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Ariquemes settlement and class in a Brazilian frontier town
Settlement and class in Brazilian frontier town : Ariquemes
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xiii, 250 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Wilson, J. F
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Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural colonies -- Brazil -- Ariquemes   ( lcsh )
Land settlement -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Ariquemes (Brazil)   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 241-249).
Statement of Responsibility:
by John F. Wilson.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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aleph - 000585653
notis - ADB4292
oclc - 14258050
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Full Text







Copyright 1985


John F. Wilson

In Memory of

Cleo Glascock


Funding for the field research upon which this

dissertation is based was provided by the National Science

Foundation, the Amazon Research and Training Program of the

University of Florida, and the Tropical South America

Research Project of the University of Florida.

Completing this dissertation would have been impossible

without the support and advice of many individuals.

Preparing for the research, getting to the field, doing the

fieldwork, and returning to write it up depended on the

generous aid of professors, colleagues, family, friends and,

of course, the subjects of my research. I am, however,

solely responsible for the errors or shortcomings of this


I should first like to thank the members of my doctoral

committee, Charles Wagley, Maxine Margolis, Marianne Schmink,

Charles Wood, and Theron Nunez. I consider it my good

fortune and an honor to have found them here to lead me so

patiently through these rites of passage. Theron Nunez has

been a constant source of encouragement and good humor. I

appreciate his valuable advice on how to get through what

could often seem like a monumental and overwhelming task.

Marianne Schmink has been supportive in countless ways but I

am especially thankful for her enthusiasm and dedication to

the Amazon Research and Training Project which, because of

her tireless efforts, has greatly enhanced the opportunities

to learn about and do research in the Amazon for myself and

many others. I am grateful to Charles Wood for always

opening new doors to opportunities and ideas and for his

clarity and insightful criticism. I could easily spend the

remainder of the decade expressing my gratitude to Maxine

Margolis (and to her husband, Jerry Milanich) for being a

great many things at many times. There are, indeed, such

things as guardian angels. To Charles Wagley (and to his

wife, Cecilia) I am likewise most grateful. I am honored by

their encouragement, friendship and support.

Other members of the faculty have given their time and

assistance, among .them Leslie Lieberman, Al Howgr, Ruben

Garcia, Russell Bernard, and Terry McCoy. I am especially

grateful to Marvin Harris for serving on my qualifying

examination committee and for providing insights that have

shaped my views on the science of culture and on what

anthropology should try to be. My sincere thanks are also

extended to Joseph Foweraker, Jose and Heloise de Souza

Martins, Otavio Velho, and Conrad and Betty Kottak. I am

especially grateful to Donald and Diana Sawyer for their

hospitality in Belo Horizonte and for their many

contributions to this research.

All of the staff of the Center for Latin American

Studies and the Department of Anthropology have made coping


with the bureaucratic aspects of graduate school, grants,

travel arrangements and such, a great deal easier than they

might have been. Among those who deserve special thanks for

their time and understanding are Lydia Deakin, Vivian Nolan,

Lydia Gonzales, Abby Walters, Pat Flaherty, Lois Green and

Donna McMillan.

My fellow students have been no less important in

helping me through the many crises, real or imagined, of

graduate school and dissertation writing, among them: Georg

Vollweiler, Debra Picchi, Jane Collins, Michael Painter, Judy

Lisansky, Lawrence Carpenter, James Lett, Betina and Nassaro

Nasser, Brook Schwartz, Jean Goering, John Butler, Beth

Higgs, Rosemarijn Hoefte, Penny McCracken, Richard Pace,

Brian Fisk, Diego Hay and many others. I ath especially

indebted to Thomas Eubanks and Michael Whittington, for their

support and encouragement and for taking charge of my affairs

while I was in the field. I also thank Thomas Eubanks for

drawing the maps and patiently dealing with my questions

about word processing.

Without the support of my family it is unlikely that

any of this dissertation would have been written. I thank my

mother and father, Laura and Jackson Wilson, Charles

Glascock, Dorle, Erhart, Peter and Ralph Gillwald, my sister,

Betsy, and her husband, Mike, my siblings Laly, Joe, and Tom,

and Angela and the Arias family.


Brazil would not have been the same for me if not for

the Levy family of Sao Paulo who found room to adopt an

anthropologist and become his home away from home. I am

forever indebted to Merwin, Edith, Wendy, Karen, and Carmen

for their love and hospitality and for teaching me a great

deal about Brazil and being Brazilian.

Very special thanks must be extended to my colleague

from Frankfurt, Germany, Martin Coy. His presence in

Rondonia and his willingness to share the experiences of his

fieldwork greatly enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of

my own work. I am especially grateful for his company and

commisseration in the often trying moments of fieldwork.

I am deeply indebted to my dear colleague and friend,

Sandra Witt-James for sharing with me the long months in the

field. I thank her for her kind tolerance of my

idiosyncracies and for her willingness to forgive the

countless times when the frustrations of fieldwork were

unthinkingly flung in her direction. Her contribution to

this research was vital.

Finally, I thank my informants and the people of

Ariquemes for their openness and hospitality. This work

would not have been possible without their trust and

cooperation. I would especially like to thank Anna, Pedro,

the sisters of the Franciscan Mission in Ariquemes, the

Lutheran Mission, the Association of Marechal Farmers, the

staff of CEPLAC, INCRA, and the Prefecture in Ariquemes, and


the staff of the Comissao Estadual para o Planejamento

Agricola in Porto Velho. There are too many individuals who

were directly involved in the research to name here and many

must remain anonymous but I thank them all for being my

teachers and friends. For them, I hope that the product of

this research, and of the work of my fellow researchers in

Rondonia, will prove to be more than an exercise of academic

interest and contribute in some way to the understanding and

reformulation of development policy on this frontier.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................ iv

LIST OF TABLES ......................................... xi

ABSTRACT.................................... .... .... xii


I INTRODUCTION ....................... ... ...... 1

The Research Problem........................... 6
Theoretical Discussion ......................... 12
Methodology... .............................. 20
Notes ....................... . ................ 25

II HISTORICAL BACKGROUND .............. ........... 27

The Colonial Period to 1970.................... 27
Recent Colonization: 1970-1984................ 43


Ariquemes and Extraction............. .... .. 61
Ariquemes and the Agricultural Frontier........ 67
Town and Countryside........................... 78

