“Alter do Chão has a history of a matriarchal village,” explains Neca. “If you do a survey here, you’ll find that 70 percent of households are run by women.” Donna Lucia never married. “She never allowed herself to be subjugated by men,” her daughter said. “She raised us all by herself.”
Dona Lusia has a strong presence in public ceremonies, cooking, rituals, crafts and storytelling. Neca said her mother was both festive and fond of fighters. Ritual is a stressful part of these people’s lives, and the fight to keep their ritual from disappearing is a fight for their own unique way of life.
For Dona Lusia, the effort to save the traditions of her community is also a way to rediscover her childhood. When she was 10 years old, the celebration of Borari’s annual festival Sairé was banned by the Catholic Church. “It wasn’t until 1960 that people started to come together and do the Sairé ceremony again,” Neca said. “It was more about dance and ritual than prayer. There were maybe 20 of them.” As “Order“–as her daughter put it–Dona Lucia was instrumental in the effort to recapture Cere. “Our indigenous rituals, our Amazons stamp dance. All our dancing here. She prayed with all her heart, but her main concern was dancing. She has always been supportive. She dances. She enjoys it. “
Neka’s Conversation Her mother is full of stories from ancient times. One of Dona Lusia’s favorite stories to tell is the myth of Lago Verde do Muiraquitã, the lake of the community, the center of Borari mythology and everyday life. As if in tribute to her mother, Neca Borari took on the storytelling role, and when I spoke to her in late March 2020, a few days after Dona Lusia’s death, she told me about the myth of the Green Lake:
The Borari people of Alter do Chão use the moon as our mediator with the creator Tupã. We don’t count nine months to give birth; we count nine moons. If you need to cut some straw to roof your house, you can’t do it in moonlight. We only plant when the moon is strong. Fish are stronger under a full moon.
Many years ago, when our ancestors lived here, a young Indian woman disappeared from the village. So people gathered together, all the Polaris, and asked the moon to tell them where that Indian girl was. During the ceremony, the moon answered them, yes, she would show them. She will give the girl back to her.
They went to the lake, and that afternoon, a big storm started. They saw a tree rising from the middle of the lake, bearing colorful fruits and shining like lights. The tree moved by the river, floating. After a full circle, I went back to where I started. So people went to see what they could find.
Those bright fruits have changed. They turned into green frogs, and together they formed a large carpet across the lake. Hence the name Lago Verde dos Muiraquitãs. The Indian girl’s name is Naia and the tree is named the frog tree Zineira.