She liked a rough climb up a squeezed-in switchback. The feel of the wild grasses beneath the pedals, the rhythm of the river stones jolting her shoulders, and the plunge into the cool waters. She needed to touch the earth to probe her limits and then to push beyond, to move faster, cleaner, to reinvent herself with each ride. This striving for perfection was how she earned her living, and it was what was expected of her, even if most cyclists couldn’t keep up.
Evelina Magalhães had received numerous offers from global outfitters to soften her ride: to outfit her bike with a carbon fibre frame, hydraulic shocks, even a titanium water bottle cage. She turned down all of these offers because it would dull the sensation of being connected to the earth that drove her forward. She had learned to ride on steel and still trusted it, her bike frame glinting hot pink and lime green because she liked the sparkle. She accepted a sponsorship for tubeless synthetic tires that were so fat they absorbed most jolts. By the end of her rides, after the last rider had typically dropped out, slime would be oozing over punctures in the tires from the trail. She called it the Blood of Joy.
She called riding her trabalho – her job. Today Evelina would take her riders through a part of the Serra da Canastra national park that had never been uploaded before. (She knew because she searched the internet for it.) Five hundred thousand mountain bikers around the world would be riding their Mouventure machines along with her, physically connected to Evelina’s bike in what was considered one of the most exhilarating and dangerous workout experiences in the world. When Evelina climbed a hill, her riders climbed a hill, their bikes tilting backward and the resistance increasing; when she bunny-hopped over a fallen log, their machine hopped too; when she fish-tailed through mud, the machine did too. The riders were virtually connected to her in the comfort of their own homes. Every Mouventure machine came equipped with a ten centimetre thick pad for when riders bucked off like a wild bronco. The riders paid handsomely for it, a hefty cut going to the Mouventure platform, of course, but enough for Evelina to support herself and much of her extended family. The Mouventure device affixed to her own machine was surprisingly small – no larger than a magic marker – and containing the radio frequency ships and U-band uplink. Small green sensors the size of ladybugs dotted her machine and relayed precise information to the device itself, and then all over the world via internet satellite. She could view live information about her audience through the Heads-up-Display in her visor, which looked like wraparound sunglasses.
Evelina’s thick legs were knotted with muscles that rippled as she pedaled, revealing her almost Olympian strength. But the riders mostly couldn’t see the muscles. They saw one of many standard avatars offered by Mouventure to provide their instructors with anonymity, altering her body in real-time. The only feature she refused to alter was her deep ebony skin. This part of her would remain, no matter how much trouble it gave her.
Anyway, she didn’t care, she rode them all into the ground.
Serra da Canastra national park was several hundred square kilometres of pristine semi arid hills and mountains, crisscrossed by dozens of rivulets and streams that swelled with the rains. To enter the park, tourists paid guides to take them in 4×4’s along dirt roads to the most famous waterfalls and ponds.
But like many of Brazil’s national parks, people had different understandings of what should be done with the land. The government permitted a few families to live in their ancestral dwellings and sell food to tourists, all specialties of Minas Gerais, the country’s most famous region for mining minerals. The park was also a known migration route for people fleeing the flooded coastal cities to go west in search of work. Evelina had been noticing more of these people in recent weeks, their bags packed with their meager possessions, as beach towns became flood lands.
But now was the time to focus.
“Let’s go look for little Totinho,” she announced in her husky Portuguese. Her words were translated in near real-time in some sixty countries around the world, connected by low-Earth orbit satellite to Mouventure machines. Her visor, which doubled as sunglasses, allowed her to talk to her riders and see their status.
Yes! words in her visor read.
Let’s get him!
I’m freaking ready!
Not going to drop me this time! another said, but this was followed by sarcastic comments and emojis.
Evelina dropped everyone on her rides. Everyone. That’s why her thighs flared like tree trunks and why the riders paid for the experience.
