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News > Brazil

Indigenous Yanomami Parade Steals Attention at Rio Carnival

  • Float about the Yanomami people at the Rio de Janeiro carnival, Feb, 11, 2024.

    Float about the Yanomami people at the Rio de Janeiro carnival, Feb, 11, 2024. | Photo: X/ @DateadoNews

Published 12 February 2024

The Salgueiro samba school paid tribute to Indigenous people who live under siege by illegal miners and loggers.

On Sunday, a presentation on the Yanomami culture grabbed attention on the first night of samba school parades at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival.


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As its parade theme, the Salgueiro samba school chose "Hutukara," which the Yanomami call the "original sky from which the earth was formed," allowing them to stage a cry in defense of the survival of this Indigenous people and the Amazon at the Sambadrome.

The performed samba, which counted among its composers well-known Brazilian musicians like Dudu Nobre and Arlindinho Cruz, praised the Yanomami's struggle to survive in an endless war in which they refuse to surrender to "Order and Progress," the motto displayed on the Brazilian flag.

Although the parade primarily highlighted the Yanomami mythology, customs, and legends, there were references to the 1991 massacre, which the justice system classified as the first genocide in Brazilian history, as well as to the ongoing crisis caused by illegal miners invading their reserve, devastating the Amazon, and contaminating its rivers with mercury.

References to the plans of the Brazilian dictatorship that harmed the ethnic group and to the bulldozers destroying the Amazon rainforest were also made.

Salgueiro seized on the tragedy of the Yanomami gaining prominence in 2023 when President Lula da Silva declared a humanitarian emergency due to famine, malaria, and malnutrition, which caused the death of at least 99 Yanomami children in 2022.

The theme gained support among the 80,000 people who filled the Sambadrome to attend the first night of samba school parades of the "Special Group," considered the world's largest outdoor event and the main attraction of the Rio de Janeiro carnival.

The Yanomami Land, with 9 million hectares in the Amazon on the border between Brazil and Venezuela, is the largest Indigenous reserve in the country and is home to 27,000 Indigenous people who practically live under the same conditions as 500 years ago.

The text reads, "With a notable parade at the 2024 Rio Carnival, the Salgueiro school celebrates the 'Hutukara' in defense of the Yanomami people. The plot, which in the Yanomami language means 'the original sky from which the earth was formed,' came to life with Tijuca's red-and-white magic."

The parade also paid tribute to British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous advocate Bruno Araujo, murdered in 2022 in the midst of the Amazon for their defense of uncontacted peoples who have also suffered long tragedies in defense of their lands.

The main consultant for Salgueiro's parade was Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa, who paraded in the school's last float alongside several chiefs from other tribes.

Kopenawa even helped the composers include Yanomami words like "nape" (stranger) and "yoasi" (wrongdoer) in a samba that portrayed how Indigenous people learned Portuguese from the oppressor.

The float that closed the parade featured 13 prominent Yanomami leaders, some of whom had never left the reserve, including Ehuana Yanomami, the first woman of this Indigenous people to write a book in her language, and Morzaniel Iramari, the first Yanomami filmmaker.

The text reads, "Grande Rio showed a plot based on the Tupinamba myth from the book 'My Destiny is to Be a Jaguar.' It seeks to achieve the Rio carnival prize for the second time. The plot represents stories from Brazilian Indigenous peoples."

The Indigenous theme was also present in the parade of the Grande Rio samba school, which staged the Tupinamba myth of the creation of the world from the jaguar at the Sambadrome.

The parades on the first day impressed the audience with some technological tricks, such as the 55,000 LED bracelets distributed by the Grande Rio school, the huge neon jaguar of the same group that rises and roars, the gigantic soap bubbles exhaled by Beija-Flor's last float, or the dancer lifted by the head who levitated 12 meters high.

Six other schools will parade between Monday night and early Tuesday morning, and the winner among the 12 of the Special Group and the new carnival champion will be announced on Wednesday, as well as the one relegated to the second division.

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