reportage: Brazil
Brazil, rain forest fires.
Page 1/5.
Photographs by Ron Haviv.

The Yanomami by Ron Haviv.
When smoke penetrated the 40,000 square-mile jungle reservation of the Yanomami Indians of Brazil in late February this year their shamans recognized it as an ancient sign of Armageddon. The terrifying clouds and the fires from which they billowed would decimate the rain forests on which the people depended for their food and way of life. Animals would be scared off, running deeper into the forest, and the earth would dry out and be unusable as a basis for future rain forest growth.

It was the final assault of "the white man" on the earth and the earth had had enough this time. In the words of Davi Kopenawa, a celebrated protector of his people, it was because "the ground has been disturbed and when that happens, the legend says a great smoke comes and hell is close". It is an interpretation that rings true to medical and Indian expert opinion, which believes the effects of the fires on this tribe could be devastating, bringing famine and disease.

These pictures were taken in Demini about 200 miles from Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian State of Roraima,

a village of some 100 Yanomami who live in a Maloca, a large, round communal hut with an open-air center and thatched sides where at night they sleep in hammocks.

The Yanomami, who until the 1970s lived in the forest without contact with modern civilization, have faced many calamities to their existence in recent years. Today they number some 9,500 hunters and gatherers. They are the subject of numerous campaigns to save their ancient way of life from the everyday encroachment of settlers and miners.

In their quest for the riches of gold, uranium and diamonds, miners have brought with them illnesses such as measles, tuberculosis and venereal diseases and left behind stagnant pools of mercury-polluted water. The settlers, who came with the promise of land offered by the regional government, annually torched huge tracts of forest to clear for cattle grazing pasture. The slash-and-burn farming coupled with a record dry season brought on by El Nino this year conspired to produce the most devastating out of control fires ever seen in this part of the world.