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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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(Ill) The following are the physical properties of the commanding plain of Solimoes.

Manaus to border

The clay appears light yellow gray color, with spots of hollow-yellow; It is very tender and absorbs water. Exposed to the charcoal fire, it smells like scorpion and has lots of water, which reacts on ammonia. It retains much of its color; but, burned, it becomes clearer. On strong fire, it melts on the surface, giving a greenish or grayish glaze. With borax, which is difficult to dissolve and time consuming, it produces a weakly blue-iron glaze. Moistened with cobalt solution and heated, it takes on light blue tint. With acids, it does not produce effervescence, or very little.

Among the colored clays we brought from the Amazon, we can distinguish the color of lilac, which, due to the small content of gravel and the property of easily decomposing with acids, differs from all varieties used in Germany for the manufacture of earthenware.

It emerges in several places, for example, near Praia dos Oncas and in Ega and Coari in thick layers of earthy fracture, imperfectly conchoid, clinging strongly to the tongue, and dissolving in the water, gives loose agglomerates, which by grinding form a plastic paste. Heated in concentrated hydrochloric acid, it dissolves all over, letting the pure siliceous earth settle. This clay is often used by the Indians for their pottery, especially for the dishes painted in the interior, and takes on in the weaker degree of heat to which they usually expose it, a violet-reddish or pale-violet hue. A small fire is enough for it to produce crackles, similar in consistency and firmness to much of the old Roman pottery.

Amazon Basin

In many places, for example, in Obidos and between Coari and Ega, we find, in the middle of the clay, also one of the many species of kaolin in parallel layers with those others. According to experiences with some portions of it, it can be equated with the best German species. Snow white, with an uneven, imperfect, concoidal fracture, it does not change in water, and produces a milled pulp. Put to fire, it continues white and hardens, breaking then with perfect concoidal fracture.

(IV) Trade between Rio Negro and Manaus. - Before the recent political catastrophes (1), commerce between the Spanish provinces and Brazil and Portugal, it was said, was of no importance at all, and it is still said today. It was the policy of the government to tax the profits which trade, on all rivers, could offer, and to keep the two countries in strict separation. Currently, in transactions between the Brazilian provinces and Manaus in particular, the imported goods are taken by way of the Solimoes, already are considered as contraband.

Solimoes river

Moiobamba, the capital of Manaus, and Lamas are almost at the western end, at the edge of the immense Amazon valley, with which it shares a common climate, products and the same needs for commercial movement. For the inhabitants of Manaus, as well as those of Quichas and Macas (Avila, Baeza, Archidona and Macas), which are separated from the Peruvian seaports by the steep and glacial Andes mountain range, only transiting through a few canyons, and much more difficult to transport the products of the country than to the borders of Brazil to the east, by navigable rivers, not interrupted by cataracts. Manaus is, in addition, an exceptionally fertile province, but very poor in population and gold, and, in its development, was far behind the others located to the west. Currency was even rarer there than in Rio Negro, and even the harvest of wild products was less easy. Therefore, after dissolving the administration of the religious missions, many Indians, the only working class, fled to their forests. Due to these circumstances, the prices of regional products are generally lower in Manaus than in the other regions, three times further away from the ocean, and from the upper Solimoes. Everything here will be transformed, when commerce takes its natural course, and Loreto and Tabatinga flourish, like border towns do.

The Maranon (as we call it, is above the frontier of Brazil) spreads like a single colossal port through this low territory, and it is also communicated by all the rivers from the west, that flow in the direction of Brazil.

(1) The struggles for the independence of Peru. (Rev. Note, Ed. Mel.).

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