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‘We are made invisible’: Brazil’s Indigenous on prejudice in the city

Michael Oliveira Baré Tikuna lists countless incidents of apparent prejudice he faced for being Indigenous since moving to Rio de Janeiro. “We are made invisible in the university, in social movements, we are made invisible in everything,” he said. This photograph was taken in Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, on November 14, 2020. Image by Mongabay

Mongabay starts publishing today a series of data-driven multimedia stories on Brazil’s Indigenous people living in urban areas, including the metropolitan centers of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasília, showing that Indigenous people are much closer to most Brazilians than they realize.

  • Contrary to popular belief, Brazil’s Indigenous people aren’t confined to the Amazon Rainforest, with more than a third of them, or about 315,000 individuals, living in urban areas.

  • Over the past year, we dived into the census and related databases to produce unique maps and infographics showing not only how the Indigenous residents are distributed in six cities and in Brazil overall, but also showcasing their access to education, sewage and other amenities, and their ethnic diversity.

  • Access to higher education is a milestone: the number of Indigenous people enrolled in universities jumped from 10,000 to about 81,000 between 2010 and 2019, giving them a higher college education rate than the general population.

  • This data-driven reporting project received funding support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s data journalism and property rights grant.

RIO DE JANEIRO — During a presentation for Indigenous People’s Week, celebrated in April in Brazil, at his son’s elementary school in Rio de Janeiro, the first thing sociologist José Carlos Matos Pereira did was to show a photo of several individuals and ask the children, “What do you think, are they Indigenous?” The children immediately answered in unison: “No.” He asked why, and they responded, “They are not naked; they do not have a bow and arrow and they are not in the forest; so, they are not Indigenous.”

The episode, centering on a picture of Indigenous people from the city of Altamira in the Amazonian state of Pará, is just a snapshot of the reality faced by Indigenous people living in urban areas throughout Brazil. “This marks a perception since a child as one thinks of Indigenous people [as being] outside the city and in conditions of, shall we say, ‘natural,’” Pereira, a researcher at the Social Movements Memory Program, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), told Mongabay.

“The Indigenous hunt, fish, live in the forest, have their way of life, their rituals. But he also comes to the city … And when he comes, he brings with him a way of life.”

Author : Karla Mendes

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