Bienvé Films is a very proud supporter of the above book titled Indiánská knižka which is still fresh off the press in the Czech Republic. Titanic Publishers has crafted a book that breathes dreams and myths found in letters and memoirs of three closely intertwined persons and will certainly surprise the lay reader who is expecting the stereotypical take on the American Indian. If history not only resides in the past but is within us, it also forms our identity and provides us the momentum for every future step we take. This book is evidence of this very notion.
The main voice of the book, Rodolfo Ferreira Frič, is an elder member of the Chamacoco (Ishir) tribe of the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay and also among the last generation to have lived through pre-missionary Ishir life.
Today, his offering of sacred myths is with a distanced stance, insisting that they belong to “pagan” times of his people, and yet he willingly passes them down in non-oral form to both his grandchildren and to his family in the Czech Republic without fear of The Curse of Nemur.
"An Ishir elder with family in the Czech Republic?", you may be asking. Yes, because it just so happens that Rodolfo is also the grandson of the world-renowned Czech ethnographer and botanist Alberto Vojtěch Frič, whose voice is also ever-present in Indiánská knižka thanks to the beautifully woven editorial work by author and publisher Yvonna Fričová (granddaughter-in-law of A.V. Frič).
In Europe A.V. Frič is widely known as the Cactus Hunter . In 1901, at the age of 18, he made the bold decision to devote his life to the study of cacti, after losing what was at that time the largest cactus collection in the world. The deep frost that set over his greenhouse in Prague may have killed his beloved cacti but it forced him to warmer places—South America. After several trips to collect cacti in the Americas he became more uplifted by the indigenous people there and because of his outspoken support for indigenous rights during an era of intense European expansion in the region, he became unpopular with politicians of the time. Frič was, however, headstrong and developed sincere relationships with many tribes, including the Ishir. From 1903-1912 Frič completed seminal anthropological and ethnographic studies of tribes in the South American regions of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. His works include the creation of dictionaries for 36 indigenous languages of South America.
From 1924-1929 A.V. Frič returned to the systematic study of cacti by making trips to Mexico and today remains a Cactus God. Look up most well-known cacti and you may see the alternative name Fric along with its scientific name. One interesting legacy of his botanical work is that the Czech Republic has today become a country with one of the largest number of cactus-enthusiasts per capita. In my homeland of Texas, my ancestors and present-day family would prepare nopalitos as a healthy part of their diet and cactus grows today on my mother’s lawn (needless of her care or enthusiasm).
I would be proud to say that I found out about Alberto Vojtěch Frič through my own botanical endeavors but that would be an outright filthy lie. I found out about him through the award-winning work of the Czech graphic novelist Lucie Lomová: Divoši (2011). Her exquisite work exploring the life of A.V. Frič and Cherwuish deserves a stand-alone documentary and I am forever grateful for her pushing me down the path to Yvonna Fričová and Rodolfo Ferreira Frič. If Czech is not one of your languages, and I would bet that most likely it’s not, then you can give Lomova’s translated French version a try (Les Sauvages, 2011).
More about Rodolfo, the Ishir people of Paraguay and some of the successful social projects which he has initiated in his homeland can be found at his blog and at the website of Checomacoco (in Spanish and Czech).