30 years with Chico Mendes
By Frederico Brandão
The year 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Chico Mendes, the greatest defender of the Brazilian Amazon forest. To celebrate the rubber tapper fighting history, the National Council of Extractivist Populations (CNS), with the support of several entities, organizes the meeting Chico Mendes 30 Years. It will be held from 15 to 17 December, in Xapuri (AC), the municipality where Mendes was born and lived.
The meeting takes place annually since the murder of the environmentalist leader on December 22, 1988, and is an important moment to celebrate its solid legacy of struggle and preservation of the Brazilian forests. The organized activities usually recall the trajectory of Chico Mendes. For this year, the theme will be "A Memory to Honor, a Legacy to Defend." The main focus is to promote the protagonist role of young extractivists in defense of socio-environmental issues in the Amazonian states.
The participation of 500 people -- including leaders from all the Amazon states and traditional populations of Acre, representatives of governments, non-governmental organizations, and partnering institutions of the CNS and the national and international forest peoples --, is expected. Besides, friends and fellows of Chico Mendes, and a large number of women and young extractivists from the Amazon and other parts of Brazil will be present.
"Youth extractivists is mobilized to form new leaders who recognize and value the importance of protected areas for the country's sustainable development, as well as traditional knowledge, sustainable use of forest products, and the legacy of Brazilian socio-environmentalism," says Ricardo Mello, WWF-Brazil's Amazon Program Coordinator.
The National Council of Extractivist Population (CNS) is an organization founded by Chico Mendes and his fellows in 1985 to defend rubber tappers, indigenous and forest peoples. In addition to the Council, the Meeting also counts on the partnership of historical organizations such as the Chico Mendes Committee, the Amazon Workers' Center (CTA), the Institute of Amazonian Studies (IEA), the Chico Mendes Memorial, the Municipality of Xapuri, the Workers and Rural Workers' Union of Xapuri (STTR), and several Brazilian non-governmental organizations, including WWF-Brazil.
The schedule of the Meeting includes artistic and cultural activities with book launches, video and film festivals, extractive products fair, as well as talks and round-tables with people who have lived and fought with Chico Mendes.
The opening of the event, on Saturday, December 15, will feature Lívia Mamede Mendes, great-granddaughter of Chico Mendes, who will read a poem. One of the most awaited activities will be the collective reading of the "Xapuri Letter," a document produced during the National Seminar of Young Extractivists in Brasilia. Indeed, it will mark the commitment of the people present, especially the youth of the forest, to the ideals of Chico Mendes for the next 30 years.
Other events include the ceremony of the Chico Mendes Prize, awarded by the government of the state of Acre; a pilgrimage to the grave of Chico Mendes; an afternoon dedicated to listening to the voices of the Women of the Forest; and the opening of the "Chico Mendes Hero of Brazil" exhibition, on STTR Xapuri's headquarter.
Celebrated worldwide for his environmental activism, Francisco Alves Mendes Filho, known as Chico Mendes, was a rubber tapper, a political activist, and one of the greatest defenders of Brazilian forests.
Mendes led the empates (or stand-off), a method of peaceful resistance created by rubber tappers to prevent deforestation of the rubber plantations in the 1970s, when farmers and rural producers brought chainsaws to raze the forest and deploy pasture for livestock. Records show that, between 1976 and 1988, rubber tappers promoted 45 empates, of which the movement counted 30 losses and 15 victories.
Chico Mendes pioneered and innovated in formulating the concept of extractive reserves (Resex) of the Amazon, which was later expanded to other Brazilian biomes. Upon the creation of the first four Resex of Brazil in 1990, the expansion of these territories of common use - both at federal and state level management - grew. Currently, the Amazon region has 92 units, which are divided into extractive and sustainable development reserves.
Additionally, Mendes’ fight inspired the creation of several environmental programs and laws, such as: the Pilot Program for the Conservation of Brazilian Rainforests (PPG7); the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm); the State Subsidy Program for Rubber, based on Law # 1,277/1999, known as the Chico Mendes Law; the Nationºal Biodiversity Plan; and the The Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (Arpa); the Bioversity Law (Law # 13,123). His name also appears in the main government agency for the conservation of federally protected areas: the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio).
Chico Mendes Meeting
Date: From 15 to 17 December 2018
Location: Xapuri (state of Acre, Brazil)