Posted by Ricardo Duarte – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU
“Everything in here seems covered in dust.” This was the thought that crossed my mind a few times while walking in the city of Brumadinho. The uncanny glitter that sparkled from the dust made it clear that it was not only the ordinary dirt that one thinks when picturing a dusty city, but that it was iron dust. While noticing how this mineral dust covered everything I could see – plants, bridges, streets -, a train passed by. A train whose wagons were loaded with tons of mined materials. In the background: a “pulverized mountain,” to use the title of one of Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poems that bring questions related to mining to the forefront. Accordingly, the poem concludes by focusing on how the mountain that once appeared eternal when compared to the finite human life- “Of all Andrades that have gone and that will go, the mountain that does not go away,” – after being “drilled into a million pieces” only leaves behind a “miserable iron dust, and this does not go away – ever.” These last two verses kept drumming in my head while walking around the city. What stays in sites of such predatory extractivist activities, and how it affects the human bodies living in these sites, such as breathing problems, or other non-human entities.
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.