Brazilian women are very romantically aggressive
Lago Lindo in BrazilWhat we can learn from indigenous peoples
A tiny fan gun, ten seats. The co-pilot gives some information about the flight: It will take just under an hour and a half to Jordão, a remote, small town in the jungle. There is this connection twice a week. It's the only way to get to Jordão - there are no roads. The last few seconds in Río Branco, at the end of the world, and in the middle of the Amazon: the largest city in the state of Acre in Brazil, in the far northeast, close to the border with Peru. We are on the way into the forest: "La floresta", as it is called here.
Below us, the Tarauacá watercourse meanders through the jungle like a ripped seam. Everything that is available in this place comes by boat - or by plane. There are no roads here. Perhaps that is also one of the reasons why the forest is still so extensive, no deforested areas. Untouched by Bolsonaro and his henchmen.
Jordão Airport is a small building with a flat roof, brightly painted. The air taxi stops 20 meters from the gate. Chickens are unloaded, a dog, man-sized packages. In the arrivals hall there are a number of women, they are carrying children in their arms, their faces are decorated with geometric drawings. Txana is also there. I got to know him in Germany, where he lives part of the year with his German wife Kathy and their two small children. Txana is 34 and the son of an elder. He is short, straight black hair, round haircut. When he smiles, there is the calm of a whole world. And he almost always smiles.
We walk the dusty roads. The place is set up like a chessboard, I think of Mannheim, only in small. We'll be there after ten minutes. First stop: Txana's aunt's house. A simple concrete building with a large terrace. A couple of women and men are swinging in the hammocks. Football screams from afar. It's hot, stiflingly hot. You would like to go straight to the point and explore the area. But Kathy brakes: first arrive. Come down. Acclimatize. There is the hammock!
Village house near the Huni Kuin (Deutschlandradio / Jenni Roth)
Actually, in the evening we should continue to Lago Lindo, a tiny village two hours by boat upstream. But it started to rain. Rain, this is not rain here as we know it from Germany. Water pours down from the sky, so loud that you can hardly speak. The water makes the river a raging monster. So we wait. Like surfers waiting for the right wave. We eat fresh peanuts and small bananas. Otherwise, nothing happens at most. And you don't know how long it will go on. Two hours or two days. But in the evening the rain subsides. The vultures look for their places to dry: they spread their wings on roofs and lampposts.
The next morning looks like he has forgotten that the rain even exists. The sun burns. We carry 20-liter canisters to the shore: There is no potable tap water in Lago Lindo. No electricity either. No telephone network. No Internet. The river is the color of healing clay. Dense jungle on the banks of the river. One green merges into the next. Lago Lindo is one of the 32 villages along the Jordão River. The place consists of a few simple wooden sheds and a maloca, the traditional meeting place of indigenous villages: a kind of tent, about ten meters high, made of wood, open on the sides, with a fireplace in the middle.
At the moment it is mainly guests who live here: construction workers with their families. Some have walked for nine or ten hours. They should expand the village a bit - there should be more guest houses. Kathy and Txana want to open the jungle - there should be more exchange with the West. Our accommodation: a simple wooden house. The doors are still missing. But that doesn't matter here. A Huni Kuin is never alone, explains Txana: "They're still sawing the wood, so today in a room first. There's a catch! And there too!"
The rooms are empty, but you can hang hammocks on the hooks. The indigenous people here traditionally sleep in hammocks. Alone or with the whole family. In front of the house, one of the women places a large metal pot over the fireplace. Most carry a child in a carrier bag in front of their chest. The distribution of roles here is largely the same as it was 100 years ago. The scenery is reminiscent of what the explorer Theodor Koch-Grünberg wrote in 1908 in his book "Women's work among the Indians of Northwest Brazil":
"The hard-working woman gets up before daybreak and prepares breakfast for the family over the quickly kindled fire of the domestic stove. Soon the man will also leave the hammock. After both of them have strengthened themselves with the simple meal, they go about their business, the man for fishing or hunting, the woman in the field. "
Cassava as a basic food source
Grünberg also describes how the indigenous peoples process cassava or yucca roots in a wide variety of ways. For example Manimuzka, which the women draw into glasses from a large saucepan to greet us: a pale brown drink made from bananas and peanuts. Manimuzka comes in all varieties: with and without sugar, banana with peanut, banana without peanut, corn with banana - and almost always with cassava. In general, cassava, or atsa, as the Huni Kuin call the root tubers: They are available for breakfast as flatbreads, as soup, as a drink or cooked as a potato substitute. "Atsa is our God!" Says Txana. And he wants to show us where and how it grows.
