Thursday, December 15, 2011


Raimundo Irineu Serra (Mestre Irineu)

Françisco Alves Mendes Filho Cena (Chico Mendes)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of two great men who received their missions deep in Brazil's western-most state of Acre, back when it truly seemed as the end of the world. But for them it was the center of the universe and a place from which they could launch their visions into the world.

Mestre Irineu (December 15, 1892 — July 6, 1971) was born in the northeastern state of Maranhão and migrated to Acre where he became a rubber-tapper and later founded the syncretic religion (mixing African, Indian and Christian elements) Santo Daime which has since spread around the globe.

Following Mestre Irineu's birth by 52 years, Chico Mendes (December 15, 1944 – December 22, 1988) was a Brazilian rubber tapper in Acre, and a unionist and environmental activist. He fought to stop the burning and logging of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for cattle ranching, and founded a national union of rubber tappers in an attempt to preserve their profession and the rainforest that it relied upon. He was murdered in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his activism.

The visionary life and actions of Chico Mendes live on as a global movement for rainforest protection and sustainability. And the visions of Mestre Irineu are carried forth in rituals and music of Santo Daime. Here is a hymn celebrating Mestre Irienu (sung at the Luiz Mendes community of Fortaleza in rural Acre):

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