In her latest book, Praying and Preying, cultural anthropologist Aparecida Vilaça examines how the Wari’, an indigenous society of Amazonia, became Evangelical Christians, and what they discovered about Christianity that Western missionaries did not know.
For many years, Vilaça has conducted ethnographic research among Wari’, whose villages lie in reservations in the Pacaás Novos river region of Rondônia state in Brazil. Her study focuses on the Wari’ community and the Wari’ way of life but some of the most fascinating moments of this book occur when she brings herself and her family into the story. Such moments reveal how much she and they have become part of the community. In one of these key moments, Vilaça describes how her adoptive Wari’ father, Paletó, would ask her to become a Christian:
“He attempted, as my father, to make me share his perspective, telling me that he would suffer in heaven, where he would be forced to refuse my pleas for water. Explaining why he insisted on talking to me about God, he said, ‘Were you not my kin [wari’ ne, “my people”]…’ ”