She pedaled over to a small bush where she found the bird patiently waiting for her. Totinha was a rhea, a flightless bird about half the size of an ostrich that was endemic to the region, and fast as hell. As soon she pulled up alongside her, the bird bolted forward. This marked the beginning of the ride – a full on out-of-the-saddle half-kilometre sprint along a potholed red-dirt access road. The bird’s pace always caught her by surprise, but Evelina dropped into a lower gear and caught up with it. Totinha kicked forward for another hundred yards effortlessly – she knew that if it was in any real danger she never would have caught it – then it veered away to nibble on the prize she left hidden in the bushes, some scraps of lettuce and cheese. Her followers never saw the food, of course. It was part of the Mouventure fantasy.
She checked her rider count. Five hundred thousand had dropped to 350,000 over the course of the sprint, about normal. They all had to pay a minimum fee to participate and dropouts were common and part of the economics. Many more would drop out soon enough by the time she was finished with them.
“Thanks, Totinha!” Evelina said, “Warm up is finished. Time to do some real riding.”
Love that Totinha!
Can we buy one somewhere?
F*** you Totinha!
Every single ride someone tried to buy Totinha or cursed the bird out. It was a little ritual. Evelina cycled over the main road that ringed the park and it was damp from rain two days before, but manageable. She didn’t see any mudslides or collapses in her path, which meant the ground would be firm. During heavy rains anything was possible, but Serra da Canastra could be trusted once its soils had settled. She couldn’t take more risks now that her aunt had fallen sick again because each ride paid for a home health aide for six months. But Evelina never let on to her riders that this was anything other than a workout.
The road squeezed into a narrow canyon and then opened up onto a wide valley below, where smoke was pouring from the chimney of the German pub. A white waterfall arced behind it in the distance, sending prisms of colour through the mist.
Beautiful! a rider said.
Evelina suspected something was wrong when she heard the wheezing grind of an old hybrid engine clawing up the ring road. It was a large truck carrying thirty or so garimpeiros who were clustered together, some hanging off the sides of the truck like a trolley car. The faces of the miners were caked with mud and they had the tired look of men – they were all men – who had put in a hard day’s work and had counted their wages and already determined it would not be enough.
She never talked about the garimpeiros to her riders. Once, when Evelina had first started her Mouventure workouts, as a lowly freelance instructor with no guaranteed royalties, she had paid half of her meager earnings to a “consultant,” a man who gave workout specialists advice about how to improve their routes and attract more riders. The first thing he said was: “You need to avoid the miners. They take away from the experience.”
“They’re part of the experience,” she objected.
“Experience is fantasy. Your riders are pretending they’re you. They want to escape their lives, not see other people’s problems.”
“I thought our mission was to help them exercise in the comfort of their own homes.”
“Our mission is to help them live their best life.”
“And that life does not involve miners?”
“You don’t understand this at all.”
She fired him. The garimpeiros needed this land as much as she did. Sometimes they shot a bush pig just to eat a meal. She did not condone the hunting, but she wouldn’t tell them to go hungry instead. Totinha was off limits – and their foreman had sworn a solemn pact never to touch the strange little bird.
When times were desperate, Evelina would eat an energy bar from a sponsor or slurp a power drink, but she refused to put anything in her mouth that tasted bad. Her stubbornness had actually gained her more riders, who appreciated the headstrong dark woman from Brazil.
Normally, the garimpeiros would catcall playfully. Da-lhe Evelina! they would say. Show them what you got! Or they might even break into a bawdy song.
Not this time. This time she saw fear in their eyes as they hunched over bodies sprawled out on the floor, their clothes covered in mud and dark blood. Their faces were crudely blanketed with garbage bags. There were bullet holes in the licence plate of the truck, and the muffler dangled like a damaged limb.
Who are those dudes?
