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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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Much more important than the loss of diamonds with the license to wash gold in the Diamantino District were the losses the Crown suffered from smuggling by the so-called gold miners. These people turn the gravel from rivers and streams in the most remote parts of the District, or steal at night from the king's warehouses, where the gravel is already ready to be washed. Not infrequently the thieves are the runaway slaves themselves, who live hidden in the crevices of rocks and mountain caves, and from there go out to practice all kinds of thefts. However, in the services of the Diamantina Board, the utmost vigilance over the black employees themselves becomes necessary. Incredible are the varied tricks used by blacks, already by nature cunning and inclined to theft, seeking to hide and preserve for themselves these valuable gems. In the presence of the overseer, they can hide the diamond found, between the fingers of the hand or foot, in the ears, in the mouth, in the shell; when these means do not serve, they even swallow the stone, or throw it behind their back, and then seek it at night. For these thefts, blacks are driven not only by instinct but also by the willing collusion of buyers. Like robbery, blacks generally smuggle diamonds across borders.

Smugglers in Minas Gerais

However active the surveillance of the Registry posts and roaming troops against smuggling may be, it is done by people who are aware of retired paths, in the rugged mountains or in the woods, in order to avoid the posts and safely carry the precious stones beyond the border. As soon as the stones cross the border, they are soon available to buyers, who hide the stones in bales of cotton and other sales items, and then return with them to Rio de Janeiro and Bahia to their commissioners established on the coast. If it were not so publicly practiced, as Mawe says, the illegal diamond business would not verify this saying: - "Nitimur in vetitum always cupimusque negata" (1).

The knowledge, which until now we had almost always had by mouth about the Diamantino District, has aroused even more keen interest in us to look into the mines themselves. On May 23, Ferreira da Camara led us to a rich gold mine on

Bandeirinha canyon

the Bandeirinha peak, three leagues southwest of the Tejuco, which he had authorized the son of one of the employees to found. When we reached the summit of the mountain, on whose eastern slope the village is located, we walked through the Lavra dos Picos, similar to a quarry. The quartzite, whose gums and deposits had been explored

1) Quotes Latin: We tend to the forbidden and demand the denied. (Rev. note, Ed. Melh.).

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