World Social Forum – The course of an event

For those who did not know that this year Belém was the seat of the World Social Forum (WSF) the participants of the forum could easily be taken for tourists on holiday in the capital of Pará. The campus of the Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia (Ufra = Federal Agriculture University of the Amazon) – one of the main centres for this event – seemed more like a vacation colony. At least until the debates started. On the campus it was quite normal to see people walking around in swimming trunks, without shirt and carrying articles, which are typical part of a Brazilian summer, such as sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, bottles with mineral water and other paraphernalia reconciling with the intense heat.

In the youth camp, where about 12 thousand youngsters were camped – the crowds grew with the arrival of the participants – but none succeeded to sleep in the tents for a long time. Already in the early hours of the morning, the sun and the heat made sure that those who were planning to sleep longer fled their tent. “At night, as it gets still and quiet and with a touch of wind and no noise. But in the morning it is unbearable,” said Oliveira Sebastião, an economist from Mato Grosso.

The access road to the World Social Forum on the campus of the UFRA was transformed into a camelódromo (a collection of stalls). The products on offer were as varied as the variety of races walking the tarmac road to the encampment. It was said that the caiapó indian Bep, divided his attention between the discussions in the Indian Tent and his stall outside. At noon there was a long row of people, interested getting painted a certain part of their body with indian designs. Each painting took BRL 5 (€ 1.70).

Caiapó Bep was in Belém since Sunday with 60 caiapó indians from the Aldeia Kokocuedan, situated on the banks of the Rio Branco in Ourilândia do Norte. The village is located 100 kilometres from the city centre. The first difference Bep noticed was the weather. “Very hot. Even poor.”

Is the weather hot and all bad for the caiapós of Kokocuendan, the food served in their hostel, installed in the public school Mário Barbosa is even worse. “Many bad things, such as meat. Indians don’t eat this. Our meal is rich,” he said, reciting the ingredients of a good meal in the village: “many sweet potatoes, macaxeira, banana and fish.” Many indian children and adults had problems with the ‘urban’ menu resulting in diarrhoea.

Despite bad weather and bad food, life at the WSF was softened for Bep and his tribe by the gaining of some money. He and three other indians reserved time for body painting. Some asked just a simple painting, but the caiapós invoiced like ‘gringos’. The paint is made with the juice of the genipapo, roasted and grated, mixed with water and charcoal. The painting stays for 7 to 15 days.

At both sides of the entrance stalls with handicrafts, art crafts, typical regional meals, snacks and other types of objects were erected. A colourful fair.

On the campuses of the universities, you could see it all – or almost all. In the tents, ……. read the full story and see more images of the event.