One of Mouventure’s rules for instructors was that you never had to reply to any question a rider asked you, unless they were experiencing a medical emergency. So Evelina did not reply. But her riders were right to ask questions today. Despite their fearsome appearance, most garimpeiros were softies who had been dealt a difficult life. Something bad must have happened.
“Now the real ride begins!” she said cheerfully, trying to shake it off. “Today we’re going to the Cachoeira Azul. The Blue Waterfall!”
What is that?
Where is the blue waterfall?
“If one hundred riders make it to the top with me, I promise to jump in!”
Let’s do it!
She pedaled hard up a narrow switchback, where weeds leaned over the path from the recent rains. Her bike jolted over rocks – shaking her fellow riders – before memory took over and she recalled the nuances of the trail from when she used to ride in the Canastra to peddle trinkets and snacks to dusty tourists. The trail climbed almost four hundred metres in three kilometres through brush and bramble. She approached a swift moving stream and hopped over it, landing with a thud and continuing on.
That’s when the first alert popped up in her visor.
Emergency in Serra da Canastra national park. Paramilitary movements. Do you need help?
She looked at the message: bright red text with a double-lined border around it, blinking for her attention. She tried to clear her notifications but the message wouldn’t go away. It was on an emergency channel, meaning none of her followers would see it.
She re-read the question: Do you need help?
The question seemed absurd to her — Evelina Magalhães never asked for help. That’s how she was able to make her living in a place which was so inaccessible and dangerous. If everyone could ride in the Canastra her Mouventure riders wouldn’t pay her to join. Her bike was connected to the internet by satellite, but she suffered no illusions that anyone would come to her rescue if she broke a leg.
“Water break!” she said.
I’m not sure I can go on.
I’m going to puke.
The device on her bike was a walled garden that only allowed her to use the Mouventure platform. She could choose the music to stream to her riders, look up the weather, and read company-wide messages to instructors. The only person she could communicate with directly was her account manager, who made sure she got paid and tried to increase her rider numbers.
A message was waiting for her:
Evelina, you alright? We registered some concern in the group chat from your riders.
Mouventure regularly scanned rider chats to log emotional response to routes. Evelina normally found this practice unnecessarily invasive of her riders, preferring to think of them as a trusted family, but this time she appreciated her manager’s concern.
I’m okay, Evelina replied. Check out my route? Heard something about paramilitary.
Over the past few years, different global firms had been buying up the rights to mines that surrounded Serra da Canastra, all in search of precious minerals. Freelance garimpeiros had clashed with some of these companies over low wages and unsafe working conditions. Evelina had noticed visitors to the park who weren’t quite tourists: trucks packed with executives in black suits, gingerly stepping in their fancy loafers through the mud. These were Brazilians. The international executives knew to dress casual and wore hard hats and hiking boots. When they looked at the Canastra their eyes greedily carved up the land like the cheese they made in the valley.
She hopped back on her bike and pedaled for several more kilometres along rolling hills, trying to get a glimpse of the ring road.
“Time to go!” she said. “Remember — all we need is for one hundred of you to make it to the Cachoeira!”
We’re there with you!
How far is it?
“Just five more kilometres. Alright, go!”
She stood out of the saddle now and began the gruelling climb to the top of a jagged peak, where she spooked an anteater from the undergrowth. The trail narrowed so that she had to weave and duck her shoulders to avoid the sharp branches that scratched at her chest. She rolled down into a valley shaded with trees, cycling very fast. On the steep switchbacks, she used her front brake to shift her weight forward, swinging her rear tire around, a feat of balancing that threw hundreds of riders from their Mouventure machines. The stream at the base of the valley was swollen with chilly water but crossable at speed. She tore through it and climbed again.
The Cachoeira Azul was rarely visited by tourists because it was so inaccessible. In fact, few tour operators even knew about the waterfall and most didn’t bother because there were a dozen other cascades that were even more breathtaking. She checked her visor to find that she had lost almost all the other riders already; she was down to two hundred. By the time she got to the lip of the falls, only fifty riders had stayed with her, although ten thousand had given up and waited to watch the end in a kind of waiting room that allowed them to observe her progress.
