Forty years after that landmark meeting and thirty years after the murder of Chico Mendes, João made contact with the Glórias collection.
In 1978, João and Renata, two journalism students, decide to travel through the Amazon. There they meet the activist Chico Mendes, with whom they will befriend and maintain correspondence. The letters present nuances of their actions and the difficulties in defending the Amazon rainforest and native populations.
“The two letters are for me. One was delivered by hand and the other came by mail.
In early 1978, I quit my job as a reporter for Diários Associados and went on a trip through the Amazon with photographer Renata Flazoni. I knew an Italian priest, Padre Torino, who lived in Xapuri and came to SP to collect donations.
When we arrived in Xapuri, we met Father Claúdio Avalone and Father Destro. The next day they introduced us to Chico Mendes who showed us rubber plantations and became our friend. For about 10 days we immersed ourselves in the life of Xapuri. Chico Mendes took us to rubber plantations, farms.
I remember that in his world, Geraldo Vandré was heard a lot. I also met journalists from "O Varadouro", which was made by Chico's group and I became a representative of the newspaper in SP. For years we had news of him, my ex-wife found him in meetings that took place in the State of São Paulo.
He died 10 years after we saw him, but I was very sorry because Father Cláudio Avalloni, who was his friend, stayed at our house in SP and gave us news. This priest appears in the Globo mini-series.”
Renata Falzoni also reports her meeting with Chico Mendes, in an article published on her blog: https://bikeelegal.com/paixao-pela-amazonia
“For the truth cannot be overcome” (first letter).
April 25, 1978
Dear Friend John,
I hope these lines will find you enjoying perfect happiness together with your worthy wife Renata.
Look João, things are going on here, everything is going on that basis, a few days ago I was almost sued, because the judge of this district was angry with me because of a pronouncement I made criticizing the non-operation of justice in our municipality. I was still summoned to appear in his office but things returned to normal. For truth cannot be vanquished.
Look, I'll send you some news from there. Well, here I am completely out of date. Tell me how the political situation is going there.
Look, tell Renata that at the time you boarded, the police chief was summoned because she took a picture of us and he was leaning over and asked me who you were I replied you are my friends who came to visit me, he even talked about telling you to get off of the bus, if it weren't for my interference.
Here I end all the best for you. Good successes in your work. It's my vows. [?] Hugs
Councilor Francisco Mendes Jr.
“Days later he promised me 6 shots in the head” ( second letter).
Xapuri, on 3 - 02 - 80
Dear friend João, and Renata
Look, I don't know if you received a letter that I wrote to you over a year ago and that I never got a response. Today, luckily, I found Roberto and Marineide, your friends, it was a great pleasure.
Look João, things are busier around here, the union movements are gaining more and more space, the workers' movement is much better, we've already achieved some victories here, this year everything indicates that it's going to be very busy, some conflicts in some areas possibly may occur but we hope that the workers are well prepared to defend their lands and as soon as the Acrean is starting to feel ashamed, it is already starting to appear in the world of news.
Look at the politicians here, real parasites who only [?] their personal interests. Last year, my own opposition companions on my bench denounced me and accused me of being subversive and that I was mobilizing workers for an armed struggle, have you thought that the opposition is now with the disguised opening but we are together with the few authentic ones organizing the popular front, an organization created within the pmdb. The [?] of the mdb, this organization aims [?} in its ranks only those who are committed to popular struggles.
I've been facing serious problems with the federal police a few months ago I was subjected to several hours of interrogation but meanwhile the fight goes on I'm holding monthly meetings with rural workers, Claudio is always by my side. Now we have great support from comrades from Rio Branco who have just arrived from the South.
Look, I have many things to tell you, but time is short. I'm going to a meeting in the interior with Roberto and the Marines. they'll tell you better how things are moving here.
Look send me your address then I want to send you some newspapers that talk about our walk here. Comrade we look forward to your coming here any time we need people like that to help us with something.
Look, that day when you boarded the bus to travel, the police chief came to my side and asked who these guys are?... I replied they are my friends students, he then said like this, I should arrest them right now, at this time Renata knocked a photo he was next to me. Days later he promised me 6 shots in the head until we got a signed bass with hundreds of signatures against him, so they transferred him to Rio Branco.
Comrades, here I end by wishing you all the best.
A comrade socialist hug
Councilman Francisco Mendes
Chico Mendes was a pioneer in the defense of the Amazon, the environment and sustainable development.
Of modest social origin, Chico Mendes (1944 – 1988) was the son of farmers who worked in latex production in Acre. He learned to read, an exceptional fact in this region, and began to act against the construction of the Trans-Amazon road, dams, deforestation and the introduction of cattle, still in the 1970s. These practices resulted in the persecution of indigenous tribes and brought catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem of Amazon.
In his life as an activist, Mendes participated in the founding of the National Council of Rubber Tappers. In addition, in 1987, he would travel to the United States to meet with members of the World Bank; proposed that the construction of highways be stopped and that natural reserves be created so that the flora of the Amazon rainforest and the Amerindian tribes could be protected. In the same year, it received the Global 500 award from the United Nations and also won the Best World Society Award, created by Ted Turner, from CNN.
Like other Brazilian activists – like Wilson Pinheiro, who died in 1980 –, Chico Mendes was murdered on December 22, 1988, in Xapuri (Acre). In 1990, landowners Darcy and Darly Alves da Silva were convicted of the murder and sentenced to nineteen years in prison.
After his death, several million hectares of Amazon rainforest were declared "extraction reserves" in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. He inspired UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Program and GREENPEACE, whose member Paul McCartney paid tribute to him on his album Flowers in the Dirt, with the song How Many People , written in 1989.
Thirty years later, Chico Mendes' daughter tries to resume her father's fight. Elenira is thirty-four years old and studied administration and management of natural resources. She denounces that in the extractive reserves, created by her father, the inhabitants still find it difficult to live with dignity and that: “those who, at the time, destroyed the forest, continue to do so.”
For more detailed information about the activist, watch this documentary about his life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoTHmdqz6lw