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Letter from the editor | 141

Their lack of awareness and ours

When we talk about certain foreigners’ fantasies about Brazil, such as monkeys freely promenading in its main cities, we generally do so indignantly, or frankly unaccepting of their lack of knowledge about us. Actually, not long ago, some such fantasies were seen  in an episode of “The Simpsons”, that award winning American TV series and repository of humor, which generated great controversy in Brazil, regarding its disrespectful – or not – content regarding our country. In sum, in the episode “Blame it on Lisa”, from 2002, the Simpsons traveled to Rio de Janeiro looking for Ronaldo, an orphan they had planned to adopt who had mysteriously disappeared. Once in Rio, the Simpsons (the excellent brainchild of Matt Groening) were attacked by monkeys on Copacabana, whereas Bart Simpson was gobbled up by a boa constrictor on the Sugar Loaf, and many other such incidents. At the time, there was a lot of discussion as to whether these adventures rekindled old prejudices about Brazil or whether, on the contrary, being part of a comic show, they were actually poking fun at the deep-rooted  international stereotypes of the country.

I recall this because of this issue’s cover feature, starting on page 34, which also caused us to insert at the end of the magazine a novel map, a gift to our readers from the Biota-FAPESP program and the Environment Bureau. The article by our special editor Carlos Fioravanti starts with an 11-map set, of which three are general and 8 are thematic, defining the guidelines for conserving native vegetation, restoring damaged areas and conducting environmental research in the state of São Paulo. It is interesting to read that Fioravanti’s first sentence is “get ready for surprises”. He then explains that only some 300 km away from the state capital one can still find jaguars and pumas,  beautiful cougars, marsh deer and tuiuiú storks in the midst of novateiro ant trees and buriti palms. Additionally, in another region at a similar distance, there is a forest of pitanga trees (Surinam cherries), jabuticaba fruit trees and araçazeiros (strawberry guava trees), besides all sorts of other fruit trees that provide lots of food for monkeys and birds. Now what citizen of Brazil or São Paulo would envisage this when thinking about this state? So perhaps it is worth reflecting on our infinite ignorance of ourselves before becoming indignant about the ignorance  others hold about Brazil.

As we have just mentioned monkeys, I must recommend the article of our assistant science editor, Maria Guimarães, about the great diversity of sizes and types of primates in Latin America, due to natural selection, starting on page 46. On the technology front, we have an article by editor Marcos de Oliveira that seriously competed for the position of this issue’s cover feature. Starting on page 66, Marcos talks about five remote control aquatic robots currently being developed in Brazil to explore the bottom of the sea, rivers, lakes and reservoirs in areas as distant from each other as the Amazon region and Antarctica. He affably tells us that “they don’t talk and are nothing like the body, two arms and two legs of a human image, but they can go where man has never been or would find it very difficult to get to.”

Finally, I would like to highlight Gonçalo Junior’s article with Miguel Boyayan’s lovely photos about the magnitude of the nationwide struggle for the ownership of their land by communities of quilombolas, (the descendents of the runway slaves whose settlements are know as quilombos), a struggle to which Brazilian society has not yet awakened. National anthropology has something to say about this and actually has not failed to discuss the issue. Note that it is no accident that this article is published now: it takes advantage of the newest holiday in the São Paulo state calendar, Black Awareness Day (November 20), to help reduce a little our great ignorance about quilombolas and certain hidden facets of Brazilian society.