The name of the tribe Guarani-Kaiowá means ‘forest people’. The Brazilian state they live in, Mato Grosso do Sul, means ‘Thick Forest of the South’. Today, there are no forests left and the ‘forest people’ are without land or human rights.
Brazil is the second largest producer of soybeans in the world and has one of the largest biofuel industries, in which sugarcane plays an important part. Ranching, soybean-, and sugarcane industries have taken over virtually all of the Guarani-Kaiowá´s land. On its way to becoming the world´s sixth largest economy, Brazil has left its obligations to human rights behind.
The plight of the indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá tribe is largely unknown to the world outside the agricultural state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The bloody history of this tribe is one that continues today, 500 years after the first colonisation of their land. In Mato Grosso do Sul alone, the Guarani-Kaiowá people once occupied a homeland of 350,000 square kilometers worth of rainforests and plains. But their territories have been subject to government-promoted colonisation by farmers for over a century. Today, most Guarani-Kaiowá live in appaling conditions in small, overcrowded reserves, where alcoholsim has become rampant.
The tribe is deeply connected to their land on a spiritual level. Profoundly affected by the loss of their ancestral land, the tribe today has Latin-Americas highest suicide rates, suffers severely from hunger and malnutrition, in addtion to extremely high levels of infant mortality.
Countless Guarani-Kaiowá who have challenged the occupation of their land by large-scale industrial companies, ranchers of farmers, have been murdered as a result. In this Brazilian ‘wild west’ ruthless ‘land-owners’ often employ gunmen to defend ‘their’ properties – meaning murdering any indigenous people on it. Still, the Guarani-Kaiowá frequently do re-occupations of their land, although they know they are endangering their lives by doing so. Anthropologists refer to the systematic abuse towards the Guarani-Kaiowá as “genocide”.
The Guarani-Kaiowá say they will continue their struggle for their land “until the last indian falls”.