In the Amazon, indigenous voters have faces painted in support of Lula

In the Amazon, indigenous voters have faces painted in support of Lula


In the Brazilian Amazon, members of an indigenous community painted their faces and donned traditional feather headdresses as they set out to vote in the hard-fought presidential election on Sunday.

The Satere-Mawe of Sahu-Ape village say it is important to them to vote in what many say are the most important elections in Brazil’s recent history.

From their wooden houses, they set off on foot to the county seat of Iranduba, 80 kilometers from Manaus, the capital of the northern state of Amazonas.

But before they head to their polling station, they paint their faces with red and black arrows, a symbol of their mission: to unseat far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and elect veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Satere Mawe men wear feather headdresses, the women colorful feather earrings.

As they leave the village, Beth da Silva blows a “rurru,” an indigenous instrument traditionally used in wartime rituals.

This time, “it’s not asking for strength, but to help us achieve our goal: elect Lula and change Brazil,” she says.

“We have suffered a lot in the last four years.”

A community shaman, Sahu da Silva, 42, says it is “very important” for former President Lula (2003-2010) to win a third term.

“He at least tried to protect our ancestral lands,” he says.

Bolsonaro, on the other hand, took office in 2019 and vowed not to allow “another inch” of protected indigenous reserves in Brazil.

Indigenous Brazilians have been fierce critics of the conservative ex-army captain who is commanding a wave of destruction and fires in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and a key resource in the race to halt global warming — as well as the livelihoods — of many indigenous peoples.

“Lula knows how much we need a better quality of life,” says Zelinda Araujo, 27.

“This man who is in power now doesn’t even look at us little people. He does not know what we need in our daily life.”

Lula, a former metalworker who grew up in poverty, “is different,” she says.

“He knows what it’s like to fight every day. He knows how difficult it is for us.”

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