By Francisco Pereira Da Silva, Laelcio Pereira Da Silva, and Helena Beutel
Note from the Guest Editor
Francisco and Laelcio Pereira Da Silva are two brothers living on the island of Ilhabela in São Paulo state, just across the channel from São Sebastião, Brazil. Fran and Lau, as they are known, and Lau’s wife, Helena Beutel, have been assisting my research since 2018 on the island’s culture, history, and ecology. The brothers identify as Caiçara, a group of Indigenous peoples who are ethnically a mix of native Tupis, descendants of escaped African slaves from colonial days, and descendants of some of the colonial European settlers, largely Portuguese, Germans, and the Dutch. As with most of the islanders, Fran and Lau are Portuguese speaking, with their island’s distinctive accent. Helena is a translator from French and English, and is trained as a chef.
The Caiçaras are proudly identified as artisanal fishermen. They and their families live on the east coasts and islands of Brazil in tropical rainforest conditions, in an island range extending from above Rio de Janeiro to the edge of Rio Grande do Sul state, and most of them live a traditional lifestyle. Fishing has been the mainstay of their lives for the last three hundred years, but with great changes, especially over the last five years.
Fran and Lau are no exception to the Caiçara way of life; there is scarcely a day that they are not out on the water, whether in the rivers weaving through the mangroves, or out on the sea, fishing and—in Fran’s case—guiding eco-tourists in scuba diving, fishing, and exploring the protected state park that occupies the majority of the mountainous land on the island. The Caiçara families generally prefer to live quiet lives in the less populated side of the island. Fish are the daily diet, augmented with vegetables from the gardens and fruit from the trees. The fish are not only their main food, but also their means to earn an income, as the men take their daily catch around to the populated side of the island where they can sell at the fish markets. And now, tourism plays an additional role in the economy of these people.
Living lives so closely attuned to the island’s ecosystem, with seasonal changes and close observation of every detail of the natural environment, the Caiçara have the deep traditional knowledge upon which stewardship depends. As keen observers, they share in this photo essay some of the rivers, waterways, riverbanks, and wildlife of their island home.
—Mary Modeen, Guest Editor
 Mary Modeen, “Traditional Knowledge of the Sea in a Time of Change: the Caiçara of Ilhabela, Brazil,” The Journal of Cultural Geography, 38, no. 1 (Nov. 14, 2020): 50–80.
Pereira Da Silva, Francisco, Laelcio Pereira Da Silva, Helena Beutel. 2021. “Photo Essay of Ilhabela Rivers.” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, no. 20. https://editions.lib.umn.edu/openrivers/article/photo-essay-of-ilhabela-rivers/.
Download PDF of Photo Essay of Ilhabela Rivers by Francisco Pereira Da Silva, Laelcio Pereira Da Silva, and Helena Beutel.