Author Archives: ricardoduartefilho

A Mineral Archive

Posted by Ricardo Duarte Filho – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Vi os montes, e eis que tremiam.

E todos os outeiros estremeciam.

Olhei para a terra e eis que estava vazia,

sem nada nada nada.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade – Triste Horizonte.

This summer I am conducting a research about extractivism and mining in Brazil. I was propelled by the dam that collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, at the beginning of this year – an accident that killed at least 248 people. In my original plan, I had proposed a clear split between the archival research, to be conducted in the first two weeks, and the fieldwork, in which I would go visit some cities that are historically linked to mining activities – including the cities that were affected by the dam collapse. Even though I am still following this plan , it has been an interesting experience noticing how these two parts of the research are continuously superimposing each other. 

This minor – and almost cliché – realization is making me comprehend how the mining’s history – both to the Colonial golden rush as to the modern iron extractivism – is not only part of the documents that I had access through the archival research at the Biblioteca Nacional and Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa. This archive is also part of the day to day life of these cities affected by this activity, such as a long small talk between two strangers that I overheard on the bus trip from Goiás to Goiânia. The two men discussed the old gold mining and its relation to slavery and how both of them were certain that one could still find gold in the town’s river up to this day – neither of them had ever tried looking for it. This archive is also part of the own geology of these places, such as the rusted rocks alongside this river – Rio Vermelho (Red River), named for the reddish rust stains that indicate that these rocks contain iron minerals.

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