Cuiabá – In the large landscape of South America, there is a beautiful and popular destination for various adventure-seekers from all over the globe: Brazil. There are surprises in store for anyone, from its coastlines to its cities. However, more than simply a usual place for tourist activities and stunning sceneries, the country is also home to different ethnicities with their own indigenous territories. Living at the heart of one of the many local areas in the country are one of the indigenous groups who are trying to keep their culture intact—the Bororo of the Mato Grosso region.
Mato Grosso and the Village Court
Located in west central Brazil, Mato Grosso serves as home for the Bororo people, who are known speakers of the last surviving Bororo language linked to the Jê/Gê languages. The locations of their communities as well as the way of their traditional settlements have changed over time, along with the use of their language. According to anthropologists, the territory of the Bororo, especially those from the Western regions, went as far as present-day Paraguay. However, through acculturation and changes in the surrounding areas, the communities there have ceased to exist.
Nevertheless, what many know about the currently active Bororo communities is linked to the traditional distribution of their houses. As the name Bororo means “village or people’s court,” the members build their communities following a particular pattern. They have a circular distribution of their houses, with the court as the center of their village. It is the place for various communal activities, assemblies, and even rituals.
The Bororo’s village courts are more than a place for their ceremonial services. It serves as a symbol of their complex social organization. The structure also follows their traditional political structure, which focuses on the roles of village head and the shaman: the Boe eijemera (war lord and village representative); the Bári (shaman of the spirits and nature); and the Aroe Etawarare (shaman of the dead souls). However, as the Bororo people continue moving from one place to the next, many villages are left abandoned while the others are integrated with more regional characteristics.
Constant Interaction, Assimilation, and Challenges
Even in the drive to keep the Bororo people’s culture and tradition, it is not easy to restrict their interactions with Brazilians. These interactions have brought assimilation to the communities as more members of their group communicate and gradually live with the Brazilians over time. Even in the community’s political system, the Boe eijemera now represents the village to the outside world, including Brazilian society.
Moreover, other struggles threaten the preservation of this indigenous group’s culture and tradition. There are continuous environmental and settlement concerns affecting the rituals practiced by the communities. Nevertheless, there are organizations and mission works that try to help in every way possible to make sure that the communities survive the changing times while maintaining their unique cultural identity.
Image from Vít Hassan, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vithassan/