Angela Mendes: true wealth lies in having the forest intact

The activist and daughter of Chico Mendes says there has been an attempt to erase her father's history in the Amazon.


It was 34 years ago that the rubber tapper and environmentalist Chico Mendes was murdered in Xapuri, in the interior of the Brazilian state of Acre.

However, after all these years, the defender of the Amazon's ideals continue to be represented and remembered by his elder daughter, Angela.

Born in the Seringal Cachoeira in Xapuri, Angela strives to keep her father's most valuable contribution to the world alive: The idea that true wealth lies in keeping the forest intact.

People still aren't fully aware that what he was talking about is already happening. The climate crisis is one example. Faced with the current political scenario in Brazil, with threats to the environment and violence against traditional populations, it is increasingly necessary, not only for us to talk about Chico Mendes, but to act in accordance with his ideals.

Angela Mendes

One thing the activist does not lack is motivation. In recent years, the Amazon Rainforest has been pushed to its limit, presenting a scenario as dire as the one witnessed by Chico in the 1970s and '80s.

In her trajectory to keep her father's legacy alive, she acts as coordinator of the Comitê Chico Mendes, a network of the ex-rubber tapper's activists and friends.

It's important to debate climate justice because it covers a series of other factors, such as deforestation, forest fires and greenhouse gas emissions. We need people to understand that their actions have an influence on this.

Every year, she presides over Chico Mendes Week from December 15th (the environmentalist's birthday) to the 22nd (the anniversary of his death). The event's mission is to revive and promote the ideals of the champion of the environment.

In 2020, during a meeting of the leaders of traditional communities in a Xingu village, Angela, the cacique Raoni and Sonia Guajajara announced the resurgence of the Forest Peoples Alliance, created by Chico Mendes and Ailton Krenak in the 1980s, uniting indigenous peoples and the rubber tappers against their common enemies for the first time.

In an interview with PlenaMata, she said that there was an attempt to erase Chico's history. According to her, politicians from Acre with connections to agribusiness started a crusade to erase all memory of her father.

Everything that has happened with the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve is in this context of the historical erasure of my father's struggle, because the territory has all the symbolism of bearing his name and being the largest reserve in Acre. PL 6024, the bill that reduces the boundaries of the reserve, is part of the same movement.

She adds that the house in which Chico was murdered “remains shuttered, on the verge of collapse.”

In Xapuri, for example, nobody knew to capitalize on this story of resistance that was born there, of the potential that the municipality has. On the contrary, the people from the city resent us.

REPORTING Leandro Chaves EDITING Carolina Dantas PHOTOS Ramon Aquim/InfoAmazonia; archives: Dept. of Historical and Cultural Heritage - FEM/AC, Simone Giovine, Mídia Ninja. VISUAL IDENTITY Clara Borges Montage Luiza Toledo TRANSLATION Matthew Rinaldi