Every now and then, work takes me to less well-known places. Most of this week I spent in the company of Kayapó Indians during my visit to the Capoto-Jarina Indigenous Land. The Kayapó consist of some 9.000 individuals living in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará and belong to the Jê linguistic group. A large portion of the Kayapó maintain a very traditionally style of life with little or no contact with the non-Indigenous society. Who would have thought that this trip – already fantastic in itself – would bring additional surprises to a palmeirense?
To get to the Kayapó, I first boarded a regular flight in Brasília, arriving in the city of Sinop after a quick stop in Cuiabá. From there, some three hours by car brought me to the small city of Colider – all these places situated within the state of Mato Grosso. These parts of the country are mainly populated by people from the south of Brazil, who have been and still are pushing the agrarian frontier further north. To my astonishment, both in Sinop and especially Colider I saw Palmeiras supporters everywhere. And in several commercial establishments I saw small “shrines”, like this one to your right. Of course I left my mark wherever I could.
During previous travels I’ve come to notice that Indigenous peoples in Brazil take great interest in football; after all, some of them have played their own version of it – known as Xikunahity or Hiara – for longer than can be remembered. Still, I wasn’t expecting to find many palmeirenses after having ventured 1,5 hours far in a small, chartered airplane over the dense forest between Mato Grosso and Pará. However, upon arriving at the Piaruçú Kayapó village – where a celebration was taking place with plenty of food, singing and dancing – I quickly had to re-evaluate: not only did the Kayapó seem to care about football but Palmeiras was the team of choice for many. Jerseys, shorts, bathing towels… The Palmeiras logo was everywhere to be found!
The following day I continued my journey – now by means of an open, lightweight trailer boat – down the Xingu river. Upon arriving at the Ropni village, I had the honour to meet for a few hours with chief Raoni, the 80+ “ambassador” of the Kayapó tribe and one of the greatest Indigenous leaders Brazil has ever seen. Chief Raoni continues amazingly young both in body and mind and is tirelessly seeking to protect his people and their traditional lands.
After the serious, work-related matters had been properly dealt with, I couldn’t stop myself from fetching my backpack and pull out a jersey, taking advantage of this unique opportunity together with a living legend (photo: Patrícia Benthien).
No matter what some might try to feed you, Palmeiras is a giant. Inside and outside of the state of São Paulo.