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Wednesday’s Wise Woman … Maninha Xucura

July 25, 2012


In 1966, the village, Xucuru Kariri in Palmeira dos Indios, the state of Alagoas  was born Etelvina Santana da Silva, she became known as Maninha Xucuru. She was recognised and respected because she was born into a family of warriors; her grandfather was Chief Alfredo Celestino. Who travelled endlessly and worked hard to collect and return the rights of  the lands taken from his ancestors by farmers and landowners. Although in the 1950 her family were able to retain a small area of land; the village was recaptured.
As a girl Maninha  wanted to become a doctor to care for her people. Thus committed to the best education her family could provide. She had to walk every day in the sun and rain, about seven miles to school.
In 1978, aged 12, her family managed to reclaim a piece of land in the village of Mata Cafuia; where she attended high school. Then she moved to Recife  where she obtained a scholarship funded by the FUNAI;  she became a student of a preparatory course at  the college.The joy, was short lived. The government agency responsible for the Indians had only paid two monthly installments!
Maninha worked as a clerk; but it was poorly paid and she had difficulty living in the city. Urbanisation was not part of the her plan.  It was a difficult situation for  many the Brazilian Indians since the the beginning of the colonisation process of the country they had been forced off their land and deprived of their cultures.
1989 was a watershed in the life of Maninha. While  participating in a rally organized by indigenous leaders from different ethnic groups she believed that she was not helping her people by becoming a doctor.  Especially as her people were divided and fighting  each other for a small piece of land; she decided to return to the village.  She became fully involved in the reallocation of land and the construction of health posts and schools in villages that continue today.
In the 1990s Maninha continued to raise awareness of the plight of indigenous tribes; she joined the founding group of the Association of Indigenous Peoples.
She was the first woman to participate in this male dominated association; she faced prejudice and struggled to get her voice heard and to enforce her ideas. During this time the biggest concern were the constant death threats from the disgruntled landowners..
Maninha with a group of 21 women of Xucuru-Kariri in 1997 formed Inter-Tribal Committee of Indigenous Women of Alagoas.
The Committee promoted the organization and associations in the fight for women’s health, education, self-sustainability and against gender violence, involving Indian women.
For its history and activities in pursuit of justice and peace, was nominated in 2000 for the project “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize.”The project was intended to reward a thousand women around the world who, through their experiences, contributed to the study of conflicts and building peace policies.
Maninha died on October 11, 2006, having earned the respect of indigenous people from different ethnic groups and whites.  She  was buried in the old Indian cemetery of Old Church, within the lands in where she had fought with her people. By coincidence the  burial was the the land and the the day which they completed twenty years of struggle to regain.

During her life she received many honours; in 2007 she was remembered and recognised in memory of Renildo Jose dos Santos, for those who were dedicated to defending human rights.. Maninha was honoured in the category of defense of cultural identity.
For her struggle; Maninha, became an example for indigenous women, black and white and her dedication was not in vain.. She left a legacy to continue and encourage women’s organizations across the country.
Again I am humbled: this is a poor attempt using Portuguese text (of which i know nothing) and Google Translate to honour a very Wise Woman.  I would encourage feedback and added information.

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