In memoriam: Biu, the last man standing on Tatuoca Island
We grieve over the decease of Mr. Severino Cassiano da Silva – better known as Biu - last Sunday the 5th of February, 2017. Biu was the last native resident of Tatuoca Island in Pernambuco State, Brazil. His life and fate were blended with this island, where previously more than 50 families lived from traditional fisheries and artisanal agriculture and fruit trees.
Biu, the last time Both ENDS visited him, December 2015
For years, Biu kept up a peaceful resistance against the violations of the territory of the island by the port authority of Suape (Industrial and Harbor Complex of Suape, CIPS).
He saw his family and friends being forcibly evicted from the island, but refused to leave himself. He saw his neighbor's lands being degraded, water and soil contaminated and mangroves being uprooted. Right next to his place, the Dutch dredging company Van Oord – with the support of the Dutch ECA Atradius DSB – dug out a massive basin for the Promar shipyard that now builds pipelaying vessels for the off-shore oil industry.
Protecting the island
Biu saw native forests on the island being turned over into a hot empty landfill desert, waiting for industries to show up. Yet, he resisted, caring for each plant and living being in and around his plot on the banks of the Masangana river. As far as this was still possible, Biu kept doing what he always did. He attended clients in his small beach-side restaurant, he repaired his boat, het went fishing or crafted a new table or ornament, turning dead branches of mangrove trees into art.
'Tatuoca is my life'
Biu was an outstanding example of a person leading a consistent life, intimately linked to the land and resources he depended on and cared for. He always stated that Tatuoca was his life, he was born there, and, if nature would have taken its normal course, he would have died there years from now. For him, there was no price to put on his land. He used to say: "no money could buy nature".
House torn down, belongings destroyed, evicted at last
However, on the 4th of April last year (2016), he was surprised by 50 armed men from the militia of the Suape port acting together with the police, in the name of "justice". Forcibly evicted, Biu had to watch his home being demolished and his belongings thrown down and crushed by official vehicles. Fruit trees, which he planted were chopped down. In the end, only ruins remained. After these severely traumatizing events Biu had to be taken to a hospital where he remained in a state between life and death for several months. He never recovered from the violence applied on him. Biu's official death was announced on the 5th of February, but his life was taken from him much earlier.
Both ENDS will continue its efforts to support and promote a more sustainable path for the Suape port and all people living in its surroundings. May Biu rest in peace. We extend our condolences to all his family and friends.
The Fórum Suape, which is defending the rights of the people living in the Suape area, made a video about Biu after he was evicted from his house last year: 'Fragmentos de um ecocídio'
More information about the Suape harbour expansion.