There’s a reason why Sonia Guajajara has made history as the indigenous woman to have “gone furthest in the Brazilian political structure since the Portuguese landed in 1500.” The former Vice Presidential candidate’s words pack a punch, a simmering rage that is entirely in keeping with a community on the edge of a breakdown. She’s charismatic, engaging, clear: someone built to explain, built to lead.
Guajajara has been labelled “one of the strongest indigenous and environmental leaders in the world today”; has won regional and national awards for her coordinating work during recent forest fires; and even facilitated a meeting between then Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and indigenous leaders in 2013.
In her role as Executive Coordinator of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, Guajajara has connected more than 305 ethnicities on an agenda to protect indigenous rights. She’s managed to maintain that network even in the face of some of the most powerful sectors of Brazil.
A profile by Spanish newspaper El Pais reveals that she grew up in an indigenous reserve, one of 12,000 people across 170 villages in a society filled with “strong, warrior women.” A charity recognised her intellect and sent her to a rural school — where she continued to excel and eventually work in a variety of roles, including as a teacher and a nurse.
Similar to David Guarani, she reached national prominence in a high-profile speaking event. She joined the stage with Alicia Keys during 2017’s packed Rock in Rio concert, and the next day was in the press and offered a position as the vice president of the Socialism and Freedom party.
Although her bid for high office was not successful, Guajajara continues to be an intensely powerful advocate for indigenous rights through appearances in the Brazilian senate. Recent meetings have seen her issue a fiery challenge to Government comments that indigenous people should stop being ‘miserable’ when they have access to large swathes of land that they do not use ‘productively’. She is a thorn in the Government’s side, a constant voice for hope and unity against the tide of corporate greed.Tags: Amazon Rainforest, Bolsonaro, Brazil, deforestation, Fires, Indigenous