By MATTHEW DOTY, age 11
- I was born on December 15, 1944, on a rubber reserve called Seringal Bom Futuro outside of Xapuri in northwestern Brazil.
- I grew up in the the forest surrounding the Amazon River and was the oldest of 18 children.
- When I was 9 I started going into the Amazon rainforest with my father to tap the trees for latex everyday.
- When I was growing up, schools were not allowed on rubber tree plantations. Plantation owners were afraid that if workers knew how to read, write and do math, they would realize that they were being paid unfairly. However, I learned how to read anyway when I was 18.
- In addition to being involved with the local rubber tappers union, I helped to create the National Council of Rubber Tappers in the mid-1980s.
- When Amazon deforestation projects began to threaten the rainforest, I brought the cause of the rubber workers and importance of the rainforest to the attention of the world through the labor union.
- I helped to come up with a system to preserve the rainforest by creating “extractive reserves” which saved certain areas of the forest for rubber and nut harvesting. This limits deforestation, while enabling local communities to use the forest in a sustainable way.
- I built schools for my community in the extractive reserve so that children would be well-educated.
- My work blended a struggle for both workers’ rights and environmental protection.
- I was murdered on December 22, 1988, by a cattle rancher who wanted to cut down trees on one of the “extractive reserves.”
Rubber tapping: the process of removing latex from rubber trees by cutting into its bark and collecting the latex as it oozes out. The latex can then be used to make natural rubber.
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ANSWER: Chico Mendes