There are instructions on the way: be careful where you step, also do not hold onto tree trunks. Linda, the five-year-old daughter, warns of tucanderos, the giant ants. Txana clears the way for us with a machete: Even when it's not raining, the jungle is humid and always fertile. Everything grows so fast here that after a day you can hardly recognize anything. So how does Txana know for sure where to go? There are no street signs, but there are signs, says Txana. Except that we don't recognize them - just like the Sami reindeer herders in Lapland in the white expanses of snow know exactly where their path is.
Txana has his eyes everywhere. His three year old son stumbles. Txana lets him get up again himself. He lets his eyes circle, in the corner of his eye he seems to see everything, animals, dangers, and of course plants. Again and again he stops, plucks a few leaves from the branches and explains their effects - Kathy now knows many of them after eight years in the forest. "When I was through the forest for the first time, everything looked the same. Everything looked the same! I notice that I have been here more often, I am slowly noticing the differences. But at the beginning: How are you supposed to be here ...!"
We come to a clearing, lined with cassava, and begin to shake the thin trunks with our hands and with all our might, until the plant loosens from the earth. We put the tubers in sacks that the men throw over their shoulders. We put the plant remains straight back into the ground. In six months they will bear fruit of their own.
"We care about our resources, whether it's the plants, the water, our stories, our spirituality," explains Txana. We come to a spring from which a watercourse rises and which Txana calls sacred: "This water activates our inner wisdom. All knowledge of the earth is stored here. The water opens our heart."
He takes a large sheet of paper, folds it into a funnel, and passes the "water cup" on. Then alternately place them in the clear water and bathe. Haux Haux means: beginning, end, harmony. And out here, at the end of the world, you get an idea of what Txana means when he talks about the fact that we in the West have a lot. But that we have often lost our connection to nature. That we often think too much and forget to feel about it.
Indigenous peoples have a hard time in Brazil
Claude Lévi-Strauss thought about what we can learn from the indigenous peoples during his trip through the Amazon in the 1930s. In "Sad Tropics", a classic of anthropology, he longs for the moments when "the human species can endure to interrupt its busy bee activities, to grasp the essence of what it was and still is, this side of thought and beyond society: for example, when looking at a mineral that is more beautiful than all our works; in the scent of a lily that is wiser than our books. "
Txana says: "We have a lot to give. Our spirituality, our medicine, our language, make peace in our world. We long for peace. For exchange on an equal footing, after all the difficult times of discrimination, injuries, war and Intrigue." Indeed, like the other indigenous tribes, the Huni Kuin can look back on a dark history. In the evening we sit by candlelight with the villagers and talk about the past.
"The Portuguese took our culture from us when they came here 500 years ago. There were massacres and we became their slaves." Missionaries tried to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. The "Caucheiros" came in the late 19th century: In the course of the rubber boom, they tried to turn the indigenous peoples into slave labor. And they brought diseases with them that the indigenous people had no defenses against.
Today the main threat is: Javier Bolsonaro and his followers. A right-wing conservative governor has ruled the state of Acre since the 2018 elections. Some of the nature reserves in which Huni Kuin live have already been declared theirs by large landowners. Txana believes that only securitized private property can protect against the government and large industrialists. That is why his family, together with a German entrepreneur, is collecting money to buy and reforest the partly cleared land: 14,000 hectares between the land of the Huni Kuin and the uncontacted groups that have been pushed back from Peru to Brazil.
