Indian Day is celebrated in Brazil on April 19

Dear Editor,

Every year on the 19th of April the Indigenous people of Brazil celebrate Dia do Índio (in  English it means Indian Day). This commemorative day was created in 1943 by President Getúlio Vargas and decreed by law, number 5540.

The history of the Indian Day begins in 1940, the year in which the First International Indigenous Congress took place in the city of Patzcuaro, Mexico. This convention, made up of representatives of several South American countries, was designed to discuss ways of protecting indigenous rights across the continent. Several indigenous leaders were invited to the event. Although initially they did not accept the invitation because of a certain mistrust, in the end they effectively attended the meeting.

The participation of several indigenous leaders after they understood the importance of that historical moment, occurred on April 19, which was later chosen in Brazil as the Day of the Indian or Dia do Índio in Portuguese. Even though every day is considered Indian Day for the indigenous people in Brazil, on April 19 annually, they usually revisit and reflect on their colonial history where they remember that they were already inhabiting Brazil before the Portuguese arrived there in 1500. From this date, they saw disrespect and the diminution of their populations. Sadly this process still occurs, with the mining and exploitation of natural resources where many indigenous peoples are losing their lands.

Celebrating Dia do Índio on April 19 is designed to raise awareness of the importance of the indigenous population, their history, the preservation of their pride and the identity of a people who are not giving up the struggle.  While on the flipside, as a result of being resilient to subordination since colonial times, the Indigenous people’s ancestors in Brazil left great legacies that contributed to Brazilian post-independence culture, beginning with the influence of words in the Brazilian Portuguese language, many of which have an indigenous origin, and influenced the cuisine, music and folklore, among other examples.

Happy Dia do Índio to all Brazil and to my indigenous brethren over there.

Yours faithfully,

Medino Abraham

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