One of the communities most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic were the indigenous communities of the Amazon. Not only did the virus claim the lives of the elders who preserved the language and much of the ancestral wisdom, but tourism was also affected by the reduced flow of visitors.
For Maira Gómez Godinho, better known as Cunhaporanga, a 22-year-old from the Tatuyo community in the Brazilian Amazon, the pandemic was an unexpected opportunity.
After setting up an antenna with her brother in the village region, Cunhaporanga spent her days in her village, only accessible by boat, exploring social networks such as TikTok.
After experimenting with a few trends, such as dubbing videos and choreography, her audience was sparse, until Cunhaporanga decided to pop a thick, squirming beetle larva into her mouth in response to a user who asked, “is it true that you really eat larva?”
The video was a hit and transformed the 22-year-old into a new star on the most popular social network of the moment.
As The Washington Post describes, Cunhaporanga’s home is a cluster of thatched-roof huts along the riverbank, surrounded by nothing but Amazon rainforest. The dozens of residents who live here are fellow Tatuyo people. They paint their faces bright red, wear elaborate feathered headdresses, coexist with squawking macaws that Cunhaporanga warns should not be mistaken for domestic animals, and survive on what they can grow or catch.
With more than 2 million followers on Tik Tok and 300,000 on Instagram, Cunhaporanga shares with all of them the traditions of her people, highlighting typical foods, economic activities such as agriculture and handicrafts, the use of medicinal plants and natural objects that are part of the clothing and routine of her family and friends.
“I have a lot to be thankful for, for the support and affection of all those who follow me. I want to keep posting my videos and my photos,” said Cunhaporanga in an interview with the Brazilian newspaper A Crítica. She was recently verified on TikTok thanks to the number of followers she now has. She also won her own filter with traditional indigenous paintings.
Along with Cunhaporanga, several other Brazilian indigenous people, such as Karibuxi or Alice Pataxó, have found in social networks the perfect ecosystem to communicate, educate and defend their cause before an audience of thousands of followers.