She skidded to a halt on the limestone slab that teetered over the edge of the falls. Thebeauty in the Cachoeira Azul was in its height, plunging some twenty metres below into a small crystalline pool of blue-gray water. She was secretly glad she didn’t have to get wet because the wind had picked up – the falls were spring-fed and always frigid.
“Fifty of you made it! Fantastic! You are all my friends today!”
Bring it on!
“But we didn’t make it to one hundred so I won’t be jumping in.”
But we worked so hard!
“We’ll try again next time. Remember, the ride is the adventure. Time to head to Oswaldo’s, my friends! I’ll see you on the next ride!”
She signed off from the ride.
It was time to head to the pub. If Evelina had anything approaching a sponsorship, this was probably it, because she drove business to Oswaldo’s, which was a German-style eatery. Canastra cheese was first made by immigrants to the region who cultivated its creamy, nutty flavour. Her reward for ending every Mouventure ride at Oswaldo’s was a few hefty slices of cheese on the house along with some fresh baked bread. (Evelina was strictly vegetarian.)
First, she checked her private messages and her Mouventure manager had written her back.
Nothing in the news. What’s going on, Evelina? Are you okay?
A thunderclap pealed across the valley and heavy drops of rain splattered the trail.
Evelina wrote back: Fine. Rain coming. Talk soon. How were my numbers today?
She picked her way from the waterfall down onto the ring road and pedaled along at a gentle, cool-down clip. She felt tired but energised deep within soul. She genuinely enjoyed pushing her limits and felt cleansed by the rigour of a mountain-side climb. She would enjoy her meal at the pub.
She heard an engine roaring along the road and a 4×4 careened by her at a reckless speed, the driver shouting something unintelligible as he drove by.
The warning flashed again in her visor:
Emergency in Serra da Canastra. Paramilitary movements. Do you need help?
She read the message more closely, but how did she know she could trust whoever was sending the message? It could be the paramilitary themselves, for all she knew, directing her to a roundup.
By now the rain had started in earnest, and the road was growing more slippery. Her thick knobby tires managed the roadway just fine as she scanned for more vehicles. The light rain muffled the sounds about her and the rest of the way to the pub was simple, a smooth downhill glide. She normally approached from the front of the building to show her riders the immaculate façade of the pub – a half-timbred building constructed of wattle and daub – but the message had made her suspicious, so she pedaled to a warehouse in the rear. She opened the door quietly to find curdled milk spilling over the side of a cheese vat. No one else was in sight. The building was completely abandoned.
Over the thrum of the cheese vat she heard a child whimpering.
The girl was hunched in the corner of the warehouse. Her clothing was disheveled and she had been crying for some time, her eyes puffy and red. She had brown curly hair, bleached at the tips by the sun, and light mocha skin. The girl tried to scuttle deeper into the warehouse behind some wheels of cheese, but Evelina quickly caught her.
“¡No me hagas daño!” the girl said.
“I won’t hurt you.”
“ ¡No me hagas daño!”
“Where are your parents?”
“The men took them in their truck.”
“They didn’t take you with them?”
“I ran away.”
Evelina guessed the girl was about six or seven, the same age as her niece. She was wearing a starched white collar shirt with pink flower prints, the kind of expensive dress of a well-to-do-tourist. She spoke Spanish with a precise inflection, even if Evelina couldn’t understand it very well.
Evelina fished in her pouch and handed her an energy bar. The girl swallowed it down ravenously. She touched her visor to call the police but found she didn’t have a satellite signal inside the building.
“Are the men still here?” Evelina asked. The girl nodded. “I’ll be right back. Keep quiet.”
She cautiously peeked out of a window and saw that a truck was still posted outside the front of the pub. It wasn’t a paramilitary truck. It was a truck used by mercenaries that executives hired when they visited the park. The message had been wrong.
