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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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On the last day of December, Pachico arrived, the leader of the Coretus, whom

we had hired to accompany us. He appeared to me barefoot, wearing the usual cotton leggings of the Indians, but wore a blue coat and wielded a scepter, made of Spanish reed, with a silver tassel. This symbol of authority had been given to the leader in the time of Mendonca Furtado and the Second Boundary Commission, as they hoped to conquer the rough forest dwellers with such insignia and positions of honor; but nowadays it is so rare to see a European trophy, like Pachico's, which probably dates from that time. This man was the most cunning and cheeky Indian I had ever encountered. He found it convenient to present himself as the faithful vassal of the King of Portugal and as charge d'affaires of his fellow tribesmen; but it was not long before he betrayed himself, being so little esteemed by the whites, as by the others, and because he knew better than any other the art of employing his subordinates in his service. He sought to keep his tribe in the bush, away from the whites, and, on his own account, made war on his neighbors to negotiate the prisoners with the Europeans who had just arrived; even to his own brethren, he likewise exchanged them for some trifle.

Indian slave trader

Thus, for the first time, in the interior of America, a perfect figure of a slave trader, was brought into our presence. Without doubt, the State prejudices the fate of the Indians, with the appointment of such foreman, as with that of white judges; happily, among the leaders, few are endowed with the cleverness and spirit of initiative of this Coretu. We tried to persuade him, for he understood the Portuguese well, how much more he could gain, as well as the State, by the exploitation of the regular cultivation of the land and by the exchange of natural products; but he replied that all this was much more trouble than selling slaves, and the business always gave him a profit. When, after all, I asked him for information on the mineral riches of that basin, he stated absolute ignorance in that respect; but at dusk he appeared with his daughter, an 18-year-old girl, at our door, requesting permission to enter, as there was something important to report. Then, once he had closed doors, he said that he should not hide what he had not wanted to declare before others, that his father had made known to him rich gold mines in the springs of Apaporis; he was willing to show them in exchange for

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(footnote from page 231)
cooked with potato. Water is poured on this dough and left to stand for the vinous fermentation. The fruit juice, generally called ty, tycoara, is mixed, and that word is used particularly for the preparation of cassava flour, water and the sucrose of rapadura. Indians like, above all, substantial food, and therefore also often take a soft potato with crushed bananas, a very nutritious and tasty dish.

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