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The Brazilian Far West

O Cruzeiro reported on the government expeditions to the Xingu, seen as a vast far-west, to be tamed by new bandeirantes who would bring civilization to the country’s wild interior. The best the indigenous population could hope for was to act as spear-carriers, as proposed in the caption for the José Medeiros’ classic photo: “The indian helps progress.”

The cruelest side of this coverage appears in the series about the marriage of Diacuí, a young Kalapalo, to the sertanista Ayres Câmara Cunha. Assis Chateaubriand himself arranged the ceremony at Candelária church in Rio de Janeiro. The magazine pursued the story excitedly for months, until Diacuí’s untimely death during childbirth.

There was still room in the magazine for other approaches. At the invitation of the Villas Bôas brothers, Henri Ballot and reporter Jorge Ferreira wrote detailed accounts of culture in the Xingu, which served as support for a public campaign calling for demarcation. In 1961, Ferreira became the first director of the Xingu Indigenous Park.