By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Today, Saturday, April 14th, from 9AM to 5PM, the beautiful surroundings of Parque Lage in Jardim Botânico opens a free cultural event to celebrate the Dia do Índio (Indigenous People’s Day), which will continue through Thursday, April 19th.
Attendees can expect such activities as a traditional arts and crafts market, as well as interactive events, body-painting, and performances of indigenous music.
Attending the celebration will be indigenous people from tribes such as Kamayurá and Yawalapiti of the Upper Xingu region; the Tukano, Amazonas, Guajajara, Maranhão, Kariri-Xocó, Potiguara and Fulni-ô, from the Northeast; as well as the Guarani and Puri peoples, who were the original inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro.
The fair opened at 9AM, with an indigenous ritual to mark the official opening of the event from 10AM to noon. There will then be a presentation of indigenous songs and dances from noon until 2PM, followed by storytelling from 2PM until 4PM.
This will coincide with a debate about current issues facing indigenous communities, which will take place from 2:30 PM to 4PM. There will then be another presentation of indigenous songs and dances at 4PM, followed by a large indigenous ritual to mark the closing of the day at 5PM.
Current figures estimate that over 2,000 tribes existed in Brazil before colonization, with a population that could have numbered many millions. However, with the arrival of Portuguese explorers, they were largely killed by European diseases and today only 817,000, or around 0.4 percent, of the Brazilian population identify themselves as indigenous.
Though the government has attempted to take a more humanitarian approach when dealing with the historic and contemporary crimes brought against Brazil’s indigenous population, people who identify as indigenous still face discrimination and economic deprivation.
However, this event promises to be a positive cultural exchange, similar to past cultural exchanges with the indigenous community, which have included market fairs and even computer games, that seek to promote a better understanding of the richness of Brazil’s indigenous history and traditions.