"Voices of the
Semi-Arid" is a 52-minute documentary showing the transformation of a
Jewish farming community in the cities of Grossos and Tibau (also known as
Tibau do Norte) in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. It addresses
issues of identity, memory, culture and syncretic Hebrew customs with
Northeastern ones, mixed with environmental awareness through advanced
agricultural techniques in desert regions.
Grossos is a
municipality in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, located in the micro-region
of Mossoró, with a territorial area of 126.5 km² and is estimated to have
10,386 inhabitants (IBGE / 2017). Near this city is the municipality of Tibau,
with territorial dimensions of 169,237 km² and an estimated population of more
than 4,019 inhabitants (IBGE / 2015).
Within these two
regions there are 15 members, most of them farmers, who consider themselves
descendants of "Marranos" or "Anusim" Jews, coming from the
Dutch expeditions during the colonization in Brazilian territory occupied by
Portuguese and Dutch sailors. According to the professor of anthropology at the
Rural de Pernambuco (Rural University of
Pernambuco), Caesar Sobreira, "the Sanskrit religion is a kind of
syncretism between Judaism and Christianity, with some Islamic influence, if
not in the code of faith, at least in certain external habits" (2010, p
In this panorama presented above, the presence of a third personage that
enters this region, the carioca biologist Isabel Portugal, 36 years, researcher
of an Israeli university (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and that develops
studies and agricultural techniques for desert areas and semi-arid region, has
brought to the “Marrano” community a chance to assimilate the knowledge of
modern Jews about this economic activity.
documentary proposes itself as a space for listening to these characters,
interested in understanding their worldview, their customs, and traditions. And
reflect how new technological possibilities, aligned with sustainability, can
transform the community's experience and generate new dynamics.
SOBREIRA, Caesar. "Nordeste semita:
ensaio sobre um certo Nordeste que em Gilberto Freyre também é semita".
São Paulo: Ed. Global, 2010.