One morning, sisters Yezuhi, 6, and Yona, 3, were terrified: a sloth was inside the house. The unexpected visitor crept through the window and quickly reached the arms of the Tenethar sisters without causing him to panic. On the contrary, there was magic.
The inhabitants of the indigenous lands of Alto Rio Guama, in Pará, Yezuah, and Yuana learned from their parents and grandparents who Jungle animals do no harm and you do not need to hunt them down. The relationship with them is an ancestral relationship based on mutual care. “They have always learned that without nature and animals, nothing progresses,” says Josiane Tenethar, the girls’ mother.
“If we live in nature, all the animals that live in it should also live in it”
In addition to the sloth, they nursed a baby capybara for a while. “We don’t have pets. Laziness sometimes comes, comes home and then comes back. The capybara stayed with the girls because the village warriors found her in the woods without her mother and brought her to look after her. When he grew up, he was free and ended up with his gang,” Josiane explains.
In the indigenous areas, there are no pets as we see them in the cities. Animals live freely in the forest. Even those cared for by children or adults in the villages can return to the forest. The relationship with them is one of care and respect, balancing subsistence and luxury. Instead of puppies and kittens, macaws, macaws, turtles, monkeys, and capybaras are little playful and cuddly companions.
These animals are called xerimbabos, which in Tupi means “thing very dear”. The word appears in many historical records when there is a description of the relationship between indigenous peoples and forest animals, a term coined by the aborigines themselves. In the villages, the care and protection of everything that lives in the forest is part of the culture.
“Xerimbabo is what aborigines call their pets”
Anyone who remembers the films “Tainá – Uma Aventura na Amazônia” and “Tainá 2”, which appeared in the 2000s, certainly remembers the warrior girl and her inseparable little monkey named Catú. He was the xerimbabo of Tainá, played by Eunice Paya, who fondly remembers the viewer. “There were three monkeys for Cato’s character. They loved being on our heads and wanted to eat and mess around all the time. It was so much fun,” says Eunice.
Today, the actress who played the girl Tainá is the mother of Antônio, 9, and Aruã, 5 months. Eunice, who was born in Abaetetuba (PA) and hails from Baré, now lives in São Paulo. The boys learned what she had learned as a child in her home country. “He made it clear that animals need urgent care, such as preserving forests and rivers, because only then will they be able to survive, and that there are many ways not to destroy their natural environment,” he says.
At home, they choose their favorite animals and, whenever possible, strive to communicate with nature. “I am fascinated by the Jaguar. Aruã started this connection, but he was already with turtles, rabbits, cockatiels, cats and dogs. On the other hand, Antonio wants all the animals for him and said he would be a vet. I support him,” he says.
Xerimbabo: a connection beyond the natural
There are many meanings in the relationship between indigenous people and animals. Some people know that everything that carries life is protected by enchanted beings, mystical beings who inhabit the imagination and stories of adults and children. One of them is Curupira, which we know from legends, with rolled feet and fiery hair. This mythical being is the protector of the jungle animals. With his whistle and leaving footprints in the opposite direction, the hunter confuses. This connection between forest, rivers, and humans balances the natural and the sacred, forming a cosmology unique to each people.
For Kambeba, from the Alto Solimões region, in the Amazonas, some animals are considered sacred, so foraging for food requires a ritual. Sloths, for example, represent wisdom and cannot be killed. The jaguar represents strength. Birds are messengers – each type of song announces an event in nature. “When an aboriginal goes hunting and kills an animal for food, he purifies himself for a week because he killed a brother,” says Marcia Campeba, geographer, teacher, and writer.
“For us, animals have a soul and everything is connected in our common home.”
Marcia lives in Belém and remembers the lessons she learned as a child in the village. “From the moment we are born, we learn to talk to animals and understand the language of nature.. There in the villages, they are not caught. When they want to eat or communicate, they show up, and when they want to go to the forest, they go,” he says. She revealed in one of her books that she had always heard that she was the granddaughter of a dolphin and explained that the kambeba are known as the water people. He says: “The river is our soul and all that lives In him he is also a brother.”
His son Carlinhos, 13, has a passion for everything that comes from nature. He has a special way of observing and talking to animals and plants. “Carlinhos is autistic and the relationship he has with the family dog, for example, is an emotional one. They talk and help him a lot. When we go to the mangroves, he talks to nature and crabs. I’m starting to understand that everything is a living thing,” says Marcia.
Contact with animals began when he was very young, when Carlinhos accompanied his mother on trips to the village. “There were little monkeys, and lobsters, and parrots, and agoutis, and tapirs. This was all teaching my son respect.” Marcia explains that the boy is very focused on environmental issues and loves to talk to nature. “For him, nature responds the way they understand each other. I learn from him how to talk to her out loud or softly. I think she responds and I am happy with that connection,” he says.
It was the image of little birds that had just come out of the nest resting in Carlinhos’ hands that inspired Marcia to write the poem “Ninho na Mão”, which speaks of the purest connection between a child and an animal.
Living with animals helps us understand the world
For children, living with animals shows a sense of care, responsibility and respect. In “Xerimbabo” by Rachel de Queiroz, a writer from Ceará, children learn about animals as playmates and also as an awakening of each human’s environmental responsibility.
The benefits of this exchange in social development as well as in health. Regarding the importance of children’s contact with animals, pediatrician Daniel Baker says, When kids maintain this relationship, they realize that they are not alone in the world. In addition to, Animals favor motor, physical, and emotional development, providing moments of respite for the most anxious or shy children.
Between caresses and games, children learn how much Animals are part of a natural universe where all life matters. In or out of the jungle, a relationship with xerimbabos helps to understand that we are all nature. And that taking care of this common house is essential.
Living with animals is realizing that we don’t live alone.
In the indigenous culture, children live with monkeys, agouti, macaws, macaws and other animals that roam freely in the areas. xerimbabos is a good gaming company and is looked after with respect for a decent living.
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