IV THE MARECHAL FARMERS........................... 90

Background.. . . ... ..... ... ..... . 90
Subsistence and Commodity Production........... 103

SCALE FARMS ................ ........... .... .. 133

The Cacau Growers of Burareiro.................. 134
Licitaq5o and Other Large Farms................. 153
Labor Absorption............................... 163
Notes......................................... 167

VI CLASS AND DEVELOPMENT ......................... 169

Resource Distribution ......................... 169
Class Action... ......... ................ ... .. 179
Directed Development: POLONOROESTE............ 195
Notes..................... ................... 216



VII CONCLUSIONS................... . ............ 217

Economic and Ecological Factors.................. 217
Structural Factors............................ 230

BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................................... 241

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.................... .......... 250




2.1 Migrants Registered Entering Rondonia, 1977-1984.. 51

2.2 Land Distribution in Rondonia...................... 54

2.3 Urban and Rural Population........................ 56

4.1 Place of Previous Residence....................... 93

4.2 Sources of Labor................................ 107

4.3 Malaria Cases by Household........................ 109

4.4 Amount of Coffee Planted.......................... 120

6.1 Land Distribution in Ariquemes.................... 171

6.2 Number of Hectares Financed by Crop and Project... 174

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



John F. Wilson

August 1985

Chairman: Charles Wagley
Major Department: Anthropology

The site of this study is Ariquemes, a rapidly growing

town in Rondonia, Brazil. Pioneer settlement in this region

and throughout Amazonia has often been promoted as an

alternative to agrarian reform. The fact that frontier

expansion has often led to forms of economic production and

growth that impede, rather than promote, such reform has been

well documented by case studies of frontier communities in

Amazonia. The present research focuses on the ecological and

economic constraints faced by small-farm settlers within the

context of Brazilian social structure. Implicit biases in

development policy and the relative economic and political

status of different groups within the local community prevent

substantial changes in the structure of agrarian society.

While poor migrants acquire land, legal title, and even rural

credit, they are limited by structural factors beyond their

control. The small-scale producer is consequently forced to


adopt patterns of land use which are ecologically unsound and

non-sustainable in the long term. The small-farm pioneers,

who rely primarily on family labor to produce subsistence

crops and a small surplus of coffee, are rarely able to

generate an income above subsistence level and often must

seek wage labor off the farm. Their response to ecological

and technological problems of tropical agriculture is

conditioned by the costs of reproducing the household, the

costs of appropriate technology, and the limited economic

rewards accruing to small-scale producers.

Other settlers, however, have received or purchased

larger farms and depend primarily on hired labor. They have

managed to obtain a greater share of development resources

and command greater influence in political and bureaucratic

institutions which contribute to the definition of policy and

regulate its implementation. Furthermore, the expansion and

consolidation of capitalist forms of production are promoted

by the continuing and explosive growth of the landless

population entering Rondonia. This study concludes that

settlement has failed to address fundamental economic and

political obstacles to agrarian reform that are rooted in

Brazilian social structure.



Migration to the Brazilian Amazon has brought diverse

and irreversible changes to this region which comprises 60

percent of the national territory. Perhaps as many as

760,000 individuals settled in the Brazilian Amazon between

1970 and 1980 alone (Wood and Wilson 1984:148). Since the

1950s, the government of Brazil has, for various

motives--geopolitical, economic, and social--invested in

ambitious road construction projects to integrate this region

with the rest of Brazil. The government has also sponsored a

massive colonization effort and distributed homesteads to

landless migrants from more densely populated rural areas.

Studies of this demographic process suggest that the

occupation of the Amazon is primarily the product of "push"

factors in the regions of origin rather than a consequence of

"pull" factors generated by new highways, access to land, and

government programs (Henriques 1982:23; Lisansky 1980:335).

Economic, ecological, technological, political, and other

factors in the regions of origin force individuals to

"choose" migration to the frontier as a means of reproducing

the small-farm household. According to Sawyer (1984:190):

"most settlement in Amazonia can be considered spontaneous if

we use this term to refer to the lack of correspondence with



the most relevant government policies, rather than to the

motives and will of the individual migrant." His data

strongly support this conclusion. While the government

settled only 24,242 migrant families in official colonization

projects by 1978, over 600,000 families settled in the region

between 1950 and 1980.

Official colonization can claim but a small part in the

overall settlement of the Amazon. However, the government

played a significant role in terms of the distribution of

land (and capital) to large-scale enterprise. This action

contributed to the "closing" of the frontier. Land on the

frontier was appropriated on a vast scale by private capital

which reduced the amount of land available for pioneer

settlement by landless migrant families (cf. Schmink 1981).

Sawyer adds that "even though the state distributed a limited

number of small lots, the political balance was undoubtedly

in favor of large properties and against the mass of

settlers. Official colonization should be viewed more as a

conquest of the settlers than as a response to incentives

offered by the state or as a necessity of capitalist

expansion" (Sawyer 1984:200). One of the most dynamic areas

of settlement in the Brazilian Amazon is the state of

Rondonia. Colonization in this region is perhaps best

described in terms of such a "conquest".

The state of Rondonia (see Figure 1) is located in the

northwest of Brazil.1 Bordering with Bolivia, Acre,

Amazonas, and Mato Grosso, it encompasses an area of 243,044



C .
. O
W 0



square kilometers. Total population in 1980 was

approximately 490,000 inhabitants and population density was

2.03 persons per square kilometer. In June of 1984, Rondonia

had a population exceeding 870,000 inhabitants and a

population density of approximately 3.6 persons per square
kilometer. This signifies a near doubling of the

population in less than five years.

Rondonia is traversed by the BR-364 highway which cuts

across the northeastern half of the state from Porto Velho in

the northwest to Vilhena on the eastern perimeter. Heading

northwest from Vilhena to Porto Velho the highway crosses

land that is fairly undulated. The hills coincide with the

northern edge of the Brazilian planalto which descends to

meet the Amazon basin. Approximately 200 kilometers south of

Porto Velho, nearing Ariquemes, the landscape begins to level


Rondonia's vegetation varies but the greater part, 78

percent, is upland wet forest. The remainder is, in more or

less equal parts, wet varzea forest, cerrado, and campo

grassland. Average annual rainfall is between 1,800 to 2,000

mm in the easternmost municipality, Vilhena, to 2,200 mm in

the central and western part of the state, which includes

Ariquemes. Temperatures range between 21 and 27 degrees

Celcius. The wet and dry seasons occur, respectively, from

October to April, and June to August. Rainfall is

intermediate during the months of September and May (World

Bank 1981a:38).


