The Last Chronicle: From Peking University Students to the Indigenous People of Alto Solimões

Ditan Park, Beijing. Photograph taken by author, 2020.
Francisco Foot Hardman documents actions of solidarity from faculty and undergraduate students at Peking University to indigenous communities in Brazil.
[Ed. note: This is part of a series of reports on the COVID-19 pandemic from global cities.]

When some of my colleagues from IEL-Unicamp who study ​​Indigenous Languages ​​and Education, among them Filomena Sândalo and Wilmar D’Angelis, sent a message to our community warning about the effects of the pandemic on villages and towns in the Alto Solimões region (Amazonas state), I publicized their appeal to colleagues, friends, and students in China.

A particularly serious situation is that of the Tikuna people, the largest indigenous community in Brazil, who are experiencing the pain of the loss of their only trained doctor. Circumstances are equally dire in the Feijoal community, where Osias, a graduate student in Linguistics at Unicamp, lives. This news deeply affected a number of people here in China, who are following the Amazon socio-environmental disaster with great sadness and concern.

Guards and catering assistant at the canteen, Peking University. Photograph taken by author.

We organized two immediate actions of solidarity. Together with fellow professors and other specialists, we managed to donate resources that have already been transferred to the NGO Kamuri, which is committed to helping emergency areas in Alto Solimões. In addition to Peking University, we had a prompt response from colleagues and friends from other universities: Beijing Normal University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing Language and Culture University, Nankai University (Tianjin), Southern University of Science and Technology (Shenzhen), Zhejiang International Studies University (Hangzhou), as well as journalists from Xinhua (Chinese national news agency) and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The other action is documented here. Undergraduate students in Language and Portuguese Language Literatures at Peking University were invited, voluntarily, to send messages to members of the affected indigenous communities. Half of them spoke out. Certainly, with the help of engaged IEL colleagues, this mail of cooperative solidarity and internationalist friendship will soon reach its recipients.

– Chengfu Lu, Beijing


1. Messages written by students of the 2018 class (2nd Year, median age = 20 years):

After dark always comes dawn. We are facing this global catastrophe in solidarity. We will survive this crisis.

– Daiane(Kuang Yunting)

No words are enough to pay homage to your heroic struggle against the epidemic. I respect your courage, your determination, and your immense kindness. I believe that with your effort, everything will work out! Good luck, my dear friends!

– Katia (Yang Kaiwen)

Be Strong!

– André (Shao Zhongtian)

We, the human beings, are in trouble. Here in China, I wish you a lot of encouragement. I love the Brazilian people, you have faced much greater difficulties in the past than this one, and you have overcome them all. Above all, I wish the indigenous people courage and strength, you are robust and brave, and you are making many sacrifices to improve the situation, I am convinced that you will certainly achieve the final victory.

As a student who will be going to Brazil as an exchange student, I closely follow your situation every day. In a news story, I saw two Indians wearing masks, leading a canoe in the calm waters covered with green algae. I am very touched, and I am also proud of you, because of your solidarity, I already know that you will never be beat.

Now the temperature is cooling, and winter will come soon. But if winter comes soon, will spring perhaps be far away? When the flowers bloom, I hope I will be with you.

– Tiago (Li Wutaowen)

Although the times are difficult, please, remember that we are always together with you.

– Daniela (Chen Danqing)

We are always together. The epidemic is horrible, but our love is stronger. Chinese and Brazilians, the whole world, and everyone will triumph!

– Diana (Fang Jiangchen)

Go on! Everything will be over! I do not need to warn you to wash your hands diligently and not to get together. I want to emphasize that it is very important to take good care of yourselves and protect yourselves from negative emotions. A BIG HUG for you!!!

– Leandra (Liang Liyan)

I am sorry to hear that many people’s lives are threatened due to the epidemic. Perhaps the situation in China can now give them the confidence that shows that COVID-19 can be overcome. I believe that Brazil will defeat the virus through intelligence, patience, and strength. Tomorrow will be better.

– Renato (Dong Hanyuan)

Author getting a haircut in reopened barbershop in Zhongguancun, Beijing. From author’s personal collection.

2. Messages written by students and class of 2016 alumni (4th Year, median age = 22 years):

Hello my Brazilian friends!! I am a Chinese student at Peking University, and a resident of Wuhan, where the pandemic began. It must be difficult for you to endure the death of a brilliant member of the community, and I understand this pain very well because my city has witnessed many losses and separations during these past few months. However, I just want to say that it is in these darker times that we gain strength and become stronger than ever. On hopeless days, I thought this nightmare would never end, but now my city has recovered its usual bustle, everything is back on track again. And I believe that the darkest time will pass for you. Everything will be fine, we all support you!

