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This Brazilian activist stared down mining giants to protect the rainforest she loves

When Alessandra Korap Munduruku was a child, her favorite thing to do was wander.

Along with her siblings and cousins, she would leave her home in the Praia do Índio village in the early morning hours and spend time among the trees of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Sometimes, they collected vines and made small toy houses from dried palm leaves, known as palm straw, the same material used by the Munduruku Indigenous people to build roofs on their homes. At other times, they would swim and fish in the Tapajós River, a vast tributary flowing into the Amazon.

But in 2015, she realized her children were losing that freedom. To the north of her village was Itaituba, a town in the state of Pará that's rapidly growing thanks to mining companies and soy farms setting up shop in the region. She was worried about the trees she saw coming down around her and the massive holes, pastures and hydroelectric dams replacing the lush, dense forest.

"There was nowhere to collect straw in Praia do Indio anymore," she says. "The palm trees were destroyed. The buriti trees, the Brazil nut trees and all the other fruit trees we used to have were all gone. There was nothing left."

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