“If COVID-19 arrives in Boa Vista, it will be a disaster,” says Lúcia Andrade, the executive coordinator of the Comissão Pró-Índio in São Paulo, an NGO working with quilombola communities since the 1990s. Boa Vista has no basic sanitation and the way quilombolas live, interacting closely with each other, makes it easy for the virus to spread. MRN has said that they will treat Boa Vista residents in their well-equipped hospital but the quilombolas are afraid that, if the pandemic spreads rapidly, the hospital will give priority to MRN employees. It takes six hours in a boat to reach the nearest public hospital in Oriximiná which has only one intensive care bed.
And what of the future?
As many in the community depend today on jobs linked to MRN, the anthropologist Lúcia Andrade, from the Comissão Pro-Índio, is worried about what will happen when the mineral reserves run out. “MRN is [presently] carrying out a series of socio-environmental programs with the [local] population but, until now, I don’t see a consistent discussion or measures that answer this question: what will the future of the community be like when these jobs disappear?”