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Traditional Black Amazon Community Fights for Recognition of Land Rights

By Glen Switkes <glenirn@IGC.APC.ORG> at Internet, 6 June 1995

The community of Boa Vista, Para, is a quilombo, comprised of descendants of escaped slaves who live along the Trombetas River in the northern Amazon region of Brazil. They now are close to achieving legalization of their traditional land rights. If successful, Boa Vista would be the first community achieving such recognition since the legal opportunity was presented in the new Brazilian constitution.

This request is being made on behalf of ARQMO, the Association of Communities Descended from Quilombos in Oriximina Municipality, which represents 21 quilombo communities, with a total population of 6,500 people along the Trombetas, Cumina, Erepecuru and Acapu rivers.

Nearly 200 years ago, their ancestors fled from cattle ranches and cacao plantations in the Amazon and climbed the Trombetas River. They went further and further into the Amazon, until they settled in areas which, at that time, were 45 days by boat from the nearest settlements.

The legal demarcation of the area is considered urgent, given pressures on the community from a multinational mining operation, Mineracao Rio do Norte (Alcoa, Reynolds, Norsk Hydro), nearby. Despite the presence of aluminum processing facilities in Porto Trombetas, Boa Vista has no electricity.

Now, plans are being carried out for construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Trombetas River. Boa Vista has already lost many of its Afro-Amazonian cultural traditions, but the demarcation would be an important precedent for dozens of other quilombos throughout Brazil. A campaign is now underway to achieve these demarcations in observation of the three hundredth anniversary of Zumbi de Palmares, who led slave uprisings in colonial Brazil.

The legal process is now before the Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), which is considering Boa Vista's petition for demarcation of a 798 hectare area for 100 families.

Please write:

Presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Palacio do Planalto
70.159-970 Brasilia DF, Brazil
fax: +55-61-226-7566


Brazilio de Araujo Neto
Presidente do INCRA
SBN-Palacio do Desenvolvimento
70.057 Brasilia DF, Brazil
fax: +55-61-226-3855

Please send a copy to:

Caixa Postal 52
68.270 Oriximina, PA, Brazil

Dear Sir:

We are writing in support of the petition of the quilombo community of Boa Vista, Para for title to their traditional lands on the Trombetas River.

We understand that such titling would be in agreement with Article 68 of the Brazilian Constitution, and could guarantee the survival of this community and dozens of other quilombos throughout Brazil.

These communities serve as models for sustainable use of natural resources. The demarcation of their lands would help demonstrate the Brazilian government's commitment to equal rights for minorities and to sustainable development in the Amazon region.

Respectfully yours,

For more information please contact:

Lucia Andrade, Comissao Pro-Indio de Sao Paulo
tel/fax: +55-11-864-1180

Glenn Switkes, International Rivers Network, San Francisco
tel: 415-243-4146
fax: 415-243-0661
email: glenirn@igc.apc.org