Dourados, Brazil — The warm wind of summer whipped across the high plains of the Brazilian city of Dourados on the February day in 2015 when Élida de Oliveira’s newborn was taken away.
Oliveira, a member of the Kaiowá Indigenous group, had given birth to her son alone, in the makeshift house where she lived. The boy’s father had left her when he found out she was pregnant with her seventh child. Built of used scraps of wood, plastic sheeting, and tarps, her home occupies a piece of reclaimed land in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul known as Ñu Vera, just outside the perimeter of Brazil’s most populated reservation, the Dourados Indigenous Reserve, which itself borders the city of Dourados, some 75 miles from the Paraguay border. There’s no electricity or running water on this ancestral Kaiowá land and no room on the parched soil to grow the traditional food—white maize, manioc, potatoes, squash—meant to feed body and soul.
By Jill Langlois
Photos by Flavio Forner for National Geographic
Originally published online on April 22, 2020.