One often hears that Rondonia is favored with rather

good soils in comparison to other parts of Amazonia. My own

impression, taken from colleagues, and from Brazilian media

coverage of colonization in Rondonia, is that the amount of

better quality soils is highly exaggerated. This is even

more clear when one considers their potential for agriculture

within a broader economic context that includes the costs of

adequate soil management and conservation technology. The

soils of Rondonia, even the better "terra roxa" soils, are no

less vulnerable to erosion and leaching than other Amazonian

soils--once the protective canopy and closed nutrient cycle

of the rainforest is broken. Satellite surveys conducted by

RADAMBRASIL indicate that only 9 percent of Rondonia's soils

are the much publicized "terra roxa" or eutrophic podsols of

high fertility. Sixty percent of the soils have moderate

fertility. These are dystrophic soils, deep latosols that

are either clayey or loamey in texture and which necessitate

liming and fertilizers for sustained production. Seven

percent of the soils are classified as "marginal". These are

also dystrophic soils, but are sandy or concretionary. They

cannot sustain production without liming and their texture,

moreover, is not amenable to the use of fertilizers. Nearly

23 percent of the soils are judged to be unsuitable for known

uses (World Bank 1981a:58).

Ariquemes, the last of seven colonization areas opened

by the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian

Reform (INCRA) in Rondonia during the 1970s,3 lies about


200 kilometers southeast of Porto Velho (see Figure 2).

Official colonization in Ariquemes began in 1975. By 1981,

over 5,000 small-farm land grants, approximately 100 hectares

in size, had been distributed to poor migrants from various

regions of Brazil. The colonists primarily came from the

states of Parana and Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, and other

states of the Center-South, Center-West and South.

Northeasterners were much fewer in numbers but many of those

who arrived from previous locations in the aforementioned

states had previously migrated to those areas from the


The Research Problem

This case study focuses on these small-farm settlers in

Ariquemes' official small-fatm colonization area called the

Marechal project. They must, however, be viewed within the

context defined by their social, political, economic, and

physical environment. Therefore, the landowners of two

neighboring projects, called Burareiro and Licitag0o,

also fall within the scope of this study. The Burareiro

project was composed of about 800 medium sized land grants of

200 to 300 hectares in size. To simplify discussion, the

Licitaqco project will be divided into two parts which I

shall call Theobroma, an area of about 200 parcels of 500

hectares each, and Seringal Preto, an area of over 100

tracts of 1000 hectares each. The Licitagco area was

sold rather cheaply to private investors. Outside of the

INCRA projects, yet still in the vicinity of Ariquemes, were




0 10 20 30 40 50

Figure 2
Map of Ariquemes


a small number of plantations and ranches which exceeded 1000

hectares in size. They, too, must be considered, as well as

the nature and functions of the town center.

The landowners of the various project areas were

subsidized by government programs in different ways. The

Marechal project farmers received credit to plant coffee and

food crops. The Burareiro and Theobroma landowners received

larger amounts of credit to plant cacau. Seringal Preto

landowners were eligible for subsidized credit to plant

rubber. The owners of properties outside of these areas

received credit to plant some or all of the above crops but

in several cases the primary economic activity was cattle


The distribution of wealth and power in Ariquemes

paralleled, but was not necessarily a consequence of, the

hierarchy established in the distribution of land. Several

factors were involved in the creation and maintenance of a

stratified class structure in the community. These factors

will be considered later in detail. However, I will suggest

here that this particular "model" of land and credit

distribution set down the foundations of inequalities that

grew sharper over time.

The related processes of small-farm settlement, capital

accumulation, government development policy, and policy

implementation only become coherent within the context of

class structure in local, regional, and national spheres of

class interaction. Such a focus permits the investigation of


local and extra-local factors relevant to state intervention

and social change.

Based on fourteen months of field research, this

dissertation is a study of fundamental issues related to

directed colonization. It is a study of the frontier as well

as a study of economic development. The case of Ariquemes

provides a focal point for the analysis of various processes,

internal and external, which affect rural settlement and

economic growth.

This is not a study of the "success or failure" of

colonists in State directed colonization projects. There is

a thorny problem in making such a study, viz. what is success

and what is failure? The difficulty presented by the use of

such concepts is more than a matter of semantics. Judging

* success or failure is a matter of perspective. I do not

believe it is correct to say, for example, that a program has

failed because it has not met its stated goals. Policies may

have unstated or implicit goals which are indeed achieved

even if stated goals are not. To accept the explicit goals

of government policy as the criteria for making judgements of

success or failure is not, by any means, an objective

viewpoint from which to attack the problem (Charles Wood,

personal communication). The same outcome of a given program

may be viewed as a triumph for some and a setback for others.

This is, as we shall see, clearly the case in Rondonia, if

one examines the phenomenon of frontier occupation from the

perspective of directed settlement goals. While the


settlement of landless families in Amazonia has been touted

Dy the State as an effort to promote agrarian reform, the

real picture of land distribution and the distribution of

development resources (financing, tax credits, and other

fiscal incentives) suggests a quite different set of

priorities. If one is to discuss success or failure the

question is: success or failure for whom?

Another problem with the discussion of success or

failure arises when one considers that value judgements or

political ideologies are inevitably attached to the notion of

success. Can one call settlement a success if the settlers

are owners of the land but are only able to maintain a level

of bare subsistence? Are settlers successful only when they

manage to produce a surplus? Does the successful settler own

a radio? Or must he own a color television? Who will decide

and how?

Time is also a problem in considering success or

failure. Even if a given level of material well being is

defined as success, the problem remains as to when to measure

the phenomenon in question. When is it possible to declare

that colonization has succeeded failed--after 10 years, 15

years, or a generation? Some farmers in Rondonia were doing

quite well in 1984 and had achieved a standard of living

similar to that of the lower middle class in Brazil's large

cities. But the question remains as to whether or not their

good fortune will continue. The fertility of even the best

land is not inexhaustible. After a time the costs of


production will rise with the need for industrial inputs.

If, in ten years time, such farmers were to leave the

frontier or sell their lands to open up small shops in town

centers, could one say that they failed or that colonization

was a failure? Any answer will be a subjective one.