Of medicinal plants and hallucinogens
The world in Lago Lindo still seems to be in order. Some of them don't even know Bolsonaro's name. It is day two, for breakfast there is cassava cakes and "Huni-Kuin coffee": the banana soup Manimuzka. And the women shake a few papayas from the tree and scratch them on all sides: This way they ripen faster. Txana brought Sananga leaves from the forest. He rasps off some of the plant stem, mixes it with water, and forms a funnel out of a leaf. The first thing he does is put the drops in Kathy's eye. Sananga should clarify the view - inwards and outwards. But it burns like hell Txana knocks off his moaning "patient", he laughs a little.
Lunch at the Huni Kuin (Deutschlandradio / Jenni Roth)
Medicinal plants are an integral part of culture and indigenous people's life. Above all not the "liana of the spirits", which is also called ayahuasca: the caapi liana is boiled with the DMT-containing chacruna plant to form a hallucinogenic brew. According to the myth, the Huni Kuin have been drinking this medicine since a tribesman was able to banish evil spirits into the jungle with their strength. Txana explains: "Ayahuasca is our spiritual guide, the sacred of the forest. In the ceremonies we connect with her, we conjure up the power and the divine in nature, in animals, plants and people. The vision is the community, a common awareness between people: everything is connected. "
Ayahuasca is drunk during ritual ceremonies, which often last all night. A shot glass can be enough to change sensory perception for hours. In this expanded state of consciousness, the Huni Kuin also solve conflicts and relationship problems. They get clues as to where the next hunt is worthwhile and which plants heal what, they see the geometric patterns for their woven fabrics, for their pearl jewelry, and ideas for body painting.
Expansion of consciousness - even for children
These are also part of the preparations that start in the early evening. It is a Saturday and around 20 men and women have come from the surrounding villages. A large bowl of popcorn and a thermos with sugar-sweet coffee are already on a wobbly wooden table. While the men hang hammocks around the fireplace, the women take turns painting their faces. They use a sharpened branch as a brush, which they dip in a glass with red urucum paste mixed with oil, or in one with black paint: genipapo.
It is nine or nine thirty when Txana opens the ceremony. He has changed, instead of shorts and a T-shirt he is now wearing a splendid headdress and a long, colorfully woven ceremonial robe. Meanwhile, a few women are plucking another bird that the men shot that afternoon. They carefully pack the individual feathers in a bag. When a butterfly dies in the flame of a candle, they shrug their shoulders: Transformation ". Txana gives a speech, greets the guests. Then he gradually pours out the medicine. It is dark and thick. That one after ingesting the bitter brew Most of the time vomiting is seen as a cleansing effect, so there is also the message: If you vomit, the best thing to do is to go outside into the forest.
A couple of the men start making music. They play the guitar and sing: the chants are supposed to attract the spirit of the plant. At first it feels as if the sounds are superimposed on the concert that comes out of the jungle. But in the music breaks it becomes clear: It's an exchange. The song sounds like a chirping bird and the jungle listens. The stanzas seem to run endlessly, in barely audible variations. Each stanza evokes a connection with a different force: the water, the forest, the wind. The heavenly body, sacred geometry, work. "Eeeee - aaaaaa": the syllables stand for masculine and feminine energy: the e very direct, the a more open, more open. A dog jumps in the hammock. His heart beats to the beat of the music.
Children are included from the age of nine. They too should expand their awareness and get to know themselves better. If you ask them: They are not afraid: "No, I meet animals." Or: "I want to get to know the universe." - "What has so long been condemned as naive and primitive appears today, in the light of the latest insights from biologists and anthropologists, as ecological realism." (Andreas Weber: Indigeniality)
At some point a few people start dancing, moving around the fire in the form of a snake, to the rhythm of the music. At some point there will be a second round of medicine. Rapé, a snuff that has been used as a shamanic remedy by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin for thousands of years, is added later. It is supposed to clear and open the mind. One after the other, the people kneel in front of the shaman, who blows rapé into their noses through a bamboo tube as long as a forearm.
