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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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Our tours have taken us sometimes along a path already invaded by the forest, to the west of Barra to the Riacho da Cachoeira, to a small stream in the forest, that spills off a rock with elaborate stonework, and forms a beautiful waterfall. The water generally has a temperature of 19.5 ° to 20 ° R., in contrast to the mean thermal state of the waters of the Amazon (26 ° R.), and afforded us the enjoyment of a bath, similar to those of our northern Europe.

Riacho da Cachoeira

A sumptuous variety of flowers and groves surround this basin, so that, for us naturalists, the famous bath of Italy would have less charm. I tried to commit to memory the look of that lovely solitude. When we moved further from Barra, it was deemed necessary to take accompaniment of armed Indians, because the region is populated by jaguars.

Felis onca, the jaguar

On our way back to Barra, we rewarded the men with a few cachaca jugs, and urged them to exhibit themselves in their games. Among these, the favorite was the fish dance (pira poraceya). The Indians form a circle around one of them, who plays the fish, and the players ask what kind of fish he is, to which the man responds: "I am a fish indeed." While the bystanders chant all the names of fish in a monotone, and threaten the prisoner to numb him with the thimble or throw the flask, he tries to slip away from the circle, and if he does, he takes the place of the man whose carelessness allowed his escape. It is amazing how this game amuses the Indians all day, especially when there is some heady drink, to excite their joy. Another game, the most passionately played, is very much like a number game. They play with a number of small sticks, which have on their several sides greater or lesser numbers of cuts (ymyra jemossaraitaba) (1). They throw them in the air, on the level ground, and the winner is the one whose chopped stick has more cuts.

Although the clergy severely prohibits this game, it is practiced everywhere when the Indians are alone or thought not to be observed. These men, though quiet and secretive in their domestic relations, are, however, accessible to naive camaraderie, and our servants also soon found acquaintances, and took their chopped sticks with them at night. Visiting Indians, too, who brought things to barter in the village, joined others willingly for games. Among these, I found

(I) In the original, ymyra iemossaraitaba. As can be seen from Stradelli's "Vocabulary" (in page 158 of "Rev. Inst. Hist. and Geogr. Brasileiro", page 133), the most correct expression must be, "toy of the stick. " (Nola da rev., Inst. Hist. and Geogr. Bras.).

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