Brazil - The Xavante and their relationship with Nature

25 August 2017

(ANS - Nova Xavantina) - The territory inhabited by the Xavante of Mato Grosso, Brazil, is hilly with large highland plateaus. The flora consists of tropical forest and wormwood, the savanna with low-pitched plants. This natural environment is their "cosmic house", part of the same intimate life, and inspiration of ritual and religious symbolism. Seasonal rhythms mark collective life, both in hunting and harvesting, in terms of nutrition, ritual and religious life, and migrations.

The Xavante procure food through four types of activity: hunting, fishing, agriculture and gathering; the first two are exclusively masculine activities, the third involves both men and women, while the latter is reserved for women. Typical products are corn, beans, manioc, pumpkin and tubers.

The two basic foods in their cuisine are meat and corn, with which buns are prepared. Other foods include beans, pumpkin cooked in ash or boiled, potatoes, palmito, or heart of palm, and two varieties of coconut whose pulp and seed, rich in vegetable oils, are eaten.

Living in an unspoiled natural environment, the Xavante possess, in their language, the "science of the concrete" with a rich variety of shades and innuendo. Sometimes the language assumes an onomatopoeic musicality, as in the case of the phrase "rain is falling" translated as "tã tet'ta à", which seems to reproduce the sound of raindrops on the ground.

The richness of their culture and the beauty of their near-pristine territories, however, does not eliminate the problems they are facing: especially from the health and nutritional point of view, there is a need for help and interventions. The Salesian Mission Office of Turin is currently committed to supporting an expansion and renewal program of the small local pharmaceutical laboratory.

Respecting local tradition, the plan is to start a more structured production of herbal remedies that are based on locally available herbs, plants and fruits, which would then be distributed in the villages by specialized personnel within a Health Ministry Program launched with CIMI, the Indigenous Missionary Council, which deals with the protection of the ethnic groups of Mato Grosso.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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