By Carlos A. Moreno
Sepe Tiaraju, previously unknown to most Brazilians, now shares that honor with 11 other figures in the nation’s history, including an emperor, five military leaders, the inventor of the airplane and the leader of a slave rebellion.
“This acknowledgment is of great significance because Sepe has always been ignored by Brazilians and by history, because he represents Indian resistance to the occupation of their lands, a struggle that still goes on today,” scholar Jackson Antonio Lopes, coordinator of the Indigenist Missionary Council, told Efe.
Sepé Tiaraju led the fight against the Portuguese and Spanish colonial powers in the Guerras Guaraníticas (Guarani War) and was killed three days before a massacre that killed around fifteen hundred of his fellow warriors. After two hundred and fifty years of the date of his death he still remains a very influential figure in the popular imagination, considered a saint by some.
This conflict in South America resulted from the land demarcations established by the European powers with the Tratado de Madrid (1750). According to this treaty the Guarani population inhabiting the Jesuit missions in the region had to be evacuated. After one hundred and fifty years living a unique communal life, neither the prospect of returning to the forests nor moving to another place were considered as options by most mission Guaranis.