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Mendes, Chico (1944–88)

Francisco “chico” mendes was a Brazilian rubber tapper, union organizer, and environmental activist who became an international symbol of the struggle to preserve livelihoods and the environment in the world's rapidly diminishing rain forests. Chico Mendes was born in Brazil's western Amazonian state of Acre to a rubber tapping family. He began working in the forest at a young age, combining small-scale subsistence farming with the harvest of rubber and Brazil nuts.

As the surrounding forests became increasingly threatened by deforestation by ranchers expanding their pasture holdings, often illegally, Chico Mendes became involved in local labor union and land rights issues. Elected secretary of his local rural workers union in 1975, Chico Mendes began organizing resistance to deforestation through a series of stand-offs (empates) in which ...

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