Author (Your Name)

Caitlin Cassis, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Global Studies Program


Paul R. Josephson


The name of the world's largest hydroelectric dam, Brazil's Itaipu Binacional, comes from an Ava-Guarani word meaning "singing stone." Before Itaipu became affiliated with dams it represented a smaller, but no less significant monument: a large rock formation in the middle of the Parana River that produced song when struck by water.₂ Today, neither the rock nor the Ava-Guarani tribe remain. In their place is a gargantuan hydroelectric dam that produces sounds more like a thunderous engine than song. When the Brazilian government, in conjunction with Itaipu Binacional officials, constructed the power plant, it not only silenced the singing stone, but also the voices of the indigenous Ava-Guarani people. The scale and size of Itaipu Binacional overshadows the consideration of the Ava-Guarani community. Itaipu's titles like "world's biggest hydroelectric power plant," "one of the modern-day Seven Wonders of the World," as well as its bi-national nature (straddling the Brazilian-Paraguayan border) rouses interest and blinds observers to its environmental and social consequences.₃ Itaipu's construction radically changed its surrounding, creating ripping effects through Foz Do Iguacu, the dam's host city. Before Itaipu was constructed Foz do Iguacu consisted of rolling fields of erva mate plantations distributed over miles of thick rainforest, with unassuming houses scattered among the tangle. Today, even with increased urban sprawl and 3x as many residents, the enormous power plant still seems out of place. It was not a mere coincidence that Itaipu was sited in Foz do Iguacu, but the deliberate selection of bureaucrats, scientists and policy-makers. They wanted to find a peripheral location where the resources were vast and the level of complaint in exploiting these resources was minimal. They succeeded in both pursuits.


Dams, Environmental aspects, Brazi, Social aspects, Chiripá Indians, Relocation Engineering, technology, impact, indigenous people

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