There are many other theoretical and methodological

difficulties that arise in attempting to judge success or

failure but perhaps the most important relates to the problem

of blame. If one considers success or failure at the level

of the individual colonist this may easily pave the way for

"blaming the victim" (cf. Wood and Schmink 1979; Davis 1977;

Bodley 1982). Focusing on the shortcomings of individuals

may disguise many larger and more important issues of a

structural nature.

Rather than discuss success or failure it is perhaps

more productive to observe what there is to be observed and

reserve such judgements. It may prove more interesting, and

more informative for policy makers, to examine real

opportunities -for agricultural production that are or are not

available to different farmers and entrepreneurs on the


Accordingly, the central focus of this study is not the

individual farmer per se but the broader social environment:

a community of diversified producers and investors. The

dissertation will consider the following questions,

particularly as they relate to the small-scale producer:

What are the major obstacles to agricultural production

and commodity circulation for small-scale farmers? How do

these farmers and entrepreneurs respond to these problems?

What are the social and environmental consequences of

the particular "model" of colonization adopted in Ariquemes?

What are the primary mechanisms of class differentiation

and class organization?

How are institutions, policies, and resources of State

intervention integrated into this differentiated community?

Who benefits from these institutions, policies and resources?

Are development resources and the institutions that deliver

them manipulated by particular interest groups? To what

extent is development planning and implementation at the

local level integrated with or affected by broader economic

policies? Are these institutions, policies, and resources

equipped to direct, or bring order to, the occupation and

development process?

These are the core questions which guided the field

research. The discussion will also pursue other problems

related to these questions such as class conflict, migration

rates, urban growth, urban-rural integration, political

development, inter-regional economic relations, and the

formulation of development policy.

Theoretical Discussion

The analysis of small-farm households as a class of

farmers among other social classes informs the discussion of


the development process on the frontier. The basic material

and structural elements of social organization--forms of

production and reproduction and the distribution of resources

and power--provide, to borrow a term from Harris (1979), the

most "parsimonious" framework for linking processes observed

on the frontier to larger ongoing processes within Brazilian

society as a whole.

A number of scholars adopt a rather different

perspective. The focus of such studies is either the

individual colonist, his cultural heritage, and his

expectations or the individual colonist, the environment, and

adaptive response. They share in common an emphasis on the

individual and choice. Although their conclusions in regard

to the dynamics of colonization and their recommendations for

policy often differ, they share similar limitations in terms

of their incorporation and integration of micro-level and

macro-level constraints.

Crist and Nissly, for example, draw the following

conclusions from a study of Andean migration to the lowland

rainforest of Amazonia:

The crux of the whole problem of settlements is to
convince pioneers that by accepting the winds of
change, thus moving into new areas and with new
technology, they will alter the pattern of their
daily lives so to be able to live a more abundant
life, spiritually as well as materially. (Crist and
Nissly 1973:4 cited in Lisansky 1980:27)

The authors make it quite clear that, in their view, the key

element in the process of colonization is the mentality or

"cultural baggage" of the pioneer. The colonist must be


"convinced" to abandon old ways of thinking and adopt a new

and "modernized" outlook which is more appropriate to a

changing world.4 There is little room within such a

perspective to deal with environmental and structural

constraints that may limit the farmer's ability to keep up

with the so-called "winds of change". In fact, "winds of

change" such as the modernization of agriculture can in

themselves be viewed as contradictory to small-farm

settlement by leading directly to the demise of small-scale

production and the concentration of land (cf. Vollweiler


Other scholars have incorporated environmental factors

into their conceptual framework but their focus remains

primarily at the level of the individual colonist or

emphasizes ecological potential to the exclusion of

structural constraints (cf. Leite and Furley 1985; Smith

1981, 1982, CondurG 1974, Moran 1981). Moran (1981) best

exemplifies a human ecological approach. His important work

on the Transamazon Highway shows what such an approach can

offer, but also what it cannot.

Moran (1981) contributes a detailed description of

small-farm settlement. His analysis takes into account a

broad range of economic, environmental, and institutional

(bureaucratic) factors which limit the farmer's options and

determine the formulation of rational, adaptive strategies.

Moran gives thorough consideration to soils, climate, health,

transport, storage, communications, markets, and government


planning. But while he identifies differentiation among the

colonists and examines a series of factors which might

explain the differential performance among them, a cultural

ecological perspective cannot readily provide an analysis of

the consequences of that differentiation. That is, while he

examines such factors as education, region of origin,

management experience, savings, and others, at the household

level, he does not go beyond the individual household to

examine the social or political consequences of the important

differences he discovers among the colonists. Moran offers

us an excellent description of diverse adaptive

behaviors--but one wonders still about the dynamics of an

obviously stratified frontier society.

However, in contrast to Crist and Ni-ssly's

"modernization" approach, Moran does not end in attributing

blame for failure to the colonists themselves. He blames the

bureaucracy. The centralized and authoritarian character of

the Brazilian bureaucracy, in his view, makes it less

sensitive to micro-level variation. In other words, planners

are incapable of designing policy to respond to different

conditions in different localities. "The question", in

Moran's words, "which is central to the future of the Amazon

region is whether or not the structure of the Brazilian

bureaucracy is capable of adjusting its policies to include

inputs from specific sites to optimize productivity and

conservation per site" (Moran 1981:227). I would

re-formulate Moran's conclusion to state that the question is


whether or not the Brazilian bureaucracy is capable of

becoming sensitive to, and responding to, the needs of the

rural poor. Is inadequate policy, from the colonists' point

of view, the result of a rigid bureaucracy or is it a

predictable consequence of a rigid class structure with well

defined priorities that do not include the Transamazon

farmers? The problem of "insensitivity" to diversity at the

local level may be, as Moran states, "general to all

bureaucratic structures" (1981:226). But the obstacles to

colonization and agrarian reform also lie in the very nature

of contemporary Brazilian society which is inevitably

expressed in the nature and direction of development policy

in the Amazon.

Several authors have examined frontier society and the

role of the State in terms of changing forms of production.

They have conceptualized the historical process of frontier

expansion in terms of discrete, though often overlapping

stages. The changes which occur between stages signal the

progressive advance of capitalism on the frontier.

