Black People Saved This Brazilian Rainforest

Waterfall in forest
Briona Lamback
September 28, 2023

The sun cut through the tree’s canopies, beaming down with vigor to rest on their shoulders. They preserved, likely with aching backs, for over a decade, planting seeds that would bloom for future generations of our people.

 Eleuterio, Constantino, Manuel, Mateus, Leopoldo, and Maria spent 13  years in the 1860s planting more than 100,000 seedlings to preserve one of the largest urban greenscapes in the world, Brazil’s Tijuca Forest. 

Rio de Janiero was facing a water crisis brought about by the coffee plantations that their fellow enslaved people worked on. These plantations destroyed the rainforest, and with few trees, the city was in danger of running out of water.

While they were overseen by the government officials who enslaved them, the group used skills that transcended the throes of bondage. Like many of us, they intrinsically tapped into ancestral knowledge never fully forgotten. 

For centuries our people have respected the natural world, understanding the delicate dance we’re constantly in with this planet.

Today, the capital is one of Brazil's bustling metropolises. The lush forest freshens the air, helping to moderate the temperatures. Beautiful waterfalls and one of Rio's most popular sites, the Christ the Redeemer statue, stand tall with its roots planted in the forest the Tijuca saved.

Like Rio, many places worldwide are only what they are today because of us. We’ve always had the skills and indigenous knowledge to imagine and build beautiful things.

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