Nacho Doce—Reuters

Sônia Guajajara’s parents couldn’t read, and she had to leave home at age 10 to work. Despite this, she defied statistics and managed to graduate university. From an early age, she fought forces that have been trying to exterminate her community’s roots for over 500 years. Sonia resisted and she continues to resist today: against machismo, as a woman and a feminist; against the massacre of Indigenous peoples, as an activist; and against neoliberalism, as a socialist. In 2018, she became the first Indigenous woman to appear on a presidential ticket in Brazil. Today, as executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, Sônia Guajajara is on the front line of the fight against the Bolsonaro government’s attempt to destroy Indigenous lands, along with the Amazon rain forest. Her work ranges from attending COP26—which created a $1.7 billion fund for Indigenous peoples and local communities recognizing their essential work protecting land and forests from degradation—to recent months when she led thousands-strong protests, bringing together hundreds of Indigenous ethnic groups, which have helped to stall a “death package” of anti-Indigenous legislation. She has also brought national attention to the trampling of Indigenous rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sônia is an inspiration, not just for me, but for millions of Brazilians who dream of a country that settles its debts with its past and finally welcomes the future.

Boulos is a coordinator at the Homeless Workers’ Movement of Brazil

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