By Marcelo Salazar, Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
AIDA translation of a blog originally published by ISA
Jarliel died while diving for fish in water 25 meters deep. One of his brothers blames the Belo Monte Dam, which pushed all the fish into deeper waters, forcing fishermen to follow. Before the dam, fish were plentiful in the waterfalls and shallows of the river.
Jarliel Juruna, known as Jarla, died on October 26, 2016 while diving for brown acari, a common Amazonian catfish. He was 20 years old. Jarliel was roughly 25 meters deep when he stopped breathing; his lifeless body floated to the surface. It was a tragedy for Mïratu, in the Paquiçamba indigenous territory; it was a tragedy for the Juruna people* of the Volta Grande; and it was a tragedy for the Xingu River, in the Brazilian Amazon.
He left his parents, siblings, wife, and newborn son, all in shock. They had no idea where to go or what to do next.
In near total silence, Giliarde Juruna, chief of Mïratu and one of Jarliel’s brothers, kept his gaze fixed on the forest behind the straw house that holds the community kitchen.
Another brother, Jair Juruna, known as Negão, was outraged: "We’ve never had to fish acari in such deep waters. But because of the dam, the fish that have always been right here, in the waterfalls and in the shallows, have disappeared. And we have families to support. Norte Energía [the dam-building consortium] is playing with our lives. Where are the productive projects? If things were working, we would have other jobs and we wouldn’t need to risk our lives to support our families. Now look what’s happened."
On the other side of the continent, Bel Juruna was in Peru representing her people in a meeting of Latin American indigenous leaders. She was speaking about the violence that the Belo Monte operators brought to her community and the people of the Xingu. When she heard the news, she was devastated. She wasn’t able get home in time to attend Jarliel’s burial; to say goodbye to her youngest brother, whom she had helped to raise.
Jarla was a happy and playful young man, dedicated, completing his high school degree and dreaming of college. He was one of his village’s fighters, present in many of the peaceful occupations of the Belo Monte Dam complex, fighting for the rights of the indigenous people of the Xingu.
One day, the full story behind Belo Monte will be told. The very real impacts the dam has had on the life of the people of the Xingu will be recognized.
May Jarla now join the great Mïratu fighters on another plane—and unite his efforts with those who remain on Earth to fight against Belo Monte and against other forms of destruction of the indigenous and traditional communities of the Xingu.
The Yudja, or Juruna (as they’re know in the region), live on the islands and banks of the Xingu. They are known as “proprietors of the river” for their great ancestral knowledge of its flow, and for having migrated for centuries from the mouth of the Xingu to its headwaters. Mïratu, one of the villages in Paquiçamba indigenous territory, sits roughly 10 km below one of Belo Monte’s reservoirs. The hamlet suffers various impacts from the dam, including changes in their traditional fisheries. In collaboration with (the?) Universidad Federal do Pará and ISA, and with the support of the Mott Foundation, the Juruna people are engaged in independent monitoring of their fisheries, which reveals the damages suffered in recent years. Jariel was one of the monitors in Mïratu.