October’s big news was the “Big Dance! BIG Daaaaaaance!” in Brazil’s Acre State as guests of the Yawanawa:
Four of us set out from Sao Paulo on Oct 23: besides me there were Satya Moses and Lee Carter, residents of New Hampshire both aged 17 years, and Erick Schulz, our host in S.P:
Joaquin Phoenix had preceded us there (by some years):
We took a different route from Joaquin’s, flying into Rio Branco, then driving seven hours and proceeding by boat seven hours up river. On our way up we met Yawa, the tribe’s 98-year-old former chief, sitting bolt erect in his boat, greeting us with friendly alertness. Several days later we were introduced to his youngest son, who was born when Yawa was 75.
We made it to the village in time to pitch our tents before night fell and the festival began. Nine days of dances, rites, new experiences, late nights, multicultural gossip, no-see-um bites and hot sun ensued, each day punctuated and cooled by one or more dips in the river’s pools, including particularly the aptly-named “Pond of Love.” Our group quickly bonded with the family of Xuca, a brother of Chief Biraci, and Satya & Lee distinguished themselves repeatedly, on the field of simulated combat with banana stems, on the dance floor, in the ritual arena, and in the realm of non-shared-language communication. The night before our departure Biraci personally commended both boys on their many achievements.
Happily, none of the Yawanawa rituals involved being bitten repeatedly by bullet ants:
And lest you get the impression that it was all traditional fun and games, please note that the Yawanawa village now boasts a satellite internet connection, and that Xuca’s four children had been introduced even before our arrival to “Gangnam Style”:
which has since become the most viewed internet video ever. Those children (who study in the “outer world”) are also on Facebook; the world is indeed getting wired.
The juxtaposition of the traditional with the modern became a recurring theme during our visit, what with the recent embrace of guitars and amplification by the tribe’s musicians, and the excellent animated movie, in the local language, depicting how the tribe had been introduced to its sacred beverage “uni”. Brazil is full of surprises. On our way to Rio Branco we changed planes at the airport in Brasilia (Brazil’s capital), where I purchased a postcard of noted spiritualist and medium Chico Xavier, who was on October 3, 2012 named on the SBT television TV show O Maior Brasileiro de Todos os Tempos “the greatest Brazilian of all time”, based on a viewer-supported survey:
Like India, Brazil is a land where the non-physical world plays an important role in daily life, and one peculiar incident from the life of Chico Xavier could easily have occurred in India. Xavier was a prolific author who always maintained that his books were not written by him in the usual way but were instead dictated to him by spirits. During 1930 he published a book entitled Brasil, Coração do Mundo, Pátria do Evangelho, which he attributed to the spirit of Brazilian writer Humberto de Campos. The widow of Humberto de Campos promptly sued him, demanding that the book’s copyright be assigned to her since the book had been ‘composed’ by her dead husband. The judge held that, since it was impossible for the court to prove the existence of mediumicity, ‘copyright’ should be applied solely to a book produced while its author is alive.
Famous quote from Chico Xavier: “Although no one can go back and make a new start, anyone can start now and make a new end.” Wise words!