She didn’t see any of the employees – they must have also been carted away – to where and by whom, she had no idea. Confronting whoever was inside the pub was out of the question. If they kidnapped tourists, she would be completely expendable to them. They wouldn’t care how many Mouventure riders she had.
“Stay here,” she said to the girl. “I’ll come back with help.”
“No!” the girl cried. “Don’t leave me! They’ll hurt me!”
Evelina tried to shrug her off, knowing how much more difficult it would be to ride with a burden like her, but the child was right. She would have no protection if she was caught. The mercenaries answered to no one but those who paid them, and they had a reputation for cruelty.
There was food here at the warehouse, and water if they needed it, but she expected the kidnappers to return and if they had basic common sense they would search the building for stragglers. She did not have much time.
As the girl watched, Evelina stuffed her backpack with cheese, a small bottle of water, and a waxed bag of steamed peanuts she found on a shelf. Then she removed her saddle bags to make space for the child.
“Hold on to my back,” she said.
The girl didn’t protest when she hoisted her onto the back of her bike. Thankfully the kid was still slight, maybe twenty-five kilos at the most. Evelina could handle that kind of weight.
“We will get out of here soon,” she said. “Hold on, little one.”
The shortest distance out of the park was still the main ring road. Parts of it had been recently paved and the dirt sections were easily navigable, even with the girl on the bike. She cycled out of the valley and the child did not complain.
Paramilitary troop increase on the northeast end of Serra da Canastra. Avoid all roads and rest sites. Seek refuge is in the southwest.
Do you need help?
She cursed at the message because the ring road headed northeast. But she hoped that the message was wrong. Ahead of her she spied a dark lump in the middle of the road. It was Totinha, his beautiful frizzy-gray feathers shot through with bullets. He was a feathered corpse. The bastards had not even bothered to eat him. They had shot the bird for sport.
Evelina swallowed hard.
“Aí!” the girl shouted.
Half a kilometre away, Evelina could see another truck barreling towards her, filled with armed men. There was a trail that roughly followed the ring road, an easier path that she had traversed many times, but it also headed in a northeast direction.
Paramilitary troop increase on the northeast end of Serra da Canastra. Avoid all roads and rest sites. This is likely to become a conflict zone. Seek refuge is in the southwest.
Do you need help?
This time Evelina responded “yes”, figuring she had nothing to lose.
My name is Esperanza. I am a bot (not a real person.) I can help guide you to safety. Where are you?
“I won’t tell you that,” Evelina said aloud.
That’s okay, you do not need to tell me. I will not reveal your location to anyone without your permission. Here is the place of refuge. You will receive medical assistance and legal assistance there. Do you need me to show you a route?
A dot began glowing in her display. The location was at least twenty kilometres away, and Evelina knew it was through some of the most difficult territory to cross — overgrown, snake ridden, and prone to wash-outs.
“How do you know this?” Evelina asked.
We believe the region is at elevated risk because of four predictive factors: increased energy usage from EV charging stations along highway BR-146 / the price of neodymium isotope has risen 400% in the past 48 hours / an increase in small arms sales in Belo Horizonte / and a 29% increase in consumer electronics sales during the off season. We believe this means a heightened risk of local conflict over mining resources.
Would you like to look at our predictive model?
“No,” Evelina said.
She wouldn’t be able to understand the model, even if she had done passably well in statistics at university before she dropped out to take care of her aunt. The rest made sense to her. She knew the garimpeiros mined in the park, but at subsistence levels – enough to pay for their next meal. An increase in guns usually did mean something bad was afoot, typically gang warfare. She did not understand the part about consumer electronics, but she didn’t need to because the rest of the information had convinced her that the bot could be right, or at any rate was probably not lying to her.
“One more thing,” Evelina said.
What is it?
“They are not paramilitary,” Evelina corrected. “They are mercenaries. Hired by corporations when they visit the park.”
