Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Timeline of Amazon history

Amazon History dates back to some 8000 years ago, when Man first reached the region (Roosevelt et al., 1996).
Here is a brief timeline of historical events in the Amazon River valley, from the time of European discovery to 2005. This article is about the river. ...


* 1492 – Christopher Columbus discovers the New World, some 14,000 to 40,000 years after the Indians. In 1498, he enters the Orinoco River estuary, sees the mighty discharge from the river mouth, and finally admits that he has a continent on his hands.

* 1494 – Treaty of Tordesillas divides the world into Spanish and Portuguese territories. South America falls almost entirely to Spain. The line runs N-S some 100 km E of Belém, Brazil. How did they know what was out there? After all, the Brazilian coast was formally only discovered in 1500.

* 1499 – Amerigo Vespucci and Vicente Yáñez Pinzón or Alonso de Ojeda discover the Amazon River estuary. This is well established, but the official date of discovery of Brazil is still the next year (1500).

* 1499 – Vicente Yáñez Pinzón sails into the Amazon estuary and claims it for Spain. In the same year, Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, en route to the Orient, discovers Brazil, landing in Bahia.

* 1539-1542 – First descent of the Amazon by Francisco de Orellana (1501-1550) from Quito, Ecuador, via the Rio Napo to the Atlantic Ocean. He fights Indian women he calls "Amazons." The name sticks to the river. Expedition chronicled by friar Gaspar de Carvajal.

* 1560-1561 – Second descent of the Amazon, this time by the murderer Lope de Aguirre.

* 1570-1600 – Jesuit missions are widely established in the Amazon. Indians relocated and "protected."

* 1595 – Sir Walter Raleigh leads expedition to colonize the Orinoco River for the English. In 1616, he settles for Trinidad.

* 1616 – Founding of Santa Maria do Grão Pará de Belém, Brazil, to mark Portuguese presence. The French, English, and even Irish try to colonize the region.

* 1637-1639 – Pedro Teixeira expedition up the Amazon from Belém to Quito, arriving unexpected.

* 1726 – Francisco Xavier de Moraes, ascending the Rio Negro, discovers the Casiquiare canal to the Orinoco.

* 1736 – Charles Marie de La Condamine sends first rubber sample to Europe from his Amazon expedition.

* 1750 – Treaty of Madrid fixes boundaries between the Spanish and Portuguese empires in South America. Portuguese possession of areas west of the Tordesillas line is recognized, based on occupation.

* 1759 – Jesuits are expelled from Brazil by the Marque de Pombal. Indians left without protection.

* 1799 – Alexander von Humboldt explores the Orinoco and proves the link via the Casiquiare canal to the Rio Negro. Humboldt refused permission to enter Brazil.

* 1808-1825 – Spanish rule in South America ends with revolutions lead by Simón Bolívar of Venezuela, San Martín of Argentina, and O'Higgins of Chile. The arrival of the Portuguese royal family in Brazil (1808) probably delayed independence of that colony.

* 1818-1820 – Spix and Martius on expedition in the Amazon.

* 1822 – Brazil proclaims its independence under Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil.

* 1823 – Charles Macintosh invents waterproof rubber cape. (Amazon Indians, users of rubber waterproof bags for centuries, get no credit.)

* 1826-1828 – Baron von Langsdorff on expedition from Cuiabá to Belém, arriving with sanity impaired.

* 1826-1828 – Cabanagem revolt in Belém and Manaus, with 40,000 fatalities.

* 1839 – Charles Goodyear invents vulcanization of rubber which becomes an important component of the Industrial Revolution.

* 1839-1842 – Brothers Robert and Richard Schomburgk on expedition in northern Brazil.

* 1842 – Prince Adelbert of Prussia and Count von Bismarck on the Xingu River.

* 1846 – Count de Castelnau on the Araguaia and Tocantins Rivers.

* 1848-1859 – Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon. (Wallace leaves in 1852.)

* 1849-1864 – Spruce, of cinchona fame, in the Amazon. He gets the quinine tree seeds in 1860.

* 1850 – Manaus is new capital of Amazonas province.

* 1850-1915 – Rubber boom sucks tens of thousands of immigrants into the Amazon, mostly from the drought-stricked northeast of Brazil. Read the book White Gold to get the story from the rubber-tapper's point of view. Another good volume is Jungle by Ferreira de Castro.

* 1851-1852 – Lieutenant Herndon (U.S. Navy) on the Amazon to Belém.

* 1858 – Peru gains rights to navigation on the Amazon River.

* 1865-1866 – Biologist Alexander Agassiz and geologist Charles Hartt on expedition in the Amazon.

* 1866 – Founding of the Goeldi Museum of Natural History in Belém by Domingos Soares Ferreira Penna and others. Agassiz had given stimulus to this when he was in the Amazon.

* 1867 – Amazon River opened to international shipping.

* 1867 – Confederate expatriates settle in Santarém, after U.S. Civil War.

* 1876 – Henry Wickham takes some 70,000 rubber tree seeds to Kew Gardens in England.

