Mendes comes from a family of rubber harvesters who supplement their income by collecting peanuts and products from the rainforest in a sustainable manner. The father Francisco Mendes is the second generation rubber tappers and his wife, Irâce.
At a relatively young age, at the age of 9 years old, Chico had started working as a rubber tapper. Schools on that time were banned on rubber plantations so that Mendes did not get education until he grew up.
The reason for lack of education is because the owners do not want the workers to be able to read and do arithmetic, because they do not want them to be smart and realize that they are being exploited. Mendes could not read and have just begun to read when he was 18 years old.
Chico Mendes and his activities as environmental activists
Chico Mendes asked the government to regulate the reservation because he wants the people to use the forest without damaging it. He also tea ching ’empate’ technique where rubber tappers blocked the road to prevent the destruction of the Amazon forest.
In 1975, the Rubber Tapping Union was formed in Brasileia, Mendes elected as the secretary and Wilson Pinheiro elected as president.
Mendes believes that relying on rubber tapping alone is not sustainable and they need to focus on building a strong community with a good education for their next generation.
Mendes also played a central role in the formation of the National Rubber Tapping Council in the mid-1980s. Then in March 1987, Environmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation flew Mendes to Washington, D.C. United States in an effort to convince the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and US Congress to support the creation of extractive reserves.
Mendes won several awards such as the United Nations Award 500 Global Honor Grant Program and the National Wildlife Federation National Conservation Award.
Chico Mendes and his Activity to protect the Amazon rainforest
In 1988, Darly Alves Da Silva bought a Cachoeira, where the Mendes family lived, and tried to expel them from their land and increase the ownership of his farm. The Cachoeira rubber tappers stood firm and made a block off roads to prevent Da Silva from coming out.
Fearing the destruction of the rainforests in the Amazon is the main reason why Mendes never stop to convince the international support for its preservation. In addition, he also struggled to advocate for the human rights of Brazilian farmers and indigenous peoples.
Its activities, however, attracted anger from farmers and strong timber entrepreneurs and in the end, Mendes was killed by cattle ranchers at a fairly young age at the age of 44.
To commemorate his services, an institute was named the Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade). This Institute is a body under the jurisdiction of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment. Chico Mendes and the movement to defend his environment needs to follow by all the young generations.