Generally, the economic progression is from extractive

industry to cultivation and'/or ranching though in many

instances various forms of resource exploitation have occurred

simultaneously. Extractive economies of rubber, brazil nut,

and mineral resources in the Amazon are temporary and have

tended to preclude settlement. They also tend to undermine

their own foundations due to the depletion of resources and

diminishing marginal returns (Bunker 1982).


The agricultural phase of frontier expansion usually

begins with the spontaneous migration of squatters who clear

the land to produce for subsistence. Martins (1975) has

distinguished this phase as the "expansion front" as opposed

to the "pioneer front", which is characterized by the

production of commodities and the growth of a market for

land. Foweraker (1981) makes a similar distinction between

what he calls non- and pre-capitalist stages, and extends the

framework to include a third stage characterized by fully

capitalist production. (Wood 1983; cf. Velho 1972 and

Katzman 1976).

These stages are defined by changes in the nature of

exploitation and related changes in social relations which,

over time, tend towards greater capitalization in

agriculture, the dispossesion of small-farm owners, and the

concentration of land and other resources. Various

mechanisms, including law, bureaucracy, and violence,

participate in the transformation of social relations from

one stage to the next (Foweraker 1981).

As Wood (1983:263) has pointed out, the employment of

stage concepts, while bringing order to a complex phenomenon,

"is premised on a dualist conception of social structure, a

factor that ultimately renders it insensitive to some of the

principal mechanisms by which change occurs." On the whole,

empirical observation of the agrarian sector in Latin America

has led many to reject a perspective which assumes that in

every instance capitalism will eradicate all other forms of


production (Mir6 and Rodriguez 1982).5 A conceptual

framework that permits a more complete analysis of economic

and social change would focus on the co-existence of diverse

forms of production and the possibility of significant and

diverse relationships between them (cf. Smith 1984; Heynig

1982; Mir6 and Rodriguez 1982). The relationships

between capitalists and non-capitalists, for example, may

vary in response to such factors as the market, labor supply

and state intervention (Wood 1983).

Directed settlement in Ariquemes could be characterized

as an attempt to install, simultaneously, several forms of

production through mechanisms of the State. The State, then,

becomes a key actor in the process of establishing various

forms of production on the frontier.

The literature on the role of the State in frontier

expansion generally treats the State, which acts through

policies carried out by numerous government agencies, as an

ally of private capital. This relationship is most clearly

expressed by the concept of mediation (Foweraker 1981) which

attempts to describe the way in which conflicts of

interest--between landowners and squatters, for example--are

resolved by mechanisms of the State. Schmink (1981) has

argued that GETAT, (Grupo Executivo de Terras do

Araguaia-Tocantins), a special branch of the Brazilian

military which has often appropriated and redistributed land

to the peasantry, mediates the struggle for land and


functions to defuse social tensions which threaten the regime

of private property (cf. Martins 1984; Almeida 1980, 1981).

The State and development policy for the Amazon have

also been viewed as responsive to pressures from powerful

interest groups such as the Amazon Entrepreneurs'

Association, an organization of ranchers and other wealthy

investors (Pompermayer 1979, 1984). In this sense the state

mediates to advance and protect private interests,

particularly those of groups with greater influence within

the State's legislative, juridical, and bureaucratic

apparatus. Many scholars have dealt with the problem of the

State and private capital (Martins 1980; lanni 1978; Pinto

1980; Silva 1982; Velho 1976; Sorj 1980; Hebette and Azevedo

1979,1982) examining various aspects of this relationship

that has successfully determined who will most benefit from

development policy in the Brazilian Amazon.6

The present study also examines the role of the State

and private capital, more specifically, it deals with the

State and private capital as they relate directly or

indirectly to the small-farm sector in Ariquemes. In

general, this study attempts to apply a framework that

permits an understanding of both internal and external forces

which affect the outcome of settlement. Ariquemes is

conceptualized as a divided society of separate, often

opposing, but always related classes. There are concrete

relationships between them which may affect the outcome of

small-farm settlement. The State is viewed as an aggregate


of agencies and policies. The character of State action is

seen in the context of the changing needs of specific groups,

local and extra-local, and their relations to other groups in

a heterogenous but integrated system.


The methods employed in the field were defined by the

research objectives as outlined above. While quantitative

information was collected through household surveys and from

secondary sources, the resulting measures enter the analysis

and become relevant "data" only when applied to the

qualitative framework which is defined by the nature of the

problem. The most relevant categories are not strictly

quantifiable. Selected aspects of these categories may

however, be expressed in quantitative terms. These

quantities are taken as indicators of relationships, and

their significance is relative, not absolute. For example,

within a particular category such as cacau growers, coffee

growers, plantation owners, subsistence producers, or

sharecroppers, income is an important attribute that can be

measured. But for the purposes of this study what is most

significant is not the income of a household or firm per se

but 1) relative income differences between categories 2) the

source or sources of that income and 3) the major factors

which determine relative changes in income over time and the

possibilities of manipulating these factors. Not all of

these factors can be determined by looking at the household

or firm alone, and some of them could not be expressed


entirely as quantities, such as, respectively, minimum price

policies and access to bureaucratic and political networks.

Or, to provide a different example, within categories such as

the various state agencies responsible for various aspects of

infrastructural support, one could measure the total

resources available to each. This however, is not as

important to the analysis as 1) the relative distribution of

these resources and especially, 2) how the distributive

process works. In summary, within the overall methodology

the quantitative measures serve as empirical indexes of the

measurable outcome of structural processes. The latter,

which are the priority concern, are investigated through

qualitative methods of information gathering.

Two separate surveys were conducted in rather different

ways on separate and fundamentally different populations.

One was applied to small-scale farmers of the Marechal

colonization project and another to medium and large-scale

landowners of the Burareiro and LicitagAo projects.

The first survey consists of a stratified random sample

of small farms in Ariquemes. The decision to stratify the

sample was based on the fact that different areas of the

colonization project reflected major differences in

accessibility. After determining the different areas with

different quality of access to the main highway (the BR-364),

the sample taken from each of these areas was proportional to

the distribution of farm households in each of these areas

(i.e. if an area contained 30 percent of the rough total of


farm households, 30 percent of the sample was randomly taken

from that area). The survey questionnaire concentrated on

family composition, education, disease, health care and

family medical expenses, migration and occupation history,

family labor, farm production and extractive activity, use of

credit, use and perception of extension services,

commercialization strategies and management of savings,

employment of wage labor and sharecroppers, sale of family

labor for wages, sources of family income and subsistence

needs, farm technology and land use, and various other

aspects of livelihood and environmental adjustment.

