The population dynamics of rural areas in the semi-arid region of Brazil has been marked by a drastic decrease in population, especially in the last 50 years. Researchers of the demographic dynamics point out that the great change observed in the last years is the conversion of the generalized rural exodus into a more selective process, which preferentially sends the young and highly productive population to the cities. This selective exodus of young people intensifies the aging of the population, a social phenomenon that marks the most recent period.
Lack of perspective and newly arrived infrastructure in the field, as well as new technologies, have enabled a profound cultural transformation. The young generation, now connected to new references, tends to migrate in search of opportunities away from isolation and hard work in the fields. A large part of the new generation wants to be included in urban and contemporary class society, even as a proletarian and a resident on the periphery of the city, whether small or large. The countryside has aged and rural youth also want access to the assets of other youth.
Faced with this emptying, the old generation that remains may be the last representative of traditional culture, permeating survival away from their departed heirs. In this difficulty of convergence between the old and the new, many choose to remain in their places of origin, perpetuating the connection, even if alone, with their physical and symbolic universe.
This essay proposes a reflection on the current context of the traditional populations of the semi-arid country side of Brazil facing the youth exodus and modernization, which materializes in the isolation of its members unable to incorporate new contemporary practices.
Located in the delta of Paraíba do Sul river, one of the most important rivers in the Brazilian southeast region, Atafona is a place that unveils the action of time on contemporary society and the crisis in the relation between men and nature. The primary object is a setting disrupted by the action of the dynamic and implacable nature, as well as the human issues presented by this universe.
In the past decades, the sea has been rising and submerging tens of the small town’s quarters. Its dunes conceal about 400 buildings, among public constructions, residential blocks, hotels, a gas station and a church. A group of factors that include rising sea levels, strong winds and the disastrous human interventions all along the riverbed, made Atafona the biggest case of sea erosion in Brazil. In past years were build more than 12 dams and hundreds of extra irrigation canals. About 60% of its water volume are used to supplies the city of Rio de Janeiro. The hydric deficit at the river’s estuary precisely caused by these kinds of interventions is the most responsible for so much erosion in the delta, as it cannot counteract the invading ocean.
Brazil has the world’s largest renewable water resources — with nearly twice as much as Russia, which is in second place, and 12 to 16% of the world’s total supply. The country is now facing the consequences of its abuses in the past. In 2015, other two important brazilian rivers, São Francisco and Rio Doce, were condemned. São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, is running dry. It's a starting point for debates on the causes and trends regarding the use and conservation of Brazil’s hydric resources.
Brazil, a country marked by a highly contested rural landscape that has pit traditional communities—quilombolas, indigenous people, and small-scale farmers—against capital investment. Too often, the result is violence.
A research shared with Unearthed by Brazilian hyman rights NGO (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of 2017 in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016. Most deaths were attributed to plantations or large ranches on land that has been claimed by rural communities.
In many Brazilian states, vast amounts of land have no clear owner. This ambiguity has facilitated the entrance of agribusiness, mining, and logging activity, which has surged in north-central Brazilian states. Under state control, these areas can be granted in collective or individual titles to rural communities or sold to private interests. In some cases, they are targets of land grabbing. According to data from Amnesty International, hundreds of municipalities in states like Pará, Tocantins, and Maranhão have an impunity rate of 100% when it comes to murders of agricultural laborers over the past 43 years.
As opposed to past beliefs, there is strong evidence that the brazilian indigenous populations are growing in the last decades. In this context and taking into consideration the interactions and assimilation processes with other cultures, the issues of the indigenous’ sense of identity are extremely delicate.
This essay is aimed to approach the issues surrounding the ethnical identity of Brazil’s remaining indigenous peoples and how the rest of the society regards them. Willing to debate ways for their permanence at the core of the Brazilian nation as an essential part of its people, several questions come up, such as: Who is the indigenous person nowadays? What defines his/her identity? Why do they take up such a romanticized and distorted place within the Brazilian society’s imagery?
The close shots portray members of a single ethnic background in their own environment and wearing day-to-day costumes, not those associated with traditional symbols and rituals. The images highlight the different phenotypic patterns among members of a same ethnicity and demystify the overwhelming idea of the traditional indigenous person as rationalized by the Brazilian society. This way, they explore the means through which changes prompted by decades of contacts with various references were incorporated into the indigenous cultures, giving their cultural identity a whole new meaning.
At the end of the 19th Century, the development of the vulcanization process to extract rubber from the native Amazonian Hevea Brasiliensis transformed rubber in an important raw material for the newborn automobile industry. Around 1903, the Amazon was responsible for almost the entire rubber output of the world, and foreign investments triggered major transformations in the region, giving birth to a short-lived period called the jungle belle époque.
The need to absorb areas distant from the main production centers gave birth to the idea of building a railroad to help the outflow of items produced in western Brazil and Bolivia to the Amazon River waterway. It would be the first major engineering enterprise of its kind undertaken by the United States abroad. A railroad built at the heart of the most wild, obscure and remote tropical forest in the world. Its construction claimed more than eight thousand lives and became the greatest epic of the Amazon in the 20th Century.
British success cultivating native Amazon rubber trees in their Asian possessions plummeted rubber production in Brazil. Like the epic railroad, the entire western Amazon region was sunk in deep lethargy.
A Century after being built and four decades after its deactivation, the railroad which was once the backbone of western Brazil and the founding myth of cities in the jungle reveals an unknown part of the Amazon. A witnesses of troubled times which has withstood the test of time, survived the steady march of the forest and outlived the solitude surrounding its tracks.
Road to Ladakh
Ladakhi is a tri-border area (India, China and Pakistan) located on the inside of the Himalayan ridge, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. The only two roads that connect the region to the rest of India remain blocked by snow during 8 months a year. The isolation, the lack of resources and the adverse conditions contributed to the creation of a unique culture molded by the Buddhist philosophy and based on self-sustainability. In the 1950´s, when military tension across the border between India, China and Pakistan started to rise rapidly, things began to change. Two roads were built, one connecting the Ladakh to the southern state of Himachal Pradesh, and the other heading east, towards the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In Leh, infrastructure was built in order to attend the large contingent of troops that arrived every day, and the Capital saw the construction of gas stations, workshops and markets. In 1974, civilians were allowed inside the city, although with limited access. The development that was intensified after the 1970´s has brought to the Ladakh not only infrastructure and industrial goods but also the idealized imagery of a western culture shaped around consumption. Leh is going through a process that has been experienced by many other cultures that were isolated and eventually started to receive outside influence. If contact with these outside influences start to undermine local traditions, a culture that has thrived for centuries will be in jeopardy. Nowdays, Ladackhis are been submited to the greatest challenge they have ever faced, a challenge much more severe than isolation or harsh weather: the test of modern times.