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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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Only when we announced our arrival at the port did the Indians make that

Port of Miranhas, Japura river

resounding sound on the other side of the river, and the chief assured me that in an hour all the hamlets of Miranhas would be informed of our presence. In the early days, when their interest in us was new, we could do nothing, without this singular “telegraph” resonating far, informatively. Now the sounds said, "The white man is eating"; then,”We are dancing with the whites," and when it was dark, the news was sent that we settled down to sleep.

We were very anxious to observe this organization, because, in case of a disagreement with our cannibal hosts, in a few hours, we could have found ourselves conquered by the violence of these strong enemies, and we warned our people not to give the slightest pretext for quarrels, and to visit only the large kitchen hut and the nearby workshops, where they worked.

All the womens’ steps were jealously observed by their respective husbands. There was no doubt that we were here in the midst of true cannibals: the leader himself and even his wife, a beautiful tall Indian who was a recent arrival to this disreputable place, denied having eaten the flesh of people frequently. However, they have long been accustomed to coexistence with the harshest of forest dwellers whom we did not find, in this terrifying environment, any more serious reason to fear or to suspect than in the midst of any other horde of meek Indians. Not only did the commercial interest of the chief require him to continue in good terms with the whites, but also the innate good nature of these people soon seemed to us a guarantee of security. The first night, I and Capitao Zani had placed several rifles in the part of the hut offered us, and we alternated standing guard, but Joao Manuel rebuked us

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(1) I have questioned the chief about this case of the existence of cannibalism in his tribe, and his answers have shown that he and his people are foreign to the sentiment of civilized peoples who regard the custom of eating flesh as eating people. "The whites," he said, "did not want to eat crocodile or monkey, although they are tasty, so if they had fewer turtles and pigs, they would certainly eat other people, for hunger makes them suffer, and eating is only a matter of habit. “I do not eat it or I eat it; If I do not eat it, I let it rot.”

I quote here from an "enemy of his tribe", “I may eat it, or I may not eat it, but I do not know potatoes of better taste than this. I know that "white people are very sour." Frankly, this response tells me that the Indians of this strange nation, treat all strangers, particularly the declared enemy, as game for their hunt and their roasting spit. When I asked the chief if his tribe also ate their prisoners, and preferred to take prisoners for this purpose, he replied: "Eat a prisoner when I can sell him ? Rum is much better than blood, but Umaua, who prefers to die of hunger rather than being sold to the whites, has eaten so many of us, that we must kill him. " Of human sacrifices, offered in expiation to the evil spirit (the good spirit, the Miranha does not know ), I did not find any vestige.

 

It is noteworthy that the savage generally devours his personal enemy, sacrificed with a sense of rancor; but in this respect I could not fathom more about these Miranhas. Most tame Indians have the most terrifying idea of cannibalism. Some admitted they enjoy it; among these were the Tubiaba Cucui, who had lived for 100 years in the upper Rio Negro, and ate even their women, so much so that even today their name is an anathema.