The second survey was quite different. Because the

farmers of Burqreiro reside in large part in the town center,

and because they tend to have a diversified "portfolio" of

economic activities both rural and urban, and for various

practical reasons, formal questionnaires were not

systematically applied to the Burareiro "farmers" as in the

Marechal project. Data was already available on land use,

land ownership, wage labor, credit, and residence, at the

individual level from CEPLAC (the cacau management agency).

At the project level, secondary data was also available

regarding land distribution, soil characteristics, physical

infrastructure, health, credit, and various other aspects of

farming in the Burareiro/ LicitaAo area. In addition to

collecting this data, informal interviews were conducted with

numerous medium and large-scale farmers, but not in a

systematically random fashion. Since much of the Burareiro


population, as noted above, resides in town and since many of

them are employed in local bureaucracy and commerce, there

was inevitably a substantial amount of informal but

informative contact with this class.

The research objectives required in-depth study of

class-based groups and of the various institutions involved

in execution of colonization and development programs. While

the data collected from questionnaires and informal interviews

with farmers and entrepreneurs was an important and necessary

base, the focus of the research on the interaction of classes

and institutions required additional information not

accessible from a survey approach. It was necessary to

collect, in addition to "life histories", a number of

"institutional histories" from various agencies and

class-based groups. This was the most difficult and

problematic aspect of the field research and required methods

tailored to the unique aspects of the research site and


The fact that distinct social classes in the community

were rather clearly differentiated was both a blessing and a

curse. Rivalry and active "conflict" between relevant

sub-groups of the population combined with the rather high

visibility of a prying and note-taking "estrangeiro" created

numerous problems including a certain amount of distrust.

With diplomacy and patience that I was able to overcome or

circumvent these difficulties. Yet, as the research

progressed and as I became knowlegable of local events and


personalities I had to be increasingly cautious. Over time

certain parties perceived my potential utility (and danger)

as a source and channel of strategic information. This meant

that I had to avoid being used, and had to be careful not to

be perceived as partisan.

The study of class-based groups (cooperatives and

associations) involved frequent attendance at meetings and

interviews with selected informants. Investigation of

agencies included "participant observation" in their

activities and interviews with personnel in upper and

mid-level positions (the mid-level personnel tended to be the

more accurate and complete sources of information).

Extensive interviews were conducted with local and state

level representatives (i.e. in Ariquemes and in Porto Velho).

To a lesser extent some interviews were conducted with

representatives of relevant agencies at the federal level

(Brasilia) and at the international level (the World Bank in

Washington D.C.)

In addition, a smaller survey was carried out in the

"Vila Velha" (see Chapter Three) among retired and active

rubber collectors, placer miners, prostitutes, entrepreneurs,

and other residents of this ghetto-like section of Ariquemes.

Interviews with residents of the Vila Velha provided a

different perspective on recent colonization since they

represent a disappearing remnant of the preceding extractive

era. Historical information on Ariquemes, going back to the

turn of the century, was collected from these informants.

Recent colonization has had a devastating impact on the lives

of these "native Rondonienses". This sub-population merits

greater attention, unfortunately, than was possible given the

focus of this project.


What is today Rondonia was declared the Federal
Territory of Guapord in 1943. Prior to this date the
area belonged to the states of Amazonas and Mato Grosso. It
did not take on its present name until 1956. In 1981 it
became the most recent state created within the Federal
Republic of Brazil.
2This estimate is based on the sum of total population in
1980 according to the national demographic census, or
494,744, plus the sum of registered migrants entering the
state between 1980 and 1984, or 378,156. Obviously, the
latter figure underestimates real population growth since
natural increase has not been considered. Year by year
estimates of in-migration are provided in Table 2.1 of
Chapter Two.

Five other projects are in the planning or initial
settlement stage. These were established between 1982 and
1984 and by 1985 had perhaps absorbed 3,000 colonist families
at the very most. One of them is in Ariquemes and in May of
1985 had approximately 60 families in residence.

4Others have applied such a "modernization" or
culturalist framework to the study of-pioneers (cf. Thompson
1973), to the analysis of peasantries (cf. Lewis 1951;
Foster 1965;) and to economic development in general (cf.
McClelland 1961; Inkeles 1966; Rostow 1960). For a critique
of "modernization theory" see Heynig (1982:113-139) and
Portes (1973).

Some scholars support the view that capital subsumes and
eventually destroys all other forms of production (cf. Bartra
1974 and Feder 1977). Others argue that capitalist and
non-capitalist forms of production may be "articulated" in
such a way that capitalism actually promotes and benefits
from the expansion of the peasant sector. The latter
argument has been applied to the Amazon peasantry by Sawyer
(1979). A summary of this debate between the so-called
"Chayanovists" and "Leninists, respectively, can be found in
Heynig (1982) and Mir6 and Rodriguez (1982). A broader
discussion of articulation between forms of production can be
found in de Janvry (1981).


bThere is, however, a relative scarcity of empirical work
dealing specifically with large corporate groups (Wood
1983:260). The works of Lucio Flavio Pinto (1980:97-117;
1981) are a welcomed exception.


The Colonial Period to 1970

The first European exploration of the region that is now

Rondonia began in the seventeenth century with the discovery

of the Rio Madeira by the Portuguese explorer, Pedro

Teixeira. In 1637, Teixeira journeyed up the Amazon towards

his final destination in Quito. His expedition encountered

the Madeira river and learned from local indigenous peoples

that it originated in the mountains of Potosi. The first

expedition to actually navigate the river began in Sgo

Paulo in 1647, crossing the continent to the Potosi region of

Bolivia and descending the Guapai and Mamore rivers to

the Madeira. It was this second expedition, led by Antonio

Raposo Tavares, that first descended the Rio Madeira marking

the start of Portugal's claim to the region (Ferreira


Setting out from Belem, explorers, traders and

missionaries later traveled beyond the Madeira, and up the

Mamore and Guapord rivers which, since the Treaty of

Madrid in 1750, formed part of the Brazilian border with

Bolivia. The earliest settlements are attributed to the

Jesuit order who established the village of Tupinambaranas on

the lower Madeira nineteen years after Tavares' expedition.



