Three Guarani families from cramped, impoverished settlements at the foot of Jaraguá peak have already taken up residence in the new village.
Indigenous activists in Brazil are celebrating a ruling by the country’s government to declare a new indigenous reserve on the fringes of Latin America’s largest city.
For the past 10 years, members of a Guarani community just inside São Paulo’s northern city limits have been attempting to get their village and 72-hectare [178-acre] swath of forest recognised as traditional tribal lands.
In an announcement published on Monday in the Diário Oficial da União, Brazil’s journal of record, the justice Minister José Cardozo declared the settlement traditional Guarani territory, as part of a wider 532-hectare area around the Pico de Jaraguá mountaintop.
The announcement marks the second stage in a three-step process, following the recognition of the land as Guarani in 2013 by Funai, Brazil’s federal agency for Indian affairs. The third step is the signing of a presidential decree declaring the land demarcated Indian territory.
The decree, once signed, would make the Guaranis legal owners of the land.
“The apprehension we’ve been living with has suddenly lifted,” said the community’s 74-year-old leader, or cacique, Ari Karai. The group, which occupied the land in 2014 following a previous occupation in 2005, was served an eviction order in April, at the petition of a former politicianwho claimed that his family owned the land.
Karai said that help from supporters in São Paulo and beyond helped swing the minister’s decision. “We had support from so many people, including from abroad,” he says. “It was very important for us – I think it made a big difference.”
Three families from cramped, impoverished settlements at the foot of Jaraguá peak have already taken up residence in the new village, named Tekoa Itakupé, which is flanked on one side by forest and on the other by the community’s crops. More families are expected to move up to the forest, but Karai said the group were determined to limit it to 20-30 families, to avoid more overcrowding. “The last thing we want is to end up living on top of one another again,” he says.
Following the victory in Jaraguá, the Guarani’s struggle now shifts 60km to the southernmost edge of São Paulo, where four villages await demarcation as indigenous territory. “We’re hoping that will be easier now,” said Karai, “but we know we need to keep up the pressure, and to keep gathering as much support as we can.”
Compounding the encouraging news, in Brazil’s senate as of last week a decisive 60% of senators signed a manifesto opposing the constitutional amendment PEC 215. The proposed amendment, driven by Brazil’s powerful ruralist congressional caucus, seeks to shift the power to demarcate land – or not – to Congress. The PEC is fiercely opposed by the indigenous community and its growing ranks of supporters.