A visit to Guarany M`bya Tekoa Paranapuã em São Vicente

Although I mentioned a visit to Guarany M`bya Tekoa Paranapuã in São Vicente in the zine we published soon after I arrived in Santos, I was only able to visit there on the last day of my residency. We were invited to visit the settlement by Weera Mirim who had come to Almoço Contra o Trabalho the previous day.

Mirim met us by the settlement’s impressive Casa de Rezar (House of Prayer) a large mud brick structure, recently built by five people over fifteen days. With Victor and Diego, we discussed the retomar (retake) of the settlement which occurred in 2004 during an anniversary celebration in São Vicente. The city, which grew out of the first permanent Portuguese settlement in the Americas, had invited indigenous people to participate in their celebrations but did not provide accommodation or a fee. Nevertheless many people arrived at this settlement, notably from São Paulo. The occupation at that time was held by a Tupi group, at present the village is home to around 85 Guarany M`bya.

After 2004, the swathe of jungle and coastline in which the retomar is located was zoned as a state park. This has had significant consequences. For one, it has limited access for the public as people now have to pass by a city controlled gatekeeper during specified hours, granting the villagers some privacy. The re-zoning has also affected the occupation’s food supply, as they are not permitted to grow crops in the state park. In response the Guarany M`bya are developing agroforestry to grow in these restricted conditions.

From what I gathered, the villagers’ diet is largely based around manioc, processed in a variety of ways and supplemented with fish which they catch. Weera commented that he does not like the food from outside as it often makes him sick. He said that in the village they can cure ‘spiritual sickness’, but not the sickness caused by outside food, so it was healthier for them not to eat too much.

Diego, Victor and Weera on the bay looking back at São Vicente Island and the city.

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