Reports to the Crown, in 1687, warned that Dutch traders from

the Orinoco were trading with Indians in the area. By 1690,

the Society of Jesus, encouraged by the Crown, had

established four additional missions on the lower Madeira.

(The indigenous peoples of these missions were referred to in

early reports as the Carajipuna.) There is no record that

the Jesuits ventured up the Madeira any farther than what is

now Porto Velho (Ferreira 1982:23-25).

One hundred years after Tavares voyage the economic

influence of the Portuguese Crown had pushed onward into what

is now Northern Mato Grosso. The discovery of gold near the

Cuiabd and Coxip6 rivers by the 1719 expedition of

Pascoal Moreira Cabral stimulated interest in finding the

most efficient transportation route between the new mining

region and Belem (Ferreira 1982:33). The exigencies of

transport seem to have determined the nature and location of

settlement over the next two hundred years.

All European and Brazilian settlement in the region,

prior to World War II, was defined by extractive economies

and the obstacles to transport posed by the region's

geography. It was to the benefit of Rondonia and its native

peoples that, for three centuries, the orientation of trade

was concentrated along the major fluvial artery. Minimal

attention was given to the wealth of the region through which

it passes. The interior of Rondonia remained almost

untouched until the rubber boom. Extraction did not, in


fact, reach far into Rondonia until the second peak of rubber

extraction during the 1940's.

The Guaporg river flows smoothly from its origin,

west of Cuiaba, until it merges with the Mamor6

river, which descends from Bolivia. Navigation is at this

point interrupted by a series of waterfalls along a 400

kilometer stretch of the Mamore-Madeira. This series of

falls and rapids punctuates the gradual ascent from the

Amazon plain towards the central planalto of Brazil. From

Porto Velho to Guajara Mirim altitude increases from 60

to 122 meters above sea level. The first fall one encounters

traveling upstream is the Cachoeira Santo Antonio, twenty

kilometers up river from Porto Velho. Beyond it lie nineteen

more (Ferreira 1982:15-21). The last fall, the Cachoeira

Guajar& Mirim, was to become the site of the only other

major urban center in Rondonia, apart from Porto Velho, until

the period of recent colonization.

The first expedition to descend the broken stretch of

the Madeira-Mamor6 was that of Tavares in 1650, but no

written record of this part of the expedition exists. In

1722, three years into the gold mining operations in Mato

Grosso, another expedition did leave an account of the

undertaking. Led by Franscisco Melo Palheta of Belem, this

expedition spent 45 days traversing the series of falls, in

small boats and canoes. The vicissitudes of navigation up

the river were again described at length by Jose Gongalves

da Fonseca who accompanied an expedition in 1749, lea by


another nobleman of Belem, Luis Fagundes Machado. The latter

expended 53 days in crossing the falls. Both accounts

described a tempest of hardships that these and later

travelers would have to endure along the way. Nevertheless,

by 1750 this fluvial route between the mines of Mato Grosso

and the port of Belem was well known and in frequent use by

traders and commercial transporters (Ferreira 1982:25-39).

In spite of great risk of disease, Indian attack, and

shipwreck, transport continued and grew. The region was of

sufficient economic interest to draw the special attention of

the Crown's colonial governor of ParS, Dom Francisco de

Sousa Coutinho. In 1797,.Sousa Coutinho presented an

elaborately detailed plan to organize navigational enterprise

between Mato Grosso and ParS. He proposed a system that

would be owned and operated by the Crown, or by private

entrepreneurs contracted by the Crown, to carry out his plan.

The plan would ostensibly facilitate and reduce the costs of

transport since merchants would no longer need to maintain

their own ships and personnel (Ferreira 1982:47-52).

Sousa Coutinho apparently believed that a more

centralized system with a clearly defined division of tasks

and managerial responsibilities would alleviate some of the

technical difficulties. The plan was presented in an

altruistic tone. Its primary goal was expressed as the

reduction of human and economic tragedy. It would seem,

however, that the governor (or the Crown) might have a vested

interest in so supervising the transport of valuable


commodities, not to mention in securing monopolistic control

of shipping. In any event, the plan was never executed in

its entirety.

The plan did lead eventually to provision of military

reinforcements at the major crossings where goods had to be

dragged on land around the falls. The soldiers stationed at

these posts lent support to commercial transport when

necessary, providing food, medicines, and defense against

Indian attack (Ferreira 1982:52).

The falls themselves were probably a limiting factor on

the scale of extractive activity and, consequently, on the

rise of urban centers and surrounding agricultural growth.

Even during the rubber boom neither Guajarg Mirim nor

Porto Velho gained enough momentum to stimulate any sort of

integral, even partially independent, regional economy. They

remained entirely dependent on larger centers down river,

viz. Manaus and Belem.

The few settlements that appeared by the falls were a

by-product of extractive activity and a function of the

transportation system. It is probably inaccurate to call

them settlements at all; they were, more precisely,

supportive outposts whose existence depended entirely on the

economic link between Mato Grosso and Belem. There was no

cause for their growth until a new commodity, closer at hand,

became an object of economic interest to outside markets.

The next phase in Rondonia's history of occupation can

be defined in terms of two major events:the rubber boom,


beginning in the last half of the nineteenth century and

construction of a railroad to circumvent the navigational

problems and limitations of fluvial transportation. Rubber

extraction brought new migrants, primarily from the

Northeast, and greater penetration of the tributaries along

the Guapor6, Mamor6, Madeira, and Aburi rivers.

The rubber economy, however, did not result in significant

nucleation of settlement, except insofar as GuajarA Mirim

and Porto Velho experienced commercial growth. But even

these urban centers did not stimulate a regional economy that

could be separated significantly from the economies of Manaus

and Belem. Neither one of two major booms in rubber

extraction changed the dependent and ephemeral nature of


With the rubber boom, small nuclei of approximately 10

to 20 families appeared at the confluences of rivers and

functioned as managerial and distributive centers for the

privately owned extraction enterprises. Castanha do Par&

(Brazil nut) was also collected and exported from the region.

But extractive methods and the system of marketing and

distribution were the greatest impediments to nucleated

settlement and to the growth of agriculture. The rubber

collector was generally forced to live in isolation since the

size of the area he was responsible for was relatively large.