Emancipation on a small scale
Around four in the morning it gets quiet. Only the jungle continues to sound. But already at six o'clock the hammering and drilling penetrated the cracks in the wooden walls: the men are already at work, they are just dragging palm fronds to the tree spot: they are being put on the house as a roof. Somewhere in the distance someone is playing the guitar again. Or still?
This ceremony was memorable - also for the Huni Kuin: Usually the families keep to themselves. The fact that guests come from the surrounding villages is new. What is also new is that the women sang their own songs at the ceremony. Kathy tries here on a small scale to break the traditional distribution of roles. There are even ceremonies of their own just by and for women. The fact that Txana's mother goes with us into the forest the next day to collect medicinal herbs is also new: a woman who leads a "project". "This is a medicine for the lower back. You have to warm it up on the fire and then put it on. And this: When a woman menstruates for the first time, these leaves are crushed and placed on her forehead."
The roles are clearly assigned among the indigenous peoples (Deutschlandradio / Jenni Roth)
We collect herbs for many hours. Medicine for children who sleep poorly and herbs for strong hair. And we collect plastic waste from the forest: in the past there was only organic waste that could be thrown away - now the plastic ends up in the forest instead. Life here does not always fit in with the romantic ideas of primitive peoples. Of course, the indigenous people in Lago Lindo are also waiting for the Internet and a telephone network to be available here. And they may not have to wait long.Txana's brother Leopardo has big plans: he has come to visit, is standing there with a shirt, leather shoes, shoulder bag, and traces a large circle with his arm around the large piece of land around the village that he wants to cultivate: raising fish, growing pineapples and even more Akay, a berry that grows on palm trees and is expensive for us as a superfood in organic markets.
Txana herself might not want to breed extra fish at all. First of all, those who swim in the small village lake are enough for him. In the evening he goes out to catch a few. Not with a fishing rod or a net - but with a bow and arrow. And it works. He skillfully harpooned the small fish that swim in the shallow waters. In the maloca the women have already made a small fire, they roast the fish and serve them with grated cassava. One pot, one spoon for everyone. The group is eating and the men have started playing cards - interrupted by dental treatment: a young boy has a toothache. His mother is holding a tattered, handwritten prayer book and is looking for the right verse. Then the father puts his index finger on his cheek, on the painful spot, and reads silently.
The next morning the boy laughs: The pain is obviously gone. And in my notes there is a question mark behind day five: In the jungle, in life in rhythm with nature, you lose track of time. But there are questions, big questions: every day is the same here. Much time consists of what we in the West would call doing nothing. But why does inaction seem so reprehensible to us? What does work mean? Which work is useful? How much work does it have to be?
Corona as a special danger for the indigenous people
Ten days in the jungle are up. We are on our way back to Jordão. It's the middle of March. We haven't read or heard any news in ten days. We have no idea that Corona is now turning life upside down.
The Funai is the state organ for the affairs of the indigenous people of Brazil. An employee and a police officer meet us in a motorboat. They want to make sure that there are no more whites in the jungle, that no whites infect the indigenous peoples with the virus.
Kathy says: "I was just not relaxed because I thought, what are they going to do with me. Whereby they say: It doesn't even do anything to children. At this point in time, Txana is also still confident: nature can breathe a sigh of relief, including nature within us. perhaps indigenous thinking helps to find a new view of our society: no big goals, struggles, no constant outbidding. More ecosystem than ego system. Thinking that recognizes connections where we do not perceive any.
But then Corona finds its way from China via Europe to the Amazon. We're back home communicating via voice messages. The closer the virus gets, the angrier it gets: "The globalized system brings us this virus. It makes us very angry." But it's not just globalization. Evangelical missionaries have invaded the territories of isolated indigenous peoples - without the permission of the Funai. But it was recently ousted by the Bolsonaro government and replaced by government-related personnel.
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