Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Terra Rica (from On the river by myself)

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TERRA RICA (Samaúma)

The policies of the conservation units in Brazil are based on Yellows Stones’ Park, the first of its kind. “What is good for the USA is good for Brazil”. It is been said and taken as truth.

My grand-father when a young man moved from the torments of a drought place in the northeastern Caatinga, to a iddylic place in the Tapajos River Valley.
Like him and his wife, his sons and daughters were gifted for husbandry and most of his life in the Amazon was based in gathering or growing tropical fruit and rubber trees to supply his family and the demands of Santarem.

He named his property Terra Rica. The soil left fertile and used for centuries by indigenous people turned lead into gold and the abundance of wildlife was impressive. Transporting the produces to the river shore was a burden but they shared the load with a mule called Linda.

His kids had some fun being dragged on the back of his sailing canoe during part of the two-day trip to Santarem. Whatever was unsold would be given.
Life sounded good for several decades until the Tapajos National Forest was created in the middle 70’s.

I well remember one of my few visits to his site a couple of years before he was encouraged to leave the place where they had lived for over half a century.
I was twelve years old then. We had to hike on a slippery trail in rainy June. I thought it was scary but my four cousins aged about me had fun.
Their wooden house had thatched roof with some big spiders using as home and a clay floor. Some 9 hammocks were stretched in 3 different rooms.

In the morning, water from a bucket washed my face and the view of a pristine rainforest made his house look like a match box. Well served breakfast composed of chicken eggs, manioc bread and fresh fruit energized us to collect fruit, bake manioc flour, open palm thatches and collect water from a creek some 30 minutes away, where we would have a bath and play before we hike back home sharing a load of water with Linda.

Game meat and some fish were on the table for dinner, spiced with entertaining and scary stories at the sound of howler monkeys. Dishes and pans had to be washed to avoid more animals followed by a domino game that made us call it a day.
It is vivid in my mind my only hunting experience with my uncle/cousin Wilmar and two of his mat dogs. His knowledge of the forest impressed me. That day we brought home an armadillo, a paca, a peccary plus some forest stuff mostly carried by him. His strength impressed me too.

Illiteracy was solid! Images of Jesus and Virgin Mary, old newspapers and magazine pages were used to ornament the house, the latter to hygiene us as well.
The money the Brazilian Government paid him was split with his 7 siblings and his family was fragmented. Some of my uncles moved to Santarem and others across the river, where we had our home.

Farmers and gatherers became truck drivers, gold prospectors and fishermen as their family members multiplied.

During late seventies and eighties the local economy was based in fishing, husbandry, timber (mostly extracted illegally from the recently created conservation unit) and lots of gold mined in the upper Tapajos River.
Gold drove many people from all over my country into here. The airport at the city of Itaituba became the busiest one in the world; a friend is portrayed in a picture with 300Kg of gold behind him!

Mine equipment, planes, fuel, malaria medicine, cars, weapons, ammunition, drugs and prostitutes were the major source of gold under the cost of inhuman labor and lives. One of my uncles opted for the last ones and he opened a bar hanging his own nickname in red neon lights by the silhouette a voluptuous girl.

The most talented member of the family traditionally known for being the greatest farmers in the region soon had not enough pockets to keep so much money and gold. He had grown a fleet of buses, brand new taxis and properties, and in the process he witnessed a number of assassinations at his own home, committed several crimes and immersed himself and some of his brother’s siblings into prostitution, heavy corruption, drug abuse and traffic. Several of them experienced the jail when they were teens.

My grand-father and four of his dear son’s funeral were anticipated by high consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

He had left my beloved grand-mother under the care of my family. She had a small suspended garden with vegetables and medicinal plants in our minute backyard in Santarem. When enjoying her pipe she seemed more like waiting for her last breath than a mother of a happy family. Their ashes are spread and their souls rest in peace in Terra Rica.

Almost most of what we eat in my hometown today is imported from other regions and opening a can became part our meals ritual; meanwhile we feed chickens and pigs in other countries.

The Tapajos National Forest, remained adjacent areas and traditional families are likely to have a doomed future too, if any.
I share my inheritance unconditionally with you, to the day we all join my relatives and lots of other families.

Welcome to my nightmare under a warming blanket (planet).

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