marriage ban for various family members. Marriage takes place with the consent of relatives or an influential person, to whom the suitor gives gifts. The social group is a small horde, with a leader whose authority is very limited, and it comes from his personal gifts. The women give birth easily in a recess of the wood; breastfeeding continues long after babies have learned to walk and talk. The sick do not inspire compassion, yet attempts are made to cure them with medicinal herbs and enchantments. The funeral practices are simple and are reduced to the abandonment of the corpse in one’s hut, with a small funeral kit. The evil influence of the dead is feared. The explanation of natural phenomena, as well as various social customs, are linked to a supernatural being, the old Maret, a giant whose wrath is feared and to whom propitiatory offers are apparently made. Crenak’s songs are simple lullabies repeated to satiety. This ethnographic sketch of a special tribe gives a sufficient idea of ​​the degree of civilization of the whole Gēs group, a denomination under which the parasitic peoples of the plateau must be included. The ethnographic unity of these coincides entirely with the linguistic unity, since the whole group speaks languages ​​classified under a single title, of the Gēs-Tapuya languages, with the five subgroups north-western, southern, eastern, Botocudo and Goytacȧ.

Turning now to the other higher forms of economy, that is to the agricultural peoples, we must at least mention an intermediate stage, represented by the Bororó and by other few examples; they are hunters of a superior type, devoid of agriculture, but with a material and spiritual civilization much superior to the Gēs group, and which instead tends towards that of decidedly agricultural peoples.

The entire remaining indigenous population of Brazil is made up of farmers. It is surprising that in an area so vast as to include the Orinoco and Amazon basins, that is half of the continent (with the exception of the eastern plateau which is the seat of the Gēs) a complex of uniform cultural elements is found which at first sight it induces to delineate an immense ethnographic unity, which in the various authors takes the name of “Amazonian culture” or “of the tropical forests”. This complex is defined by its components: sufficiently advanced agricultural works, dinghies dug in a single tree trunk, hammock, pottery, blowpipe, lip button, house with beam armor, saber-clubs, ornamental arm and leg binding. leg, feather ornaments and diadems, flute couvade, flogging ceremonies to initiate adolescents, blunt arrows for birds: a complex, finally, truly formidable, which has led some authors to consider it as a gigantic phenomenon of acculturation (Wissler). And certainly the uniformity of the environment and the material means of human movements in the Amazon (very active circulation of boats in an intricate and vast river network) must be kept, if not as the cause, at least as the diffusion medium of the different elements. But under this apparent uniformity, a more in-depth study discerns a certain number of distinct modalities, recognizable, in a more concrete way, through the linguistic criterion, to which we owe the terminology of this classification of the agricultural population: Arawak (Aruaco) and Caribe (mainly north of Amazons and to the east of the Rio Negro) and the Tupi-Guarani group (mainly to the south of the Amazons and to the east of Madeira) remaining a third group, of unclassified languages ​​(isolated languages ​​of the Schmidt) whose densest nucleus is found to the west of Orinoco-Rio Negro-Madeira line.  There are more or less marked ethnographic differences that distinguish each of these schematic groups, but the most recent studies (Métraux) have considerably brought the Tupi-Guarani closer to the Caribs, in such a way that the value of some ancient classifications which separated too clearly the Amazonian “race” from the north to the south.

Referring to the western sector, or to the unclassified and dissimilar languages, it is evident that when nuclei of Tupi, Arawak and Caribi are found west of the Orinoco-Rio Negro-Madeira border, they present themselves as invaders, while the rest of the population of the aforementioned triangle while not maintaining linguistic unity, it has retained traces of a certain cultural uniformity. In addition to the common characteristics of all farmers, who are also hunters and fishermen, we find here the following heritage: in addition to mandioca and tobacco, coca is also cultivated, and to a lesser extent maize, cucurbits and sugar cane; the earth is plowed up with a pole, not with a hoe; bees are domesticated; mandioca compresses into mats; coca is chewed, tobacco is used as a ceremonial drink; poisoned arrows with curare; shovel-shaped clubs; fishing is carried out not only with poison, but also with traps, hooks, nets and trident spears, signal drums; odd drums, male and female, with phallic decorations; hammock woven with twisted palm fibers. The whole community lives in a single large and round house, with a secluded, labyrinthine access; they don’t use clothes; bark thong for men; human teeth collars; perforation of the nasal septum, rattles in the legs; very elaborate body painting; for important decisions of war and peace, parliamentarians during which a blackish drink of tobacco is circulated; exclusion of women from any ceremonial meeting or cannibalism party; prohibition of personal names and myths; intrusive shamanism. Two harvesting ceremonies, for the mandioca and the pineapple; bagpipe; castanets; drum; pumpkins rattles. Each monoecious group is exogamous, with patrilineal descent; monogamous family: each house has its own head, and adult males form the council; we worship the sun and the moon; burial in pits.

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations

Deforestation in the Amazon and Its Consequences

Deforestation in the Amazon and Its Consequences

Deforestation and fires represent the main environmental problems faced by the Amazon biome, considered a major atmospheric “cooler” [removing excess carbon dioxide dispersed in the atmosphere, which causes global warming] and as the world’s largest biodiversity shelter.

