Francisco Alves Mendes Filho, Chico Mendes, had just turned 44 years old on December 15, 1988, one week before being murdered. Born in the Brazilian state of Acre, in the “seringal” (rubber tapper settlement) called Porto Rico in Xapuri city, he started working as a rubber tapper when still a child, following his father’s steps.
His life as a union leader began with the foundation of the Rural Workers Union of Brasiléia, in 1975, when he was chosen to be the general secretary.
In 1976, he was actively engaged in the rubber tappers’ fight against deforestation through a strategy of resistance called the “empate”. He also organized several actions to defend the people’s right to land ownership.
In 1977, he helped found the Rural Workers Union of Xapuri, and was elected City councilman for the political party MDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement).
During this same year, Chico Mendes suffered the first death threats from the local ranchers, at the same time that he began to face several problems within his own political party, the MDB, which was not supportive of his struggles.
In 1979, Chico Mendes transformed the City Council into a great forum of debates between union, popular and religious leaders, being for that accused of subversion and submitted to hard interrogations.
Still in 1980, Chico Mendes was framed within the National Security Law, at the request of the local ranchers who attempted to involve him in the revenge murder, promoted instead by forty landowners, of a rancher believed to be involved in Wilson Pinheiro’s murder, the Brasiléia Workers Union’s president.