After Amazonians migrate to cities, they struggle to survive

Elizangela Ribero Pereira poses with some of her children in the doorway of their crowded home in Manaus, Brazil. She shares the house with nine children, ages 7 months to 22 years. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Backgrounder: Twelfth in a 13-part series

By Barbara J. Fraser
Catholic News Service

MANAUS, Brazil (CNS) — On Christmas Eve of 2015, Marcia Soares’ home was bulldozed into oblivion, and with it, her dreams for the future.

Marcela Dias de Albuquerque, right, a Caritas education specialist, talks with Marcia Soares and her daughter, Emily, 9, at the Caritas office in Manaus, Brazil. Soares and her family live in a building occupied by dozens of families whose homes were bulldozed on Christmas Eve in 2015.
(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

She and her husband had bought a small lot in a new neighborhood in a poor area of this Amazonian city. They had built a simple house and opened a small bakery, where they made bread. They dreamed of a secure future for their three children.

But that Dec. 24, as helicopters circled overhead, bulldozers arrived and leveled the neighborhood, leaving thousands of people on the street.

The person who’d sold the lots had not been the real owner of the land. Someone who claimed to be the owner — which may or may not have been true — came along and ordered the destruction of the homes, with help from the police.

“We saw the sunrise as we huddled on the ruins of our homes,” recalled Soares, 39. “It was like I imagined a war zone would be.”

Her children cried from hunger, but there was no food and no money for groceries. The nightmare continued for two weeks, as they were forced to live on the sidewalk outside the property where their home used to be.
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Guatemala’s new president faces U.S. challenges on migration

A woman in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, casts her vote during the presidential election Aug. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

By David Agren
Catholic News Service

GUATEMALA CITY (CNS) — Sunday Mass Aug. 11 at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Guatemala City included prayers for the two candidates running in that day’s runoff election and the country’s outgoing president.

A woman at the Mass said, “We pray for the next president, lawmakers and public officials so they act honestly and effectively over the next few years and they are guided by the righteousness of reason and their intentions are illuminated by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The next president of Guatemala will be Alejandro Giammattei, a former prison system director, who captured 58% of the vote after multiple failed attempts at winning public office. He decisively beat former first lady Sandra Torres. She polled well in rural areas rife with outward migration, but was polemic for her political past, which included divorcing her husband, then-President Alvaro Colom, so she could try to succeed him in 2011.

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Posted in World

Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera dead at age 87

Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, greets another cardinal during a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 28, 2018. Cardinal Obeso, who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died Aug. 11, 2019, in Xalapaat the age of 87. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis a little over a year ago, died at the age of 87.

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Obeso died Aug. 11 in Xalapa.

In 1931, he was born into a prominent family, which founded and operates one of Mexico’s main supermarket chains. Despite his upbringing, colleagues described the cardinal as austere and unassuming.

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Posted in Vatican

Families uprooted by Belo Monte reveal the dam’s dark side

Flooded by the construction of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River, dead trees stick out of the water near Altamira, Brazil. In addition to the massive displacement of tens of thousands of people, many of them indigenous people, the flooding of the forest released high levels of greenhouse gases that contribute to the climate crisis.
(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Backgrounder: Eleventh in a 13-part series

By Barbara J. Fraser
Catholic News Service

ALTAMIRA, Brazil (CNS) — Treetops poke above the surface of the lake that laps at the shore of this Amazonian town.

Joana Gomes da Silva was displaced by the flooding caused by the Belo Monte Dam near Altamira, Brazil. As compensation, her family was given a house in Altamira, but she feels it is cramped and stifling compared to the places where she lived before.
(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

“People used to live there,” said Joana Gomes da Silva, pointing to the cluster of skeletal trunks and branches. “It was a very pretty house. It’s underwater now.”

So is the place where she and her family lived. It was submerged when the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam was built on the Xingu River, creating a huge reservoir that uprooted them and inundated the fishing grounds on which their livelihood depended.

“After the dam was built, it was a year before I came back to the river,” said Gomes da Silva. “It was all different. The places where there had been houses, communities, where my neighbors had lived — it was all gone.”
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Growth threatens lifestyle in Amazon’s Afro-Brazilian societies

Narivaldo Dos Santos paddles a boat on the Ituqui River near his home in the Quilombo Bom Jardim, outside Santarem, Brazil. The Ituqui flows into the nearby Amazon River. (CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Backgrounder: Tenth of a 13-part series

By Barbara J. Fraser
Catholic News Service

SANTAREM, Brazil (CNS) — Marluce Coelho has mixed feelings about the college scholarship that has made her one of about 300 students of Afro-Brazilian descent studying at the Federal University of Western Para.

Young women practice a school play that recalls their troubled history in the Escola Sao Joao in Quilombo Tiningu, near Santarem, Brazil. Quilombos are Brazilian hinterland settlements founded by people of African origin, mostly slaves. (CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey)

“It is hard to realize that I am only able to study because my grandfather was a slave,” said Coelho, her eyes filling with tears.

Coelho, 24, is one of about 300 students at the university who are from quilombos, communities founded by slaves who escaped from forced labor or who were freed after Brazil officially abolished slavery in 1888.

But although slavery as an institution no longer exists, forms of forced labor persist in the country. And “quilombolos,” as the residents of quilombos are known, still suffer from the racism and discrimination that made the brutal slave trade possible in the first place.
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Smell, taste of sauerkraut marks successful Wisconsin parish festival

Parishioner Ali Norder dishes a spoon of sauerkraut onto Norbertine Father Tim Shillcox’s plate Aug. 4, 2019, during the 55th annual St. Mary’s Sauerkraut Festival in Bear Creek, Wis. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)

By Sam Lucero
Catholic News Service

BEAR CREEK, Wis. (CNS) — Food, music and games are all essentials for a successful parish festival but at St. Mary Parish, another key ingredient is the smell and taste of sauerkraut.

Since 1965, this farming community has been home to St. Mary’s Sauerkraut Festival, which is more than a parish fundraiser, say organizers and volunteers who describe the event as a gathering of lifelong friends.

“I just like the hometown feeling. Everybody from my childhood comes home,” said Barb Havnen, chairperson of the 55th annual sauerkraut festival, which took place Aug. 3 and 4. “Our little community comes together, whether they are part of our parish or not. We’ve got a lot of nonparish members up here helping. The community all pitches in and makes it a good day.”

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Posted in U.S.

Missionaries quest to save Amazonian indigenous languages

Women sing during Mass in St. Ignatius, Guyana. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Backgrounder: Ninth in a 13-part series

By Barbara J. Fraser
Catholic News Service

ST. IGNATIUS, Guyana (CNS) — In an open-sided circular building beside the Catholic chapel in this Amerindian village, Scarboro Father Ron MacDonell was explaining how the tongue, the teeth and the vocal cords work together to produce sounds.

Father Ron MacDonell, a Scarboro missionary from Nova Scotia, leads a workshop in St. Ignatius, Guyana. Based in Brazil, the Canadian is a linguist who helps indigenous people in the Amazon region improve their reading of the Scriptures in their own languages.
(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

His listeners, about 30 lay leaders from Macushi and Wapishana indigenous villages in Guyana’s southern Rupununi region, placed their fingers on their throats to feel the vibrations as they experimented with words.

The session was part of a two-day workshop in April to help lay leaders improve their reading of the Sunday Scriptures in their own languages during the liturgies they lead in their communities.

Clare Alexander, 40, a Wapishana resident of St. Ignatius, was practicing aloud in both languages, because this village, which adjoins the town of Lethem, on the border between Guyana and Brazil, includes people from both indigenous groups.
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