Wednesday, December 22, 2010



On this day, 22 years ago, Chico Mendes was gunned down by ranchers who were enraged by his activism on behalf of protecting the forest and the people of Acre.

Several years ago Brazil's leading TV network O Globo presented a 55-episode mini-series that chronicled the development of Acre entitled "Amazônia: From Galvez to Chico Mendes". The story built from the earliest days of the rubber boom to the emergence of the Peoples of the Forest Movement.

During the 1980s Chico Mendes struggled relentlessly and with great courage as his comrades were harassed and killed. His leadership came to be recognized far from Acre and the Brazilian Federal Government began to respond by taking some of the land out of the hands of the ranchers and placing it into protected reserves. Understanding the threat that he had become, he gave a speech in Rio de Janeiro predicting his murder. Despite the warnings and premonitions, he returned to Acre saying:

"I do not want flowers in my burial, because I know that they are to be pulled out of the forest! I only want that my murder serves to end the impunity of the killers in Acre who, under the protection of the police force of 75, have already killed 50 people like me, seringueiro leaders, pledged to defending the Amazonian Forest and making of it an example that it is possible to progress without destroying. I go to Xapuri to the meeting with death."

And that is what happened on 22 December 1988, soon after he arrived home to be reunited with his family. At his funeral his comrades carried his coffin through the country-side reciting the prayer of the rubber-tapper which is a version of the familiar "Our Father" or Lord's Prayer:

Rubber tree who art in the jungle
Multiplied be your days
Let your milk come to us
To be made into our rubber
As well in the press as in the crate
For the support of our families
Today and for all the days
Forgive us our ingratitude
Our anger as we confront
The evil things of the boss
Help us to free ourselves
From the spikes of the shark

At the end the TV documentary Amazônia, a very beautiful song is sung. Its lyrics say:

And this sun that shines so bright
Over the forests I come with love
Filling the chests of each Acreano
With nobility, constancy and value
Invincible and giants at wars
Let's imitate the unmatchable example
Of the great river that struggles with earth
Wins and enters the sea (still) fighting
I was a star of our flag

The light of that star that was and is Chico Mendes lives on. It is celebrated in many ways -- in public monuments, in street names and, most importantly, in Acre State programs seeking to realize sustainable development.

Spiritual traditions such as the Santo Daime musical doctrine (explained here and here) continue to deliver messages from the spirit world about the mission of Chico Mendes. Here is a hymn received by Solon Brito who is a son of Master Counselor and Santo Daime Storyteller Luiz Mendes.

The hymn says:


Here he comes, here he comes
here he comes, there he is coming
Slowly approaching
And following our Master

Chico rei, Chico rei
Chico rei has arrived
Chico rei here on earth
He was a martyr and made history

Chico rei, Chico rei
You are here with joy
Chico rei here on earth
He is the patron of ecology

Let's all my brothers
Believe the good news
What is bad within itself destroys itself
What is good is always renewing

This is the new time
The new announcement
Of Divine Holy Spirit
Queen of the Forest
Be warned my brothers

This is the new time
Of the plant world
Be warned my brothers
And deliver us from all evil

This is the new time
Of the plant world
I say goodbye to my brothers
My name is IAOP
In the spiritual life

It has been said and is said
The Santo Daime in everything adds up
Long live the new era
And the mystery of the Amazon
This and the new era

Let's change the consciousness
This is serious
The warning singing
Now is science



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