ALTO XINGU, Brazil – This year, we won’t celebrate Kuarup, the most important traditional ritual in Upper Xingu, the first indigenous territory demarcated in Brazil in 1961. Through Kuarup we celebrate our dead with dances, fights and painted bodies, and invite guests from the territory and beyond to participate. Eight ethnic groups get together to say goodbye to the departed. But for the first time in history, we will stay in mourning until our ritual can be performed again in the next dry season, in August 2021. Until then we will cry for the many more who will succumb to this new threat.
Well before the coronavirus reached our territories and caused its first death — a 45-day-old baby — the indigenous peoples of Brazil were facing another dangerous threat: President Jair Bolsonaro. He has made clear with his rhetoric that he is against indigenous causes and the environment, and we fear that the president will use this health crisis to let the virus spread and kill many native Brazilians, as happened with the measles outbreak in 1954, still very much alive in our memory.