Francisco (Chico) Mendes

by Savanna from San Diego


Chico Mendes was a one -of-a-kind person willing to go to the absolute extreme to achieve his goal, even if that meant paying the ultimate price- death. Born into poverty, Chico started working as a rubber tapper at just nine years of age. Ever since that point, he achieved a unique sense of awareness and interest of the rainforest he had been working in. When he grew older, his awareness turned into a willingness and desire to preserve the rainforest from deforestation and cattle ranchers, who were destroying the trees and wildlife. Chico worked hard to make a change and he succeeded, but not without a price to pay in return. Mendes was assassinated by his enemies in hope of making things return to how they used to be. Instead, it made the government even more aware of the damage being done and an even bigger and permanent change was made- the preservation of the rainforest once and for all. Chico is a hero for not only his success and peaceful mindset, but also for sacrificing his own life in the hope of changing something he believed so passionately in.

Chico Mendes was born on December 15, 1944 on a Porto Rico rubber estate in the town of Xapuri as Francisco Alves Mendes Filho. He continued in the footsteps of his father at age nine and began to tap rubber, or harmlessly remove sap from rubber trees. He soon became aware of the harm cattle ranchers were causing by their acts of deforestation. As he grew older he started to rebel against the cattle ranchers and other people like them, and he slowly gained support from fellow rubber tappers and others in the area who believed in the cause. When he really started impacting the country and even around the globe, he was murdered outside of his home on December 22, 1988. His death brought awareness to the government and they finally made the change Mendes had been seeking.

Mendes, throughout his entire life, was determined to make a change, and although he had to be murdered for many to realize the damage being done in the rainforest, the change Chico had sacrificed his life for was made. He is a hero for his hard work, dedication, determination, bravery, and much more. He will always be remembered throughout history for his unique and extraordinary ways and morals. He saved not only several rainforests and wildlife, but also several rubber tappers in Brazil. He brought respect and homes to thousands. He is not only a role model and an inspiration, but a true hero.

One reason Chico is a hero is for his tremendous amount of bravery and nonviolent attempts at making a change. “Mendes and his supporters began taking steps to halt the destruction. Using nonviolent tactics… he led groups of rubber tappers and their families… to convince those who were actually doing the cutting and burning that their actions were only hurting fellow workers and that they, too, should join the fight against the landowners. If that was not enough to disrupt the day's work, everyone—even children—linked arms to form a human wall to protect trees from the bulldozers and chain saws. These techniques eventually saved about three million acres of rain forest.” (UXL Biographies: Mendes, Chico) Mendes demonstrates several heroic traits in this single event. He first refuses to be violent toward those people, although they had brutally killed several of his followers. Second, he informed them about the harm they were doing and danger they were causing in the hopes they would listen and understand. Lastly, Chico bravely blocked the trees with his own body to symbolize that he would rather die than allow the trees be cut down. Another instance that proves Chico a hero for his bravery was in 1988, right before his death. “Mendes clashed with a notoriously violent rancher, Darly Alves da Silva, over the purchase and clearing of three hundred acres of rain forest… Shortly afterward, Mendes… received an anonymous message formally notifying him that he has been marked for execution... Family members and friends begged him to leave the country for his own safety, but Mendes refused, saying that he would stay and face whatever awaited him.” (UXL Biographies: Mendes, Chico) Chico didn’t run away from his problems, no matter how hard they got. When others were telling him to stop what he was doing and give up, he refused. He knew what he had to do and wouldn’t let anything get in the way of it. He stood up and faced his problems, even though it meant risking his life. Chico demonstrates an astonishing amount of bravery throughout his lifetime, an amount only a hero could produce.

Chico Mendes is also a hero for his amount of determination and drive. He went to several different places explaining his goal and why it was so important. “… in 1987, Mendes traveled to the United States, where he spoke in Miami and in Washington, D.C. He explained that cattle ranchers systematically destroyed the rainforest and created hardship for the natives and rubber tappers.” (Mossman) Mendes wanted the world to know of the dangers going on so he traveled to several different places spreading his experiences and stories of the rainforest. He made a huge difference in many people’s outlook of the rainforest as well as won several awards for his speeches, including the Global 500 Award and the Protection of the Environment Medal. He was also the reason that 2.5 million acres of destroyed land was later replaced, and Brazil passed laws to protect the rainforest.

“The government further agreed to create extractive reserves in the Amazon region. The first was named the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, and served as a home and refuge to 3,000 families of tappers and farmers.” (Mossman) Chico Mendes started out alone with hardly anyone believing in his cause. He slowly brought followers to believe in what he was doing by informing several areas and groups of people what was really happening with the deforestation of the rainforests. He soon created a crowd of supporters that believed in what he was doing. Chico Mendes set a goal and followed it no matter what others thought about it and no matter how many obstacles emerged in the process; he was determined and driven and refused to be stopped.

Page created on 5/31/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/31/2010 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

Chico Mendes - MY HERO story by Jeff Trussell