terça-feira, setembro 05, 2006

VANESSA: A Day in Amazonia

Without a doubt, Amazonia is a region of enormous contrasts that awakens many feelings in people; passion and indignation are two of these feelings. The journey of Vanessa Sequeira, 36, to Acre was inspired by a passion and desire to make a difference, to do something significant. Vanessa had vast experience working in traditional rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon, and saw working in Acre as a new path to increasing her understanding and contributing upon her past research. Sadly, this same path led to her brutal murder Sunday night (09/04/06) in a small rural community in the municipality of Sena Madureira.

This Tuesday marks Amazon Day, a day for commemorating and celebrating the Amazon region and its people. But today also marks the day that the principal agencies are notifying Vanessa’s family of her death. There have already been many headlines of those killed: rural workers, environmental leaders, and now this year, 2 foreign researchers. When does it end? What can be done? It seems to me that everything is adrift, and the questions that should be raised are not only about immediate justice for the victim, because the criminal will be made a prisoner (and has already been apprehended as a suspect), but instead we need to look at the current crisis of humanity and the cheap value given to human life today in Amazonia and in the country as a whole.

We had several conversations via email before Vanessa left for Acre, and talked about where she was would develop her research in Acre. Vanessa initially wanted to develop her research in both the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve and in a colonization project in Brasiléia, comparing these models of land-use. Upon her arrival in Acre, she resolved to explore other areas where research was badly needed and instead decided to work in the municipality of Sena Madureira, because it was an area in Acre where little research had been completed regarding the development of non-timber forest products. As a result, Vanessa was the first researcher to develop research on the Riozinho Settlement Project.

My last conversation with Vanessa was via Skype about 2 months ago when she wanted to discuss the questionnaire she would be using in the communities where she was working. We spent about 2 hours talking about her research and life in Rio Branco. She liked to go to the Gameleira on the bank of the Rio Acre, and walk in the park in the early evening. She also liked to stay at home. She told me about the time when while in the field, a burglar broke into her house. Fortunately, she had hidden her laptop, and was very happy upon her return to find that the thief had not found her computer. It amused her, and she relayed this story lightly, laughing a lot. Perhaps I am speaking of this side of the Vanessa I knew, because I do not want to think of the sad news that has been published throughout the newspapers of Brazil today, the day we “commemorate our Amazon Day.” We are so far from having something to celebrate.

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