Thank you. I will update my model accordingly.
“Who are you talking to?” the girl asked over her shoulder.
Evelina hoped it was true.The truck would be upon them soon but the men hadn’t yet spotted them. She swung the bike off the road and darted up a switchback as fast as her legs could climb, the girl clutching on desperately on her back. She managed to duck behind some small boulders, panting heavily.
“Did they see us?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” the girl said.
“Esperanza,” Evelina asked, muting her channel to her followers. “Are you still there?”
I am here to help.
“Who operates the place of refuge?”
Socorro MG, an implementing partner of the UN Refugee Agency. Would you like me to notify them you are at risk?
Can you tell me your name?
“Paulo Cardoso,” she lied.
Are you travelling with anyone else?
“A young girl aged six.”
“Tengo ocho años,” the girl chimed in, indignantly. “No tiene seis años.”
“Correction. A young girl aged eight.”
Thank you, Paulo. We have recorded an adult male and a young girl aged eight. I will alert Socorro MG to prepare for your arrival. Proceed to the Southwest. We have people stationed one kilometre from the entrance to Serra da Canastra.
Behind her, the girl was shivering in the rain. Evelina handed her a sliced of cheese and the bag of peanuts, and told her to hold on tight again. She would be warming up soon. Very soon. The ride ahead would be gruelling.
And it was. The rain held off, sheeting a fine mist over the land that helped obscure any line of sight the mercenaries might have had. The rivers, which could burst forth with frightening power during torrential rainstorms, never raised higher than her ankles. She rode through a vicious patch of succulents that slashed her tire tread, forcing her to stop to refill it with patching gel and pump it up with a CO2 canister. Somehow it held. After ten kilometres, her visor told her she had burned ten thousand calories, a personal record. She ravenously ate through half a block of cheese, slurped down water, and continued pedaling. When she hit a flat stretch of the trail, Evelina called a break and they passed a filtered straw back and forth to drink directly from an amber coloured stream. She disliked how hard she had to suck to get any liquid into her mouth, but it quenched her thirst. She didn’t see any of the snub-nosed poisonous snakes because the cold rain kept the vipers hidden in their burrows.
She nearly rode straight into the mercenaries an hour later. After navigating a particularly steep bend, she fishtailed around a sifting pan and a couple of abandoned shovels. Further along, she heard men shouting and stumbled upon the entrance to a wildcat mine. It was flanked by a dozen heavily armed men and a bulldozer was clearing earth around the entrance. She hissed the child silent and portaged her bike around the mine, slipping here and there while staying on their feet. As they climbed out of view on a small hill, they felt a plug of dynamite explode deep within the mine, shaking the earth.
Their overland route meant Evelina had to cross the ring road again and she did so swiftly, avoiding the temptation to follow the road to save herself hours of exertion. She still had eight kilometres to pedal with no shelter in sight by the time the sky grew purple. This part of the national park lacked any sort of shelter to protect them from the chill wind, but she feared starting a fire because it could draw attention. They huddled against each other through the night, the girl crying out softly for her mother. The child’s white teeth and manicured nails seemed dainty to Evelina, who normally scoffed at such fineries, but the girl never once complained.
By morning, the thin child was convulsing from the cold and the sun did not appear with the light, just a pale haze on the horizon. Evelina’s legs ached and her hamstring felt like a rubber band that was about to snap. They ate tidbits of cheese for breakfast and sipped thirstily through the straw at a little brook. The only thing she could do was ride to warm them up. But the tire she had repaired was now flat. CO2 cartridges were designed to be a temporary fix to get you to a pump for air – the gas had dissipated by morning. She fished in her sack and couldn’t find another cartridge. She had forgotten that she had used it on her last ride.
There was little she could do. She refused to leave the bike behind – it was her life, the way she made her living, her joy and livelihood.
