by Fr. Roberto Cappelletti SDB
The Mission of Iauaretê consists of a central missionary district which comprises the St. Michael Archangel parish and 11 more chapels. But the work of the Salesian missionaries extends over an area as large as Lombardy and Veneto put together, crossed by two main rivers (Uaupes and Papurí), along which there are 40 indigenous communities of 16 different ethnic groups.
Besides the catechetic and evangelization work, the field that most binds the Salesians is the work with children, adolescents and young people. They are extremely simple and accept every proposal with a smile and with an “Anyu” (thank you in Tukan language): a game, a walk, a dip in the river, a prayer, is always welcomed with a smile. Even if in their wooden houses, with metal-sheet or straw roofs, they only have a hammock to sleep on, a fire for the pot, and at most a cupboard where to keep the four clothes they have… and that’s all!
The future for them is very uncertain: there are no factories; there is no university, no work. Schooling is available till the age of 17, and then those who want to study and progress in life must go to São Gabriel or Manaus. Alcoholism is a great problem. There is a very clear law that forbids bringing any type of spirits in the indigenous area. But, regretfully, this does not happen: a lot of alcohol is brought in illegally and some more is easily smuggled in from neighbouring Colombia, causing also many tragedies: drunk fathers who drown in the river, 11-12 year-old girls who are raped, children driven away from home by their parents …
To all needy minors the Salesians offer a place where to play, study, do group activity, follow courses of guitar, English, typing, do sports… And above all giving them the certitude that their life is worth living.
Iauaretê, Amazonia, a Paradise on earth because of its nature, its forests, its rivers, its beautiful people, the fruits, flowers, animals. A Paradise that the Salesians want to continue to safeguard, in a particular way by giving hope and securing a future to the little ones of Tukan, Hupdes, Dessana, Tariana, Piratapuia, Kubeo and of so many other ethnic groups.