“Cidade Nova Atlântida” mega-tourist-complex threatens the Tremembé indigenous people, Ceará, Brazil

Tremembé indigenous resistance stops a mega-tourist-complex to be built by the Spanish firm Afirma Inmobiliario, despite being threatened and abused. They call for legal demarcation of their lands.


The Tremembé are an indigenous group who inhabit Brazil’s northwest State of Ceará. In the XVI century, they occupied an area that spanned from what is nowadays the State Para to Ceará. However, today, they can only be found in four coastal municipalities of this last State. Despite having lost most of their land rights in the XIX century, in the past decades they have been strengthening their political organization and struggling for territorial recognition against different economic interests in the region. These interests, who mainly come from agribusiness activities – such as coconut plantations and irrigation projects – and tourism infrastructure, put their already small territory under constant pressure. In 2002, the Tremembé of São José and Buriti sites initiated a struggle against the implementation of Cidade Nova Atlântida, a tourist complex with 13 hotels, 5 resorts, 3 golf courses and a marina promoted by the Spanish group Afirma  Inmobiliario. For the Tremembé, Cidade Nova Atlântida threatens their claims for land recognition. Since the project’s arrival, they’ve have seen land and sea access gradually restricted. This has limited their economic activities. While the company claimed it bought the land from a family in the 80s, the Tremembé said the property titles were illegal since the ex-owners had took possession of the land without recognising its earlier inhabitants (these people are known in Brazil as posseiros). At the same time, there was a dispute on whether there was indigenous presence in the area or not. On the one hand, the company and several local and regional politicians supporting Nova Atlântida stated there were no Indians. On the other hand, the people opposing the project claimed their inheritance as Tremembé. If ethnic self-recognition as an Indian was synonym with fear and dispossession for decades, it became a symbol of resistance against the project.  In 2004, the State Environment Council (COEMA) approved the EIA for Nova Altântida and Ceará’s Environment Superintendence (SEMACE) issued a license. The same day, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) suspended the license. The MPF ordered a study on indigenous presence in the area included in the EIA. The study found out the EIA had almost completely omitted indigenous presence despite string evidence of historical settlements. Later, the consulting company in charge of the EIA was condemned for fraudulent studies in Ceará. Despite the court order preventing the project’s construction, the project’s promoters – the Afirma group –went on with different activities in the area. 

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:“Cidade Nova Atlântida” mega-tourist-complex threatens the Tremembé indigenous people, Ceará, Brazil
State or province:Ceará
(municipality or city/town)São José and Buriti, Itapipoca
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Tourism Recreation
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Cidade Nova Atlântida, a tourist complex with 13 hotels, 5 resorts, 3 golf courses and a marina promoted by the Spanish group Afirma Inmobiliario.

Project area:3,1000
Level of Investment:15,000,000,000,00
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2002
End of the conflict:2016
Company names or state enterprises:Afirma Inmobiliario from Spain - owner
Grupo Nova Atlântida from Spain - subsidiaria no Brasil
Relevant government actors:Federal Public Ministry (MPF); Ceará’s Federal Court

Local Government of Itapipoca; Ceará’s State Government (mostly COEMA and SEMACE); Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Tremembé indigenous people
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Social movements
Religious groups
Tremembé indigenous group
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Indigenous had to take officials from the FUNAI as hostages to make their voice heard
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Threats of death to indigenous activists
Development of alternatives:Indigenous Tremembé have proposed the demarcation of their land and land rights.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:It seems the Tremembé managed to stop Nova Atlântida’s project. However, despite the Ministry of Justice recognition of the Indigenous Land of Barra do Mundaú, it still lacks homologation by the President of the Republic.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

PROJETOS DE TURISMO EM TERRAS INDÍGENAS: Tremembé de Itapipoca e Jenipapo-Kanindé de Aquiraz - Ceará
[click to view]

Os Tremembé de Buriti e Sítio São José e o 'Nova Atlântida – Cidade Turística e Residencial’: inclusão/exclusão de povos indígenas?
[click to view]

Expropiación de la naturaleza y conflictos ambientales: La expansión de los resorts en Brasil. Revista Ecología Política
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Indígenas pressionam Funai para resolver conflitos de terras no Ceará
[click to view]

[click to view]

No Ceará, terra dos Tremembé é ameaçada por resort espanhol
[click to view]

[click to view]

Projeto Nova Atlântida no Ceará está na mira do Coaf
[click to view]

Funcionários da Funai são soltos pelos índios Tremembé no Ceará
[click to view]

CE - Apropriação da zona costeira, pelo agronegócio e o turismo internacional, coloca em risco terras tradicionais dos povos Tremembé
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Projeto Nova Atlântida
[click to view]

Other documents

Fora Nova Atlântida! Protests against the mega touristic project
[click to view]

Master Plan of the project
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJustice Project
Last update06/12/2017