One of the Guarani tribe’s most respected spokesmen, José de Almeida Barbosa, has died in a road accident in Brazil.
Zezinho, as he was generally known, had just returned from Rio+20, the UN summit on sustainable development. He was cycling from his community, Laranjeira Ñanderu, to the nearest town, to lobby the authorities to provide a school bus for Guarani children, when he was hit by a vehicle. He was taken to hospital where he later died from his injuries.
Aty Guaçu, the Guarani organization said in a press release that, ‘Zezinho died fighting for land and justice.’
They recalled Zezinho’s own words, which he repeated in many Guarani assemblies, ‘I am fighting for the recuperation of Laranjeira Ñanderu, our old tekoha (ancestral land), and for our children. I will die for this, I know. But I will fight until I die.’
His death highlights the grave risks faced by the many Guarani who live in makeshift camps on the roadside. Three Guarani from Laranjeira Ñanderu alone have died in road accidents in recent years.
Damiana, a Guarani woman from the community of Apyka’y, has lost her husband and three children to accidents on the road along which they are camped. In 2009 gunmen shot at the community and burned down their homes
The Guarani of Laranjeira Ñanderu spent years camped on the roadside near their tekoha, which has been occupied for decades by cattle ranchers. They have made several attempts to occupy part of this land, and finally succeeded in returning to a small part of it in 2011.
In January they were served an eviction order, which was later overturned by a judge who ruled they could remain on the land whilst anthropological studies are carried out to determine the size of the territory.