Schools in the Forest: How Grassroots Education Brought Political Empowerment to the Brazilian Amazon

ISBN 10: 1565493508 / ISBN 13: 9781565493506
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Synopsis: Beginning in the 1960s, the Brazilian government aggressively developed the Amazon, opening the rainforests up to ranchers and loggers who began clear-cutting at a rapid pace. The indigenous subsistence farmers already living in these areas either fled to the city or found themselves beholden to rich speculators bent on destroying the very foundation of their livelihoods. From these circumstances arose Projeto Seringueiro (Project Rubber Tapper), a radical educational experiment based on the ideas of Paulo Freire that was initially designed to simply bring literacy to the rubber tappers, but grew into much more by helping them claim their political rights, preserve their cultural heritage and defend their forest habitat.

Schools in the Forest narrates the history of Projeto Seringueiro and gives voice to its principal actors. It explains how the rubber tappers and their allies managed to succeed despite ferocious opposition, and the new set of challenges the organization faced after that success. Though the Projeto Seringueiro experience was a unique response to specific circumstances, many of its features were adopted in other parts of the world. The rubber tappers story shows that threatened communities can organize, form alliances and advocate on their own behalf. In the trajectory of empowerment, no tool has been more important than that of literacy.

About the Author: Denis Heyck received her Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from the University of London, Kings College. She is currently a Professor of Spanish Language and Literature in the Modern Languages department at Loyola University Chicago. Her research interests include nonformal education in Latin America, the effects of globalization on traditional cultures in Latin America, the role of civil society in Latin American culture, gender, and development in Latin America, religion in contemporary Latin American culture, and environmental issues in Latin America.

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