* 1888 – Dunlop invents the rubber tube tire.

* 1895 – International arbitration forces Venezuela to cede large area still disputed with Guyana.

* 1895-1899 – Henri Coudreau explores Amazon waterways of Pará.

* 1897 – Manaus' Teatro Amazonas (opera house) opens. Rubber booming.

* 1899-1903 – Acre proclaims itself independent of Bolivia. In 1901, Bolivia cedes rights to Acre to New York rubber syndicate. In 1903, Acre becomes Brazilian by the Treaty of Petrópolis, in which Bolivia is promised a railroad link to the Madeira River at Porto Velho.

* 1907 – Madeira-Mamoré railroad is built by Americans under Percival Farquar. Colonel Church's attempts in 1870-1881 are best called disasters made heroic by tragedy.

* 1908-1911 – Henry Ford, then the richest person in the world, invests in Amazon rubber plantations on the Tapajós River.

* 1908-1911 – Arana's rubber company on the Putamayo River is denounced for atrocities against Indians. English parliamentary inquiry in 1910. (Arana dies in 1952 in Lima after serving as Peruvian senator.) (Read the book The River that God Forgot.)

* 1912 – Rubber from Malaysia exceeds that coming out of the Amazon.

* 1913 – Former US president Theodore Roosevelt and Brazilian Field Marshall Cândido Rondon on Amazon expedition down the River of Doubt (now the Roosevelt River) (Roosevelt, 1919).

* 1914 – Rubber boom bursts with beginning of World War I.

* 1922 – Salomón-Lozano Treaty awards Leticia to Colombia, as an outlet to the Amazon River. In 1933, Peru seizes Leticia but backs down under international pressure, and in 1935 Leticia is reoccupied by Colombia.

* 1925 – Colonel Percy H. Fawcett vanishes near the headwaters of the Xingu River. His eyeglasses are later found among the Kayapó Indians of the Xingu River valley.

* 1942 – Brazil enters World War II. Demand is high for Amazon rubber. Brazil launches the ill-fated "Rubber Soldier" program.

* 1947 – Cerro Bolívar, iron ore deposit south of Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, is found and estimated at half a billion tons of high-grade ore. Puerto Ordaz is selected in 1953 as site for steel mill and huge hydroelectric plant.

* 1960 – Brasilia, as new capital of Brazil, is founded.

* 1962 – Belém-Brasília Highway opens as first major all-year Amazon highway, linking Amazon River port city of Belém with the rest of Brazil.

* 1964 – Military coup in Brazil puts democracy on hold for a generation. Economic miracle declared.

* 1967 – Iron ore deposit at Serra dos Carajás is discovered in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. High quality ore (66% iron) is estimated at 18 billion tons.

* 1967-1983 – American businessman Daniel K. Ludwig invests heavily in Jari wood pulp and lumber plantation. His losses would amount to over 500 million dollars.

* 1970 – Trans-Amazon Highway project begun. Total costs would top one billion dollars. To this day (2008), the highway is impassable between Itaituba and Humaitá, and it ends short of the Peruvian border.

* 1972 – Trans-Amazon highway opens from Imperatriz, Maranhão to the Tapajós River.

* 1974 – Manaus-Porto Velho highway opens.

* 1980 – Gold deposit at Serra Pelada is discovered. By 1986, an estimated 42 tons of gold are extracted from giant pit mine. Amazon gold rush is in full swing. In 1987 striking gold miners would be machine-gunned when they seize the railroad bridge at Marabá.

* 1984 – Tucuruí hydroelectric dam floods the lower Tocantins River valley.

* 1988 – New Brazilian federal constitution goes into effect, with many social and environmental guarantees.

* 1988 – First Amazon Indian congress is held at Altamira, Brazil, to protest the proposed construction of hydroelectric dams on the Xingu River.

* 1988 – Rubber-tapper Chico Mendes is murdered on December 22, in Xapuri, Acre. Two years later (December, 1990), his accused killers, Darly Alves da Silva and his son Darci, are brought to trial and sentenced. (They escaped in 1993 and were later recaptured.)

* 1992 – Brazil hosts UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The US, under President Bush, is made to appear the enemy because of refusal to sign the Biodiversity Treaty. (The US would belatedly sign the same, weak treaty under President Clinton.)

* 1996 –
o Renewed military presence seen in the Amazon region of Brazil, as a result of radar project and militarization of the borders against drug traffic (at US behest?). Secret project SIVAM is revealed.
o On April 17, 1996, 19 landless farmers of the MST movement ("Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra") were shot by police at the "S" curve of highway PA-150 at Eldorado de Carajás, in Pará state. These people were part of a demonstration calling for the federal disappropriation of an unproductive ranch where the MST had mounted a camp called "Macaxeira" with almost 3000 families.

* 2005 –
o On February 12, 2005, American missionary Dorothy Stang (73 years of age) is gunned down in Anapu, Pará.
o Worst drought in 50 years hits the western Amazon Basin. Lakes and streams dry and massive fish mortality takes place. Turtle beaches are sacked by hungry residents.

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