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Brazil Journey Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Religion on an island
Aracruz: An 87 year-old Tupiniquim Indian leader says he can't write and won't vote Canudos: Paulo meets island-dwelling Marciano, who follows a 19th Century messianic leader Salvador: Traditional street vendors want a president who will give them a monopoly on bean fritters Pernambuco: A community descended from escaped slaves fights for access to its own land Eldorado dos Carajas: Where land reform has brought soaring crime Serra Pelada: Small-scale gold diggers win a 10-year mining rights battle Brasil Novo: A remote jungle town longs for electricity and a surfaced road Santarem: Canvassing votes by river boat at the heart of the Amazon jungle Belém: The city where a councillor with one arm is spearheading the fight for disability rights Belém-Brasilia highway: Two days with a trucker on Brazil's damaged and bandit-ridden roads Brasilia: The scavengers who live off the capital's waste Sao Paulo: The city 'island' dwellers who will have to travel for four hours to vote

Report two: Canudos

As Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral travels through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle to find out what 21st Century politics mean in the Brazil that normally goes unreported.

Marciano Macedo da Paixão lives alone on an island in the middle of the Cocorobo dam - a artificial lake in the Sertão, an arid, rural area in north-eastern Brazil.

Marciano rowing to the island where he lives
Marciano says little has changed in the last 100 years
He is a self-proclaimed follower of the 19th Century messianic leader Antonio Conselheiro, who lived in the area and formed the community of Belo Monte, which translates as "Fine Hill" and is also called Canudos.

In 1896, Canudos was totally destroyed by the Brazilian army in one of the bloodiest episodes of the country's history.

Later a new Canudos was built, but was flooded in 1967 for the construction of the dam, which holds 243 million cubic metres of water.

Today a new city with the same name has been built by the lake. Marciano has named the island where he lives Ilha da Amizade - Friendship Island.

Marciano's house on an island in the middle of the Cocorobo dam
Marciano plans to leave the island and get married
"I've been a Conselheirist since I was born. But my beliefs were reinforced when I learnt about the history of our ancestors here in the Sertão," Marciano said as he rowed back to his island house.

He explained that to be a conselheirist is to honour the memory of "those who fought against an unjust system that kills by hunger and kills by humiliation - even knowing that the outcome would be their deaths".

Hope

Antonio Conselheiro would be really upset if he saw the current situation in Brazil, he said.

"After 100 years, nothing has changed or, if it has, it was too little," he said.

Presidential election
First round: 6 October
Run-off: 27 October
Key candidates

Key presidential candidates:

Jose Serra - ruling centrist coalition
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Workers' Party
Ciro Gomes - centre-left Labour Front coalition
Anthony Garotinho - Socialist Party candidate

Marciano says he feels Brazil is too dependent on the current political and economic system, which he worries leaves governments at the mercy of the international financial markets.

"Just by changing numbers, it can oust any government," he said.

But, despite doubting that the presidential elections will bring many changes, Marciano is planning to vote.

And after the elections, he plans to leave the island after living alone for 10 years.

At the age of 46, he now has a fiancée and will move to Ilheus, a large city in the state of Bahia, where he plans to get married and work as a bus conductor.

"For love I came to my island and for love I'll leave it now. For love, and with a lot of hope," he told me.


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See also:

20 Aug 02 | Americas
19 Jul 02 | Americas
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