Breno the torch

I had no idea that this could ever happen to me or to my people. My name is Breno and I am 14 years old. I live in the Pataxó village of Barra Velha in Bahia State in north-east Brazil. Pataxó is the name of my indigenous ethnic group in Brazil. Our village is a 3-hour drive from Porto Seguro, the next biggest town. Almost everyone in our small village is Pataxó and there are only 12,000 Pataxó indigenous people in all of Brazil. That’s why what happened to me is even more special.

I was so happy and proud when my teacher told me I was selected by UNICEF and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee to be one of only six Brazilian adolescents to carry the Olympic Torch in the relay leading up to the Olympics. I was the only indigenous young person chosen by UNICEF to carry the torch. This was very important to me, my family, the Pataxó and all the indigenous people in Brazil.

A young boy with a blowgun to his lips.
UNICEF Brazil/ Raoni LibórioBreno Ferreira, 14, practices with his zarabatana (blowgun) in his village of Barra Velha, Bahia State, north-eastern Brazil.

When I found out, I ran home to ask my parents if I could carry the torch. They were very proud of me and my mother said, “Of course, you can. You must!” My father said, “This is an important event in your life and you must represent your family and all indigenous people in Brazil very well.” My part of the relay took place on 19 May in Porto Seguro and I was happy, but I was nervous, too.

Everyone was there! It seemed like all of Porto Seguro was on the street, along with my parents, cousins –even the Chief of my village. There were television cameras and newspaper reporters, too. I remembered what my father had said about representing our indigenous people very well. Most people who carry the Olympic Torch wear only an official Olympic t-shirt, but I got permission to also wear the traditional head-dress and face-paint of the Pataxó people. I am proud of our culture and wanted all the world to see that.

Carrying the torch is a moment I will never forget and the next day at school, my friends told me, “Wow! We saw you on the national news on television last night! You really did it! You made our whole village proud!” Then they gave me a new nickname, ‘Breno the Torch’, so now every day at school I am reminded of what happened.

I was selected to carry the torch because the teachers say I am a good student and I enjoy sports like football. But they said another important reason is that I am very interested in traditional Pataxó sports. Games like corrida de maraca (relay running), zarabatana (blowgun), txatxukay (wrestling), cabo de guerra (tug of war) and arco e flecha (bow and arrow). My parents always told me it is important to learn these traditional sports so we don’t lose our Pataxó culture. And, they are really fun to play!

When my school work is done, I watch the Olympics on television. I have two dreams: one is to be a professional football player and the other is to be a teacher of our indigenous language, Patxohã. I know I will have to study well and practice hard if I want to do so.

I think playing sports helps with my school and with my life. If I feel lonely or sad or I am anxious about something, it really helps me if I can play football or txatxukay with my friends. It makes me happy and my mind clears up. And sports keep me from having nothing to do and maybe getting in trouble with drugs or alcohol. Sports teach you that if you don’t focus at practice, don’t follow the rules, don’t respect other players or don’t play as a team, you will probably lose the game. It’s the same in school and in life. You have to work hard, play by the rules and respect others to do well.

I have another big day coming up on 26 August. My community was very proud of me when I carried the torch, but I was more proud of them. I had the Olympic Torch that I carried at my home for a few days, but I know I was really only there to represent my community. So, with UNICEF, we decided to have another torch relay, starting at the beach near our village. Girls and boys from my school will run with the torch in a relay race all the way to our school. When it arrives, we are going to donate it to our school so it stays there forever to remind everyone of a special moment that we Pataxó were all part of, and are all proud of.

Breno Ferreira, Aldeia Barra Velha, Bahia State, Brazil.

Breno is a member of Brazil’s Pataxó indigenous ethnic group and was proud to be the only indigenous Brazilian young person chosen to carry the torch. Watch this to find out more about the young torchbearers at the Olympics.

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