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About a thousand years ago, the Yanomami inhabited the highlands of the Parima Mountains, which mark the border between Brazil and Venezuela, where Brazil’s highest mountain, the Yaripó (original name of Pico da Neblina), is located. After the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, the Yanomami descended and dominated the valleys, as their inhabitants were decimated by the invaders. With about 38,000 inhabitants (27,000 in Brazil and 11,000 in Venezuela), they are the world’s largest population including other isolated Indigenous people. Among the six Yanomami languages, the most widely spoken are Yanomam (12,000 speakers), Yanomami (9,000), and Sanoma (3,000). Mirella Ricciardi visited the Yanomami territory in 1990. She stayed at the residence of Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa Yanomami. Under Kopenawa’s leadership, the Yanomami were fighting for the demarcation of their territory. The federal government proposed to divide it into zones around the communities, which would perpetuate the intense invasion of gold miners. The struggle of Indigenous peoples and society has reversed this. Invaders were expelled, and the Terra Indígena Yanomami [Yanomami Indigenous Land] was demarcated in 1992. In 2022, thirty years later, the Yanomami suffered the height of the new mining invasion, which caused the recent humanitarian tragedy, unthinkable even in light of what happened in 1990.

All photos belong to the Vanishing Amazon collection, 1990 Mirella Ricciardi / Vanishing Africa Ltd ©

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