|Paddling the Path of Ancestors - Voice of the Xingu|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 00:00|
XINGU NATIONAL PARK, Brazil - Almost two years ago at the end of September 2010, Alfredo Villas Boas, a stand up paddler who resides on Maui and works as a lifeguard, made a tremendous journey to the jungles of Brazil to retrace the path of his ancestors, bring awareness to the indigenous people who live there and help save the ecosystem. Now there is a film, and the following outlines some of the history leading up to this trek caught on camera.
Generations prior in the early 1940's, three brothers namely Orlando, Claudio and Leonardo Villas Boas lived in Brazil and were part of a group of pioneers who set off on an expedition into the interior of the country to explore and discover uncharted land. The government had the intent of heading west for the purpose of expansion and colonization. However, by the time the Villas Boas brothers finished their time on the journey they had really discovered a new mission and desire to protect both the Xingu Tribes who lived there and the land with all its natural resources. The brothers ended up staying another 30 years to help protect and preserve the Xingu River, the indigenous people and the vast ecosystem that connects and affects 13 other countries. In 1961 the strenuous efforts by the Villas Boasa brothers were rewarded when the Xingu National Park was created to protect the land and the Indian people there.
Unfortunatley, fast forward years later and once again the Xingu Tribes faced trouble. In 1975 the Brazilian Government had their eye on the Xingu River as a great source for hydroelectric power and wanted to create what would be known as the Bello Monte Power Plant. High profile advocates such as Sigourney Weaver, Sting and others immediately began to speak out against the project. They knew that it would cause major problems to the ecosystem and destroy the Xinguanos people because their rivers would dry up creating drought and famine. On top of that there was also skepticism as to whether the power plant would even be truly efficient and serve its purpose. So far, the project has not come to pass.
With this incredible history and the difficult fight to protect the Xingu people and the lands of the Brazilian jungle, Alfredo Villas Boas decided to document the achievement of his ancestors and bring attention to the Bello Monte Power Plant project and all the harm it would do to the Xingu people. Although Alfredo was from Brazil and as a child lived among some of the aforementioned conflict, his memories did not serve him well. It was not until later in life while randomly watching a video on the Xingu tribes that he recognized a passion and connection to them. Alfredo felt a deep need to help them and knew he had a mission to fulfill in retracing the steps of his ancestors to continue to bringing attention to the very cause they had fought for so many years prior.
In order to do this, Alfredo decided to use the sport of stand up paddle. After much planning, preparation and difficult travel, Alfredo and his team completed a 60 mile paddle that took them along the same path that Orlando, Claudio and Leonardo Villas Bosas took many years prior. Alfredo was even able to meet with the same Chief (Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people) that had been with his ancestors and felt that he was able to really connect with them. In his own words Alfredo said, "I could feel the energy of my ancestors...(and) realize how arduous and important was the mission they had with these very pure people."
Surely the memories Alfredo created while on this journey will not fade as did his childhood ones, but this time he will not have to rely on memory alone. Their journey was recorded in a great short documentary that shares the incredible adventure with all of us. It is a fascinating film and truly conveys the conflicts at hand but also displays the joy of the Xingu people and their humble love. Watch them receive their first stand up paddle lessons and receive many gifts from Alfredo. It is also really interesting to hear first hand what the chief said about the preservation of the Xingu culture.
Congratulations to Alfredo and his team for fulfilling this very meaningful SUP Journey and for producing a film that conveys and shares the journey with the world.