– Olivia (Huang Yongheng)

That’s unfortunate news:

The region of Amazonia looks both familiar and strange to me. What is familiar is that when I was a child, I experienced the magnificent panorama of the region on television, at the beginning of the century. What is strange is that although we know the Amazon as the lung of human society, we never have the opportunity to see what it is like, due to its mystery and danger.

From the news I know that the Amazon is the place where you spent your childhood and where you still live today. I want to say that I have adoration for you, as members of the people that live in the region, conquering difficult conditions, but rigorous and natural. I am sorry, but at the same time, I have more confidence that you, with the help of international society, can overcome the epidemic. In the Chinese language, we use the expression “Keeping Youth through Life’s Vicissitudes,” which I think is an exciting expression. Together with your ethnic group and Brazil, you will embrace new life after the catastrophe.

Longing from Tianjin, China

– Pascoal (Zhang Xiaohan)

My Brazilian friends:

How are you? I hope you are fine, even though we know that we are in a hard situation. In the first three months of the spread of the pandemic, as the government demanded that people stay at home, I remained at home all spring, afraid of hearing the news, almost all of which was terrible. Friendship and solidarity eased my sadness. Now I hope that our messages give you some comfort. Let’s keep hope alive: life has already changed, but it still continues, and will continue. I wish you all the best!

– Lucélia (Lu Zhengqi)

Dear Brazilian friends from the Amazon:

I am a student from China and I’ve heard that you are facing the threat of the Covid-19 virus. We empathise greatly with you because we have already suffered the same situation in China. But I am sure that we can overcome the difficulty, so we must have confidence and strive to stay healthy. As was said in the poem, “If winter comes, spring will come soon.” I believe that we humans can beat the virus. I wait for your good news!

– Domingos (Xie Dongcheng)

Dear friends:

I am Zoé, a Chinese student. It is believed that everyone is now facing the risk posed by COVID-19, which is a matter of great concern. Although we are not doctors who are able to help improve the situation in Brazil, we hope that the situation in the Tikuna community will improve quickly. There is always a friendship between the Brazilian people and the Chinese people! I hope this friendship can bring courage and energy to you! Stay strong!

Best regards,

– Zoé (Liang Yingyi)

I am sorry for the passing away of the Tikuna’s doctor of your land. Life is always hard, full of challenges. But things will get better! Because there are always people who pray for you, and who sympathize with your difficulties. I hope things get better there in Feijoal! Stay strong!!

– Rui (Chu Xiaorui)

Esteemed friends on the other side of the planet:

Nihao! Hello! My name is Tian Zehao and I am from Shenzhen, Guangzhou, China. I heard about your situation and I am sincerely very sorry. We are facing a world crisis that requires our solidarity. It is a fact that this simple letter will not change the situation, but I hope that these little words can give some comfort.

It is a sad fact that your government does not competently protect you. However, it is also our fault, because economic development in the Amazon is ultimately aimed, in large part, at Chinese capital and markets. I know the mechanism of globalization, which always damages the well-being of some to satisfy others. Even if it was not my decision, we who live outside the Amazon are all responsible. I apologize.

I respect your will and the right to live as you please, but the coronavirus is not playing games with us. I stayed at home since January, very early this year, like all Chinese people. Even so, many had already lost their family members and friends. So, please take care of anyone who comes from outside and maintain hygiene. Maybe you don’t like masks. But if you can (I hope you can), protect yourself. It is clear that this situation will change your lives, because all of us, worldwide, are affected. The most important thing is to survive. I feel very sad to hear news about your situation. I don’t know why I am looking for ways to convince myself that there is still a bright future, nor do I know what the world will be like tomorrow, but I try to live until then. The most important thing is hope: irrespective of the difficulty, we are invincible when we have it.

Now China has already passed the most dangerous period, which proves the possibility of controlling the pandemic. All of this will pass, and I believe it will be soon.


– Gaspar (Tian Zehao)

That’s it, true friendship refuses borders. I only made minor revisions. All texts are entirely from these young and valiant students, who continue to study through their semester from a distance. May Mother Earth protect them, so that, in a future alliance with the multitudes of the dispossessed, in particular with the Amazonian Indigenous peoples, they can fight and build a world of beauty, peace and harmony. From the shambles of this discombobulation, are we able to not only speechify, but make a difference?

– Francisco Foot Hardman


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