In the historic center of Manaus is one of the most interesting places in Brazil, perhaps in the world. In an old townhouse, two institutions that deserve to be widely known work at the same time.
At the back is Biatuwi, the first Indigenous Food House in Brazil. There, Clarinda Ramos, cook of the Sateré-Mawé people, prepares the meals that make up the beautiful menu. Fillet of tambaqui puquecado, quinhapira of matrinxã fish, maniwara farofa (a type of ant) and so on.
Dona Clarinda does all of this as she prepares to enter a doctorate in anthropology. After all, she already has a master’s degree in anthropology, from the Federal University of Amazonas, with a work on the musicality of the Sateré-Mawé people. Dona Clarinda not only opened the first indigenous food house in the country, but she is part of the first generation of anthropologists belonging to the original peoples of Brazil. Incorporating the theoretical tools of science that was formed in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, she studies and analyzes the customs of her people and others for herself, and goes further.
After tasting Biatuwi’s food, I commented to her that many people must see the habit of eating ants as “exotic”. Upon closer inspection, we see that he comes from a life in tune with the forest, the seasons and the environment. Everything we’ve lost. In this context, exotic is actually eating sausage and other ultra-processed industrialized foods, which are the opposite of any harmony with the environment or nature. I told all this to Dona Clarinda, who seemed to agree.
In front of the same house there is the Bahserikowi Indigenous Medicine Center. The center offers natural treatments and remedies from peoples from the upper Rio Negro. At its origin is João Paulo Barreto, from the Tukano people (also an anthropologist), and a trauma.
In 2009, Luciane Barreto, his niece, was bitten by a snake and taken to a hospital in São Gabriel da Cachoeira. Once there, the medical team determined that it would be necessary to amputate the girl’s foot. In the Tukano’s view, it is difficult to understand a medical procedure that removes a part of the body. The family then began to argue with the team for the patient to be treated combining medicine with traditional indigenous knowledge, which was not accepted.
After a clash, in which one of the doctors even said that “he had studied eight years to decide what was best for his granddaughter, while he hadn’t studied a single day”, the issue was decided with the support of the Ministry Federal Public, which allowed joint treatment. The girl has fully recovered, today she is 26 years old and has children. From this clash, not only was the Center for Indigenous Medicine created, but several cooperation and joint research programs emerged, involving Fiocruz and other bodies.
Dona Clarinda and João Paulo had the greatness to follow the path of European sciences to help their understanding of the world. Few people have the greatness to follow the established path, allowing science to dialogue with traditional knowledge.
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