We headed out to the Governor’s office, where the protest was happening. It's already been 15 days since it began, about 250 Pai Tavytera Indians camping in front of Governor's office to protest the 15 million de Guaranies (About $4,000 USD) that was embezzled by the Government which had been allocated to the Indians, to combat the deadly dengue fever and provide school lunches for their children.
This time was different; there was no one at the microphone, no one standing upon the two raised planks that made up the makeshift stage. There were only people making food and huddling next to the fire for warmth. As we got closer, we saw a group of kids. They stood in a perfect line, waiting to be given a winter coat by the elders who were distributing clothing which had been donated.
I asked to speak to the leaders. A woman then picked up the mic and asked for Oscar or Lorena. ”There are people looking for you here!” She announced. I noticed all eyes fixed upon me now. Everyone seemed to stop their conversations to turn to see who these strangers were, and I could see their eyes staring at me and my camera. My heart sank, and I honestly feared I was going to be taken prisoner because I had been warned before that they didn't like people with cameras. People kept looking at me with my camera in hand, pointing me out to others who gave me some pretty hard stares. The seconds passed tortuously slow, my feelings of unease increasing until I recognized a familiar face. It was Na Silva’s Husband, and he was doing a Ritual Dance. He flashed me a smile, and I knew instantly we would be alright. Then Oscar and Lorena arrived, and received me with a big hug. They celebrated my presence, which immediately defused the tension and put the crowd of protesters at ease about my presence. Some people still looked a bit puzzled by my presence, and looked at Oscar and Lorena as though questioning them for allowing me to remain. Eventually Lorena took to the stage spoke over the microphone what I could only assume was something like: ”These guys here are cool, they have come to help us!” The Guarani they spoke was different from what I was familiar with. It was a much purer and perhaps older dialect that was not used by everyday Paraguayans.
We recorded the speech and crowds, and one of the leaders asked if we had enough footage and we could finish, because its was ice cold and there were so many women and children under the weather. I said of course, and one of the leaders said something to equivalent as “AT EASE!” The crowd then dispersed. I got down from stage and asked if I could do mini interviews for our documentary, they agreed and so we continued with our filming. As we started to do individual interviews, the cops noticed how much commotion we were making, and decided to show their presence so they started to drive around the block over and over with their lights on. One of the leaders told me in private that they have been threatened, and had some of their property stolen or destroyed, but the cops failed to give importance, or even to file a report. He said “the cops have been bought already, they are here to protect the buildings not the people” The sense of unease came back when the riot police arrived with shields, but it was a way for the police to mark their presence.
One of the leaders said “While we were outside, they started the fire and burned our home, and that is a big deal for us, losing that house is akin to losing our grandparents, our parents,... I feel so much sorrow to see that our cultures is not being respected.” The incident of the embezzlement of money, the burning of the sacred hut, and the cold weather has made our contacts a bit weary to talk about the ancient rock art, since there is so much going on right now, but we persevere to continue our documentary.We left the protest with the footage we wanted, and we started to think about the social issues at play. The families camping on below freezing temperature under tarps, the resentment of a people who get their voice distorted by the media, the money that was supposed to go to help them. When we set out to do this documentary, we knew the plight of the Pai Tavytera indians was of dire poverty and being forsaken by the local authorities, but this protest has show us that things are not getting better. The Pai tavytera had left the reservations under the elements in order to protest, and they stay there under the cold dew that falls at night. Like the rock art left and forgotten in their sacred hills.