When an elder, leader of a people, leaves, he does not die: he is enchanted. Benedito Cacique, the first chief of the Coroa Vermelha indigenous land, became enchanted on the 20th. Being enchanted here means that he now inhabits the sacred territory of the Enchanted men and women and, from there, looks after and takes care of his own.
“Saturday (20) we planted it. When ours die, we don’t bury it, we plant it. Because we know that he will always be in the realm of the Enchanted, taking care of each one of us”, explains Uhitwe Pataxó, current vice-chief of Coroa Vermelha, Benedito’s niece and goddaughter.
And, in this very troubled historical moment, with so many attacks on the rights of indigenous peoples, this elder who has always fought for the rights of the Pataxó people and other peoples, will certainly be very busy taking care of those who remain.
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Benedito Alves do Espírito Santo was born on April 8, 1953, in Barra Velha village, the mother village of the Pataxó people, in the municipality of Porto Seguro (BA). In 1980, he moved to Coroa Vermelha village, where Pedro Alvarez Cabral and his crew would have landed in 1500.
Uhitwe says that when his godfather arrived at Coroa Vermelha, few families lived there. The resumption of this territory possibly started in the 1970s. “At the time, along with other leaders, he was already looking for improvements, such as a school and a health center”, he says. The first buildings that housed a school and a health center were built from planks by the community itself.
A few years later, the community of Coroa Vermelha decided that it was necessary to elect a cacique who would lead the people in the fight for their rights. “And he was the first chief of Coroa Vermelha, elected by the people. From there, he began his search for the demarcation of the Coroa Vermelha village”, says Uhitwe.
The demarcation would only come, in fact, in 1997, when Benedito had already passed the post to his successor. “During his entire period as chief in the community, he was always a great partner, a great companion, he listened to everyone, sought everyone’s opinion, led along with everyone”, recalls the deputy chief. She claims that one of her godfather’s great legacies was precisely his way of leading alongside his people.
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The incessant struggle for the people and the achievement of the rights to health and education are also important legacies of Benedito Cacique’s work, always remembered by his family. “With all this traditional knowledge, he brought a school, a health center to our community and made a difference for the new generations. A legacy that everyone knows and recognizes”, says Uhitwe.
Another seed sown by Benedito, highlighted by his niece, is the construction of the school. Currently, the indigenous school, built in 2000, is in the process of becoming a model project in the municipality. “Unfortunately, he will no longer be here with all of us to see this seed that he planted in 1983”, he laments.
Uhitwe points out that the seed planted by his uncle did not germinate just in a school building, but in an entire generation of young indigenous people who had access to school education and, therefore, were able to graduate as doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers and many others. professions that are also acting back in the community. “We owe all of this to that determination, to that struggle, both by Benedito Cacique and his leadership at the time, who made all of this happen”, he defends.
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She herself points out the influence of Benedito Cacique in her current vice leadership. “He was my adviser. For me to accept the invitation to be vice-chief, I had to ask for this advice, to find out what he thought”, she says. And she only accepted after receiving her godfather’s blessing. Seeds he planted and germinated. And now, Encantado, Benedito Cacique will certainly continue to take care of it.
The Coroa Vermelha village was one of the many areas that the Pataxó people were repossessing after the massacre that became known as the Fire of 1951, when the mother village, Barra Velha, was invaded and set on fire. The police carried out the attack after receiving false reports that a group of indigenous people had committed crimes in Porto Seguro. All the houses in the community were burned and many families decided to leave the village for fear of suffering further violence.
After many years of struggle, the Coroa Vermelha indigenous territory was finally demarcated in 1997, but part of the territory claimed by the Pataxó was left outside the demarcated area. These areas began to be retaken around the 2000s, generating intense conflicts and tension with landowners and land grabbers in the region.
During the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of Brazil, in 2000, several families were removed from Coroa Vermelha for the construction of tourism structures, generating different impacts on the lives of these families and the entire community. In 2003, the first territory was retaken. The Pataxó people claim the revision of the demarcated perimeter in the Coroa Vermelha indigenous land and the annexation of these areas of recovery.
Source: BdF Bahia
Editing: Vivian Virissimo
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