Telegraph21 is a curated video magazine that showcases international documentaries. Today and tomorrow, Telegraph21 will feature Children of the Amazon on their site. The clip they’ve chosen shows the story of Chico Mendes, a rubber tapper from the state of Acre in Brazil who became famous for his work in protecting the forest.
The clip begins with Chief Itabira Surui describing how Chico Mendes first forged the alliance between the rubber tappers and the indigenous peoples. The story of what they accomplished, and at what cost, is told by Raimundo Barros and Chico’s wife Ilzamar Mendes, interspersed with historical footage and the last interview that Chico himself gave one month before his death. Maria Elena Barbosa sings “In Xapuri (Chico Rei)” a haunting ballad that was written about Chico after he was killed. We see historic footage of the successful stand-off which Chico organized to save an area of the forest from being cut down, and we see Raimundo Barros at that time — nearly 20 years younger — patiently explaining to one of the rancher’s workers why the forest must belong to everyone.
This clip exemplifies the work of Chico Mendes and his companions. Often called “the Gandhi of the Amazon,” Chico worked very peacefully, focused on non-violent action and finding common ground. His legacy has been an inspiration to many, including Marina Silva, who grew up in a rubber tapper community, worked closely with Chico, and went on to serve as Brazil’s minister of the environment until 2008. Marina is now a candidate for the presidency of Brazil.