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Story Publication logo July 1, 2019

Bullet Ant Ritual: Indigenous Group Prepares to Reoccupy Land (Portuguese)

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Benito Miquiles, a Sateré man. Image by Matheus Manfredini. Brazil, 2019.
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Indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon are preparing themselves as the economic frontier is...

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The sound of the bamboo flute signals a ritual. Image by Matheus Manfredini. Brazil, 2019.
The sound of the bamboo flute signals a ritual. Image by Matheus Manfredini. Brazil, 2019.

Fortaleza, Pará, Brazil—The ceremony begins in the village of Fortaleza, on the Andirá River. An old Sateré man blows smoke in woven straw gloves, full of tucandeira ants (Paraponera clavata), which can measure up to 2.5 centimeters in length. The insects are known as "bullet ants" because the pain of their sting is comparable to a gunshot wound, lasting up to 18 hours, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

The rite begins with a dozen participants, all young men dancing in a circle around a fence. One by one, they put their hands in gloves to be stung by dozens of tucandeiras. A young man throws himself on the floor and keeps his hands up in the air. He tries not to express his agony, for only those who bear pain stoically are considered fit to be leaders.

Read the rest of this story in Portuguese in Infoamazônia

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