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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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seemed to me that the same vegetation, which grows to the water's edge, is not only in the groves of the swamp, but also in the solid-earth groves (1).

There appear, mainly in the Iraria, innumerable palm trees, useful in various ways to the inhabitants. Navigating for four hours through the Iraria basin below, we found ourselves at the confluence of this channel with the Canoma, whose coffee-colored waters, invaded by the whitish flow of Madeira, are swept up like clouds and then completely absorbed by this river.

Rio Madeira joins Rio Amazon

The Nova Monte Caramelite mission at Canoma is situated farther up the junction, on the left bank of the river. It was founded in 1811 by the Carmelite monk Frair Jose Alvares das Chagas, and was now run by a secular priest, Antonio Jesuino Gonsalves, who welcomed me and hosted me with kindly benevolence.

Carmelite Mission

He was in the company of people of his family, and about a thousand Mundurucus, not all of whom, however, lived on their own mission, but scattered in the bush, and particularly around the bays east of the river.

Mundurucu girl today

I admired the perseverance and courage with which this man, of such a genial spirit, remained among savages, who years before had given up their life of complete freedom. In this, he was greatly supported by his two sisters, who worked to attract some young Indian women into the house, so that they might perhaps marry Mundurucus from the neighborhood, a simple and effective way to make civilization accessible to the unconverted. The news of my arrival soon spread terror among the neophytes of the good priest, supposing that I would have them arrested for public service. There had been a movement lately, despite the protests of the vicar, to recruit a certain number of Mundurucus for the militia, which was why the Indians, already discontented, threatened to return to the woods. My host then sought to undo the misconception, and dispatched a boat to the villages of the Upper Canoma, to inform the people of the truth, and at the same time to urge them to gather ethnographic curiosities for me. We visited the lodges lined up in a very large area, as well as those of the wooded villages, which the Mundurucus members usually build.

Few men were at home; but the woman, everywhere, kindly offered us chestnuts, or little slices of the cassava biscuits,

and they seemed to have a veneration and affection for the worthy priest. The children, whose religious training was the daily task of the priest, knew Christian beliefs. In any case, however, it seemed as if the horde were no more aware of what is meant by “state”, “right”,

(I) Here and there, the coast is covered with wild rice, as closed as if it were planted artificially.

The inhabitants make abundant harvests of it there, penetrating, in small canoes, among the stems, to cut and gather the grains. There are forests amongst these rice fields (in tupi auatii -tyba).

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