April 6, 2000

Brazil's Indians fight for monument to their history

                   SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) -- Less than a month before the 500th anniversary
                   of the arrival of Portuguese explorers in Brazil, Indian tribes and government
                   officials are at war over how best to commemorate the event.

                   Officials want to throw parties and celebrate Mass at a giant cross erected on a
                   strip of beach near Coroa Vermelha village in Bahia state -- the site of the first
                   Mass in Brazil. Pataxo Indians want a monument at the same site to five
                   centuries of resistance.

                   The Pataxo vowed on Thursday to go ahead with plans for the monument, even
                   though their initial effort earlier this week was bulldozed by authorities.

                   "The area is inside their territory and they want a monument that is relevant to
                   them," Katia Vasco, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Missionary Council,

                   The government is planning extravagant parties in Coroa Vermelha and around
                   the country this month to celebrate the arrival of the Portuguese on April 22,
                   1500. But indigenous tribes, along with landless peasants, black rights groups
                   and opposition political parties, will hold rallies to demand solutions to land and
                   wealth disparities that have persisted throughout Brazil's history.

                   The Pataxo began construction this week of a small cement monument that will
                   be shaped like Latin America and painted black and red to represent war.

                   Police invaded the site on Tuesday night, bulldozing the base, which was built
                   next to a huge cross representing the first Mass in the Portuguese colony.

                   Officials claim the construction goes against environmental codes, but local
                   tribes are demanding the right to represent their history.

                   "The Mass means nothing to them, they want to honor their 500-year survival
                   and resistance, so they voted in a council meeting to fight for this one," Vasco