The importance of the Amazon

According to Handbagpicks, the Amazon is one of the most important rainforest regions in the world. This is because in addition to being a huge area with more than 4 million km 2 of vegetation cover, it is home to one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world and also an infinity of animal species in a rich biodiversity. Studies show that about 20% of all animal and plant species in the world are located in the Amazon Region.

Due to its wealth of natural resources and its large territorial extension, the Amazon has an influence on the balance of the environment on a global scale. This factor means that its preservation is not just a matter of national interest, but rather an issue for discussion between various international bodies and organizations.

However, all this natural wealth also attracts diverse groups that seek to exploit their resources illegally, either by extracting timber from forest regions or by using parts of their area for agricultural exploitation, both activities prohibited by law in protected areas.

These illegal activities leave the Amazon Forest area susceptible to two activities that are very degrading from the environmental point of view: deforestation and fires, which are often carried out jointly and which contribute greatly to the degradation of these environments.

Deforestation in the Amazon Forest

Much of the deforestation in the Amazon occurred for the irregular and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and for land speculation, since an area deforested [even if illegally] becomes worth more than when it was still a native forest.

In general, deforestation of the forest occurs for illegal logging. To make it difficult to identify and locate the felled areas, the trees are cut in the most inland regions and with a certain spacing, in a technique called “fish bone”.

The Amazon, being a dense forest, has several large trees with commercial value, which attracts logging groups that illegally trade this resource. Despite various policies and legislation that try to prevent deforestation from advancing, the large dimensions of these forest areas make it difficult to inspect them, facilitating the work of criminals.

Deforestation in the biome also has an important relationship with the expansion of extensive beef cattle ranching in the Legal Amazon region, which went from 47 million cattle in 2000 to 85 million currently, thus occupying approximately 80% of the deforested area, in addition to the emission of GHG (greenhouse gases) and soil degradation.

One of the causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest is the expansion of cattle and soy farms.

The fires in the Amazon Forest

Another illegal practice that occurs in the Amazon Region and that causes a lot of damage to the forest and the maintenance of its biodiversity concerns the practice of burning . This type of activity is used to clean the field, since the removal of vegetation cover from the forest is facilitated with dry cover. After this process, the area is suitable for agricultural cultivation.

These fires occur mainly in areas of environmental protection, and later agricultural cultivation is practiced by so-called land grabbers, who falsify land ownership documents for agricultural exploitation in the interior regions of the country.

Although this practice is old, the data presented by the monitoring systems of the Amazon Forest indicate that during the last few years there has been an increase in the number of fires in the region, presenting worrying levels in the year 2020. According to Imazon, in August the Amazon recorded the worst deforestation rate in the last 10 years.

Fires are extremely harmful to the Amazon Forest. In addition to decreasing the biodiversity areas of the forest, they cause environmental damage, contributing to the emission of gases into the atmosphere, which on a large scale generates serious climatic problems.

For people who live close to the regions of the fires, there is also a decrease in air quality, an increase in respiratory problems and, also, a decrease in vegetation cover, which causes damage to the environmental balance.

All of these factors underscore the importance of maintaining the Amazon Forest, in addition to the need for policies to raise public awareness of the problem and to comply with the laws for the protection of this important area of ​​global biodiversity.

Deforestation in the Amazon

The consequences of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

  • Fires and climate change operate in a vicious circle: the more fires, the more GHG emissions – greenhouse gases, and the more the planet warms, the greater the frequency of extreme events, such as the great droughts that have become recurrent in the Amazon. In addition to emissions, deforestation directly contributes to changing the pattern of rainfall in the region, which extends the duration of the dry season, further affecting the forest, biodiversity, agriculture and human health, as stated by Greenpeace.
  • Burning and deforestation negatively affect the evapotranspiration process in the Amazon Forest and, consequently, the decrease in the occurrence of convective or convective rains in the region and flying rivers, which are responsible for a large part of the rain that precipitates in the Center- Southern Brazil, promoting the expansion of drought periods, which will affect agricultural production and water supply in cities.
  • Reduced rainfall in the tropics in regions close to the Amazon, such as Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Central-South Brazil.
  • Degradation of Conservation Units and Indigenous Lands, affecting the permanence or survival of traditional populations [eg, quilombolas, rubber tappers, chestnut trees, riverside dwellers, among others] and indigenous peoples.
  • Devastated areas are easier to be affected by the fire as the more open forest favors burning, as occurs in the area known as the “arc” of deforestation.
  • Extinction of animal and plant species, causing an imbalance in the ecosystem.
  • Erosion of the soil, which becomes unprotected with the cutting of trees and, consequently, expansion of the silting up of rivers and reservoirs.
  • Local and regional temperatures tend to rise, contributing to climate change.
  • Proliferation of pests and diseases.
  • Loss of specific knowledge of indigenous and traditional populations who have lived in the region for decades and who directly contribute to the development of ecological services in the Amazon.