Thursday, May 24, 2012

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5/24/12 Day two was the day of the mass and the march, and it was absolutely incredible. We woke up bright and early and were ready to follow Cacique Marcos out the door at 8 am. We hopped in the bed of the pickup (my new favorite thing :) ) and drove high up into the mountains until we couldn’t go any further because the road was too treacherous. (The roads here are terrible because they can’t afford to fix any of them. And when I say terrible, I mean dirt roads in conditions you can’t even imagine.) We passed so many Xukuru people driving or walking to the same site, which is incredible because just getting to the place where we had to park and THEN walk was still really, really far. From there we parked the truck and walked the rest of the way to the place where they were holding the mass. The site, Pedra do Rei (Rock of the King), is a Xukuru holy site where Xicao Xukuru, the cacique who was assassinated in 1998, is planted. Cacique Marcos’ brother and sister-in-law, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2010, are also buried there. To get to the site we walked up the mountain and then down into a valley that was a thicket of trees; inside this thicket is where everything took place. When we got there, plenty of Xukuru were already there dancing the tore (I really wish I could make accent marks on my English keyboard, because there’s supposed to be accents everywhere here). The tore (tor RAY) is a spiritual dance where they sing, chant, and dance/march/stomp their feet in a circle. It’s a lot like pow wow dancing… that’s the only thing I can compare it to. They danced until the holy man, Marcos, and a flutist came out. While the man played the flute, the holy man prayed at Xicao’s grave, then had this lit pipe from which he blew smoke all over Marcos' body to bless and protect them. He then blessed him with more prayers. They had the mass, and it was this incredible mixture of Catholicism and native spirituality. I could follow almost the entire mass, even though it was in Portuguese, because it had the same rhythm and sequences as Catholic mass back home. They also incorporated these elements of nature worship, and sang traditional Xukuru songs praying for Mother Earth to bless them and their lands. It was really, really cool. After mass, all the Xukuru people (and I’m talking about thousands) walked back to Zanilda’s house. Zanilda, Marcos’ mother, is known as the "Mother of the Xukuru," and she is an absolutely incredible woman. She’s actually been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for all the work she’s done, and people come from all over the world to try to meet with her. It’s really amazing that we get the chance to be so close to such important people. Everyone gathered outside her house and on the road; we, and other people got to go inside and hang out. Basically the point of meeting here was to get some food and rest before the big march. While we were in the house, a couple of the local boys painted our faces in a traditional Xukuru style. Mostly everyone had their faces painted or had designs stained onto their skin (almost like henna tattoos, but black). Cacique Marcos saw us and kind of chuckled and said we were American Xukuru. At 2 o'clock, we started the march at Zanilda’s house (which is high up in the mountains), and walked down the mountain all the way into the city of Pesquiera. We marched for almost three hours, but I didn’t get tired. Everyone was filled with this huge sense of energy… I actually wanted to go faster. People at the head of the march were jogging a lot of the way and I desperately wanted to be up there with them, but we all had to stick together because the crowd was so thick and getting lost would've been too easy. Trying to put the march into words is kind of difficult. Imagine thousands upon thousands of people all gathering for the same purpose. They don’t worry about themselves, they aren’t selfish; the people here think about “the collective” - the greater good. They worry about each other; they fight for each other, rather than against each other. I wish more people and more societies could be like that. The synergism that I witnessed among the crowd is indescribable.
That night while talking it came out in discussion that I’m Native American, and Marcos was completely enthralled. He said, “Marcia, how come you never told me before that she was an Indian?!” (Here, they call indigenous peoples “Indian.” It’s actually pretty backwards than our politically correct terms, because calling an indigenous person something other than an Indian or indigenous is considered offensive here.) He wanted to know all about the history of my people and all about the reservation my family lives on. He’s very interested and we have talked tons about it every day. He wants me to get active in “saving” the Spirit Lake Nation, the reservation my family is from, and says that he will help me do it. That's just the kind of person he is; even after knowing you for just a couple of days he truly cares about you and wants to know your story.
Cacique Marcos is such an inspiring person. When he talks to you, it’s like the sun is shining on you, and knowing everything he has been through makes you want to go out into the world and do nothing but good and fight tons of battles. He’s desperately trying to appeal this conviction and his trial keeps getting delayed and delayed. He has known such considerable loss in his life - the loss of his father, brother, sister-in-law, many friends, and the near loss on own his life and now his freedom. And still, you would never know that he faces this heavy of a burden every day. He laughs, smiles, plays with his children, and goes about his daily duties as the cacique, all with the weight of this on his shoulders. Not that many people have that kind of strength, and it's such an admirable thing. There are no accidents; there is a reason why the spirits chose him to become the Xukuru leader. Today, I plugged in my $90 hair straightener without the adapter (with the built-in surge protector), because everything else had been working just fine. It heated up for about 30 seconds and then blew up…. and I was furious. I mean, it couldn’t have been my $20 curling iron? Or anything else? (Like someone elses’ stuff... just kidding, guys. :) ) And then I think about what the people out here have to go through on a daily basis just to survive, and suddenly it’s not that big of a deal anymore. -Shayla

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