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We Were Always Here

Andrew Johnson | Brazil

The 'igarapé quarenta' in the center of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in the North of Brazil. Manaus – population 2 million – has some 150 igarapés, river streams, all of them polluted.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare deep fissures in Brazilian society and the indigenous population in the Amazon and like centuries past they have suffered disproportionately. Residents of the occupations receive scant government support. Schools are closed and indigenous education is reliant on a handful of volunteers while elders are dying from Covid-19.

What little money families made from crafts or tourism has dried up. In the city there is nowhere to hunt, fish or grow crops: all the streams are polluted and every piece of land is owned by someone else. As the government cancels emergency support payments, parents who never went hungry in the interior now struggle to put food on the table.

For years, a united indigenous movement representing the various communities throughout the city has been fighting to bring justice and accountability for the original inhabitants of the Amazon living in Manaus. In the face of a deadly global pandemic they continue to demand their right to land, the preservation of their language and culture, protection from discrimination, and for visibility in a city that wants to make them invisible.

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