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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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Thus, for example, the first of the aforementioned villages, founded at the end of the last century, are almost in ruins. The activity of the Carmelite order and of the Capuchin, in Belem, in relation to these establishments deserves all the praise; But, in general, either because of a lack of morality or the lack of uniform and energetic principles in the way of dealing with commercial transactions, the influence of the clergy was much lower than the time of the Jesuits. Thereafter, the Government did not establish any general plan in reference to the Indians. On the contrary, they left everything undecided, whose consequence was the last general measure. This state of affairs was extremely painful in Grao-Para, which, due to its large indigenous population and great lack of workers seemed to require efficient reform.

The inhabitants from there, whose well-being depended almost exclusively on the help of the Indians, thought of as being, in fact, without advantages, but with the right to do as they pleased, on one side possessing activity and intelligence and, on the other, indolence and the cowardice of spying. The general purpose was to make the Indians useful taxpayers, with the smallest possible expense. In these terms, it is inferred that the expeditions in order to obtain Indians for domestic service have never ceased. In fact, the law prohibits attacking the Indians in their forests, but the art of persuasion is within the reach of all and this becomes often effective with the use of weapons. It is not unusual to employ weapons, when it is for the legitimate defense and it is allowed to carry concealed weapons on these expeditions, but the consent of the Government is necessary (1). Then they assault the Indians and put them in cages (2) or in chains. According to the judge's lists of the population, these captured Indians should be considered as Brazilian subjects, just like those who work in the villages of the settlements. However, very frequently, even these are caught by the whites, and, under the pretense of escape or revolt, are also enslaved.

Inveterate and incomparable suspicion on the part of the red skins, and insensitivity and disregard of their rights by the whites are the natural consequences of such sad conditions. The new political constitution of Brazil grants, in fact, to the Indians, all rights of the other free citizens. We are, however, inclined to believe that, despite these liberal laws, nothing has improved and the situation which is unfortunately much like the trafficking of blacks, deserves the intervention of a humanitarian and prudent government. Where, however, was this assistance and how could it be, in general, instituted? What means are still today at the disposition of the State, to improve the luck of the unhappy children of the Earth, who even here, instead of benefits, only receive from Christian Europe war and devastation? The aforementioned description of the luck of the Indians of Brazil and the legislation that ennobles them, ennobles them to justify in many respects the processes of the Portuguese Government, which seriously cared for the civilization and happiness of the forest people. But it also proves that this commitment has encountered the greatest difficulties. The Spanish government employed in the founding and development of the missions of Paraguay an annual number of 90,000 to 100,000 Spanish soldiers, until, under the administration of the Jesuits, they became self supporting, without the smallest sacrifice from the Portuguese Government.

In all the provinces, particularly in Minas, Bahia, Goias, Maranhao, large amounts of free housing were employed to gather Indians in villages, provide them with all the necessities and protect them. All these expenditures, however, remained in force, so to speak, without any left overs for the state. Currently, there are only a few of these villages, founded with such great sacrifices. Since that occasion, the benefits that the Indians have given to the Treasury have been insignificant taxes that were rarely paid. The State also had to deal with the judges being able to receive, from time to time, and by chance, a small part of the crop products, as I said, and a portion of the hourly

(1)To explore the tributaries of the Solimoe river, I need to obtain a license from the military commander of the village of Ega.
(2) A heavy wooden pall, in whose round holes, which can be closed, to trap the feet of the captives.

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