By Caitlin Aylward
Over the last few decades, farmers and ranchers have settled on land that the Guarani Peoples have inhabited and relied on for centuries. Although this fertile region of Southern Brazil has helped Brazil become the world’s leading producer of soy, sugar cane, and beef, Brazil’s economic success has come primarily at the expense of the Guarani Peoples’ land rights.
“Land defines Indigenous Peoples in fundamental ways,” says James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur to the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many Indigenous Peoples rely on their traditional lands for food, shelter, clothing, and a source of income. Consequently many Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, like the Guarani, have been fighting for their homelands ever since colonization.
The issue is complicated, however, by the fact that many of Brazil’s farmers and ranchers inherited or were granted their land rights by the Brazilian government decades ago, and do not want to return what they consider to be their private property back to the Guarani Peoples without proper compensation. Rancher Luana Ruiz Silva owns disputed land in Aral Moreira but, she says, “If I get paid, fairly paid, I leave.”
The situation is fraught with tension as the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, like the Guaraní, fight for what they believe to be their rightful claim to their homelands. “This is our land,” Guarani tribe member Genito Gomes says, “and we will not leave, even if it is necessary to die for it.”
Caitlin Aylward is a Research intern at the Nourishing the Planet project.