© João Ripper/Survival
It’s 20 years since Marcos Veron, one of Brazil’s most prominent Indigenous leaders, was viciously beaten to death on the orders of a rancher who had pushed him and his Guarani Kaiowá community off their ancestral land.
Survival first began working alongside Marcos in 2000, three years before his murder, when we invited him to Europe. Many of our supporters heard him speak then; now we’re asking for your help so we can ramp up our backing to Marcos’s people. Decades on, they are still relentlessly fighting for their home.
Marcos’s Guarani Kaiowá name, Ava Taperendy or “Man of the Bright Path,” was apt: his courage and determination lit a way forward, inspiring evicted Guarani communities to regain their lands. At the vanguard of these land reoccupations, known as “retomadas,” he would cup a piece of earth in his hands and eat it, saying: “This is my life, my soul. If you take away my land, you take away my life.”
Marcos’s death was not the last. Many Guarani remain in a desperate struggle for their homeland. Forced off their territory when it was taken over by agribusiness, many are still - decades later - living under plastic sheets by the sides of nearby highways. When they try to go back to their land, they are brutally attacked. But they won’t stop fighting for their home. Clara, one of the leaders of the Laranjeira Nhanderu community, and Survival’s friend, needed hospital treatment after being shot at by military police during a recent retomada. “For a moment I felt like I was dying because the rubber bullet hit me in the head and it was so painful. Physically, emotionally and psychologically. It’s not easy, but those who don’t give up are often rewarded,” she said.
Survival isn’t giving up either. We’ve worked closely with the Guarani for decades, leading the international campaign for the recognition of their territories. Supported by your donations, we’ve reported on the horrific violence against them and other Indigenous peoples in Brazil, shared their stories, lobbied the authorities and companies, supported their retomadas, and brought international attention to bear. Clara reflected upon this during her imprisonment: “When I was locked up… I thought about you a lot, you, who I love, you, my supporters… We trust Survival very much. Mainly for the talent that Nhanderu [our creator] gave you to face the world, like we do.
As Marcos did to Survival supporters more than 20 years ago, the Guarani are appealing to Survival for international support as they fight desperately to regain the land which is rightly theirs. Survival is standing by them. - there could be no better way to honor the life and legacy of our friend Marcos Veron. We hope that you will stand by them also. Please donate to support this work with the Guarani and other threatened peoples.
Research and Advocacy Director