Remember the Rainforest 1
In many places we found dense cocoa groves;
Theobroma cacao, the cocoa
and on the highest points there were a large number of palm-trees, perhaps a clue to ancient cultivation in this wilderness, once again given over to the creative force of the plant kingdom. How much we rejoice, therefore, when we see the ravines of clay or red stoneware, crowned with forests, the mouth of Lake of Coari, standing out in the uniformity of the landscape !
Village in Lake Coari
Lake Coari and the Amazon
The drainage of this lake empties, to the south of two islets, in a great basin of almost two leagues of length and six of width.
Its banks barely rise, and are clothed, on the beach, with low vegetation, and further on, in the interior, with higher virgin forests. We find its waters of a greenish tone quite clear (hence the name of lac-vert, in the atlas of L'Isle by Acuna).
The current is very unimpressive. In general, there is little water, particularly near the banks, so that, in the strongest droughts, there is only one navigable channel to the place of Alvelos, three leagues inland, on the eastern shore of the lake. We had sailed halfway to this settlement, when it became a dark night around us; and as the smallest piece of wind caused high waves, we saw each other for a long time, in danger, until the force of the paddling took us to the harbor, out of the shallows, at midnight.
Alvelos, called Coari by the Indians, had been one of the missions founded by the Carmelites, and originally housed forest people from the tribes of Solimoes,
Jumas, Juris, Passes, Uaiupis, Irijus, Purus and Catanuxis. The present inhabitants, in cooperation and conviviality with the whites, renounced their language and other customs of the tribe. We found, on this occasion, only a few residents present, for most men were far away on the farms or engaged in the preparation of turtle butter. In fact, the population has been continuously decreasing in the village ever since. Blisters, and very recently, intermittent, malignant fevers, caused by the overflowing of the lake, decimated the population from time to time, which, without medical aid, even more quickly succumbs. (Unfortunately, throughout the province of Rio Negro there is no medical doctor). Among the Indians present, we were introduced to two men by the priest, both over 100 years of age, and yet they were still of incredible strength and vivacity. In the traditional impassibility and
(1) Monteiro informs us that the first mission was in Paratari, from there it was transferred to the ilha of Guajaratuva,
Alvelos on Lake Coari
then to the coast of Guanama, and finally to here. Such changes of locality occurred with many colonies in the Amazon, for reasons regarding climate, soil condition, commercial traffic, proximity to hostile Indians, or the plague of mosquitoes. Also the personal tendency of the missionary, determined the transference of the domicile. In a country which seems to contain so much product abundance everywhere, and where so little expense is required to obtain a roof, such tendencies are well explained.