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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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At present the river, here and there, still supplies turtle eggs, particularly on the beach of Camara-Coari, the northern shore, where we saw the royal flag and many busy men. At points, where small bands of little turtles crawl out of the sand, a number of waders and prey were after them in a pack.

Farther upstream, we found vast forests of sturdy cacao trees, which already signaled us with their dark green, and their symmetrical and vast canopy.

Cacao grove

It is said that here the Curuzicaris or Corozirares were once domiciled, a tribe of whose number and skill in the preparation of the clay pots were described by Acuna and his commentator, Pagan. We only found in the woods one or two huts, inhabited by meek Indians, but nomads, and only the name of uara-tapera (place abandoned by the masters), as well as the presence of the cacao trees, which they sowed in the neighborhood of their former dwellings, seem to remember that a large population existed in times past.

But although all these Indians have disappeared without leaving any vestiges, there still remains the panorama of the landscape seen and described by Acuna: to the south of the river rises and rises a reddish gypsum or steep ravines of clay, to which we have already referred, and, moreover, to the west, those of tabatinga (white clay) and Mutum-Coara (place of the mutants). Closer is Carapanatuba Beach. The steep banks of the Mutum-Coara account for forty or even fifty feet, and they say that in the interior they form a high, mountainous region which is not covered with forest, but with the vegetation of the fields. In this pasture, the expedition of Orellana must have found great mammals, unknown to the Indians, and undoubtedly had transmigrated from Peru. Recently, no one had seen these animals; but, lacking a more important tradition, this fact was not yet completely forgotten among the Indians. European cattle with almost unbelievable ease have mixed in South American herds, both to the south and north of the equator. When we sought to question Indians who had undertaken long migrations, they almost never referred to natural grasslands, not to mention the sturdy cattle that grazed there.

Thus the oxen of the missions of Paraguay and the provinces of Moxos and Chiquitos passed through the fields which lie here and there between the banks of the Javari, the Coari, and the Jurema; on the fields in the Rio Branco, the cattle dispersed, sometimes going to the mountainous region of Parime; and, in the grasslands north of Macapa, iron-bound bulls have been killed, perhaps straying from Essequibo or from the missions of the Catalan monks in Alto-Caroni.

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