She carried the girl on her back and wheeled the bike beside her. The GPSshowed that she was drawing close to the spot the bot had shown her. This path had not been used in six months and it was so overgrown with bramble that cried from pain as the thorns cut into her skin. Finally, she came to the crest of a hill that gave her a view of the land below. She could see blue tarpaulin shelters and a cluster of tiny vehicles beside it. Smoke was pouring from a fire. It was impossible to tell from a distance whether it was the mercenaries or the refugee agency. The girl had held up well through the jarring passage across the park, but she had now spiked a fever, and Evelina knew she needed medical treatment. Evelina herself was so exhausted that she did not think she herself would have the strength to flee even if it was all a trick.
She stumbled down the hill, picking her way along an animal trail that wended almost randomly over rocks and followed a dry stream bed for a hundred metres before reappearing. She saw two flags flapping in the wind, the green national “Ordem e Progresso” flag, with its yellow sash, and next to that another, a pale blue crest of the continents encircled by a grid of navigational lines. A young woman waved her down at the boom gate.
“This is Socorro. Do you need our help?”
“Are you blind, menina? Of course we do.”
“I have to ask that question. I’m sorry. It’s a formality. What’s your name?”
“Paulo Cardoso,” Evelina said.
“And this must be the girl you traveled with,” she said, beckoning to an orderly. The nurse ran over to help.
“Wait,” Evelina said. “She stays with me.”
They put a stethoscope to the child’s chest and checked her eyes. “She’s in shock. She should lay down. Come on, we’ll take the bike for you.”
“It stays with me, too.”
“You should be examined.”
“It stays with me.”
“Of course, Paulo. Do you identify as male?”
“Female. It’s Evelina.”
“Most people give false names when they chat with our bot. We need to work on that.”
Evelina was starting to feel thirsty – deeply thirsty — and welcomed a cup of hot tea when it was offered. She turned down grilled beef, nearly retching when she smelled it, but scarfed down a loaf of bread with guava jam. In the tent, dozens of other tired-looking people were receiving treatment, some clearly tourists, others miners or locals. She didn’t recognise anyone and she hoped that meant her friends had made it safely out of the park. The orderlies hooked up the child to an intravenous needle to rehydrate her body.
“You know that’s why this all started,” a young man said, pointing at her ride.
“Not your bike. The servomotors that all your riders use in their homes. Neodymium isotope. There’s a global shortage. That’s what they’re fighting over in the Canastra.”
“How do you know that?”
“Worked at the mine,” he shrugged.
Evelina rested in the camp overnight and took a UN transporter that was waved through police checkpoints that stretched all the way to Belo Horizonte. She stayed with a cousin. The news showed violence escalating within the park as the wildcat miners staged a counteroffensive, even though they were severely outgunned by the mercenaries. The death toll was frightening – dozens killed. Many of the miners were boys sent by their families from far away.
Mouventure invited her to travel around the world with all expenses paid, heralding her bravery and fortitude in the face of danger. She had cycled through a conflict zone and saved the life of a young girl, they said. She was a model for all Mouventure instructors. People assumed this was what she wanted — to become a global Mouventure ambassador. They were wrong.
“You’re giving up riding?” her aunt asked, when she refused the offer. “But it’s your job! To cycle around the world.”
“What about you? You need help here.”
“I will be fine. This is your dream!”
“I’m not giving up riding.”
What her aunt didn’t understand was that Evelina didn’t want to leave. She had spent the last fifteen years of her life in the Serra da Canastra, surviving on its beauty in her own way. She wanted to ride again through its tranquil rivers. She wanted the life she had made for herself, with all its flaws. That land, owned by everyone and no one, was her home. To abandon the Canastra would be to abandon herself.
This page is part of UNHCR’s Project Unsung collection and portfolio. Project Unsung is a speculative storytelling project that brings together creative collaborators from around the world to help reimagine the humanitarian sector. To discover move about the initiative and other contributions in the collection, you can go to the project website here.