Today, April 19th, we celebrate Indian Day in Brazil , so as a tribute to all my indian ancestors I share with you the quick visit I paid some weeks ago to The Museum of the Indian in Botafogo.
If you happen to know a brazilian in your lifetime, ask about his origin. I dare to say almost 100% sure that his answer will be that somewhere looking back at his family tree, there is an indian ancestral in his genealogy (unless he is from an immigrant family) . Brazilian people are highly miscigenated. Portuguese, italians, and all the immigrants that came to Brazil to build their lives here had in some point of their family married indians or afrodescendants. I myself has a mix of 50% italian-afrobrazilian-indian + 50% portuguese-indian blood. That’s why I think that I got curious about visiting Museu do Índio, (Museum of the Indian) in Botafogo neighborhood. This “museum” is hidden in an elegant 19th-century mansion in the quiet street Rua das Palmeiras in the heart of Botafogo. This museum is a cultural and scientific agency of the Fundação Nacional do Índio(National Foundation of the Indian) or FUNAI, and its main aim is to promote awareness of the importance of the indigenous cultures.
During my visit there I was completely by myself, except from the guards and from a man who arrived after me. I kept thinking how many of cariocas might already have visited this museum. Maybe not too many. Looking at the visitors notebook, I saw names of visitors from Portugal, Canada, German, but my name was the only one from Rio. Brazilians don’t have a very strong tradition in visiting museums, and unfortunately Brazilian government don’t make great investments in Culture in general.
It was clear to me that the museum has difficulties to maintain itself. There was no one to receive me or to offer a brochure with a little guide to the museum. I got a little lost, until I discovered where to go first. There are no signs in English, there are few of them even in portuguese. It doesn’t compare to any of the great museums of New York, London or Paris, but that doesn’t mean that it is not worth the visit. Besides all of this, it is so interesting to visit a place that tries to keep the history and the memory of one of the people who were the first Brazilians, have a rich culture and knowledge about Nature. Unfortunately now, there are just a few of them. Museu do Índio – Rua das Palmeiras 55, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro – Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5:30pm; Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, 1pm to 5 pm.