Neighbors were distant, usually hours away. There was no

market for a significant agricultural surplus; population

density was still very low and the seringalista (owner of an


area in which rubber was being extracted), by discouraging or

prohibiting the cultivation of subsistence crops, could keep

the seringueiros (rubber collectors) in constant dependency

and debt. Although some cultivation of food staples could be

found at the trading posts of the seringal (the area of

rubber extraction owned by the seringalista), the level of

production could not support the needs of all the seringueiro

families. The workers' subsistence needs were generally

purchased with rubber. The exchange of rubber for

subsistence goods was a key element in maintaining a stable

workforce under extreme conditions of hardship (cf. Wagley


The profits to be made in the export of rubber

stimulated, just as gold had done more than two centuries

before, efforts to facilitate the export of the region's

resources. This time, however, the entrepreneurs and their

planners had the backing of industrial technology. Change in

the pattern (though not in the essential nature) of

settlement came with a "modern" solution to the problems

posed by the fluvial system: the steam powered locomotive.

The idea that the transportation problem created by the

falls might be resolved with the construction of a railroad

was first suggested by a Bolivian general, Quentin Quevedo,

in 1861. Bolivia had looked to the river system of the

Amazon plain for several decades as an optimal solution for

their own exportation problems. During the same year a

Brazilian engineer, Joao Martins da Silva Coutinho, also


traveled the Madeira. Commissioned by the governor of

Amazonas to study the navigational problems of the Madeira,

Silva Coutinho came to a similar conclusion. His report

stated that the Madeira and Mamor6 rivers presented the

best option for the movement of trade from the interior to

the coast. He concluded that this route would be more secure

since, unlike the Paraguay river, it passes exclusively

through Brazilian territory, and it would also encourage

greater exploitation of untapped riches present in the

region. The great potential of the fluvial system could be

realized if the obstacles on the Madeira were eliminated by a

relatively short railway (Ferreira 1982:47-53).

The early optimism with regard to rail transport proved

illusory in the years that followed. Between the first

conception of such a project and its final realization in

1912, there were two disastrous attempts to build the

railroad. In the several attempts, including the final and

successful one, literally thousands of lives were lost to

disease, accident, starvation, and violence--all for a little

more than 100 kilometers of rail, and most ironically, for a

transportation system that would never serve the great

purpose for which it was intended.

It was never used on a major scale by the Bolivians, who

relinquished the territory of Acre (by the Treaty of

Petropolis, 1903) partially in exchange for transportation

rights on a railway which Brazil agreed to construct. Only

one year after signing this treaty, Bolivia signed another


with Chile. The latter also provided for the construction of

a railroad (likewise in compensation for territory lost to

Chile in 1882), one to link Bolivia to the Pacific, and that

would eventually compete successfully with the Brazilian

alternative (Ferreira 1982:189).

Ironically, completion of the railroad in 1912 coincided

precisely with the beginning of the decline in the rubber

boom. The decreasing use of the railroad in following years

led to its eventual dilapidation and closing. A small

section from Porto Velho to Santo Antonio was later restored

in the 1970s and is presently operated as a tourist


The railway's impact on settlement was negligible. The

few settlements that appeared along the course of the railway

were small and functioned to provide services to the railway

company and its travelers. Without an operative railroad

these settlements either disappeared or became very isolated

communities surviving on subsistence production and


The construction project itself did stimulate temporary

growth in Porto Velho and Guajar& Mirim, more so in the

former. But in both cases growth was always limited by the

fact that the local economies were entirely based on

particular extractive activities. Supportive activities such

as shipping, commerce and basic services were limited by the

performance and profitability of extractive commodities.


The resurgence of rubber production in the 1940s, when

the circumstances of World War II renewed the demand for

Brazilian rubber, did not change the basic characteristics of

the regional economy. If anything, it merely expanded the

old economy, but in ways more predatory than before, and

certainly more exploitative and destructive from the

perspective of the workers and the natural resource base.

Tens of thousands of migrants came from the northeast in

the early 1940s, a large percentage through the organized war

effort, financed by the North American Rubber Development

Corporation, called the Batalha da Borracha (The Rubber

Battle). The men came with notions of striking it rich in

the profitable rubber trade and with promises (they were in

fact contracted by the government) that they would receive

salary, tools, food, clothing, etc. The organized plan

seemed to end in Belem where the migrants were placed in

camps until they were handed over to representatives of the

seringalistas. Henceforth their destiny was entirely in the

hands of the private employer.

The demand for rubber, and perhaps the knowledge that

the demand would not be a permanent one, encouraged the

seringalistas to overexploit the natural rubber.

Conservation methods used by the more experienced collectors

were for the most part abandoned. Methods which depleted the

latex of the rubber trees were employed to gain higher yields

in the short term, often because the seringueiro was under

pressure to fulfill a production quota. This was the way of


life according to those who survived the great Batalha da

Borracha: people who in 1984 lived on the fringes of the new

Rondonia, dispossessed of even the right to collect rubber on

lands they may have occupied for three generations.

Expansion of the seringais declined and eventually

halted altogether in the decade after the war. Sources of

credit, on which the whole of rubber extraction depended,

eventually were reduced and, together with a decline in

demand, forced the close of this economic era. In the 1950s,

the possibility of an exodus from the territory prompted the

Brazilian government to establish the first official

agricultural settlement projects. Settlements were opened

near Porto Velho and GuajarA Mirim and in the Calama area

which is on the Madeira at its confluence with the Ji

ParanA river. The projects did not succeed in

stimulating agricultural growth or in preventing


Penetration of the interior of Rondonia led to the

discovery of another resource that would have a lasting

impact on the region. The chance discovery of cassiterite

provided new economic incentives for outside investors and

for part of the old rubber oligarchy that had dominated the

local, extractive economy.

Cassiterite, from which tin is extracted, brought many

new migrants to Rondonia. Estimates range as high as 50,000,

but there are no accurate records of in-migration during this

period:the official census shows an increase of about 40,000


between 1960 and 1970. The mining was done manually by the

system known as garimpagem Placerr mining). Access to the

mining areas, and transport of cassiterite and trade goods,

was primarily by air and land to Porto Velho then down the

Madeira on the traditional shipping route.

The orientation of trade continued in the direction of

Amazonas and ParS and was again characterized by the

exchange of natural resources for subsistence goods, tools,

etc. The situation would remain the same until precarious

ground transportation was opened up to link Porto Velho with

CuiabS. This did not come about until the late 1960s,

yet by that time the extractive industry of garimpagem was

approaching its end. In 1971 the federal government declared

an end to the manual extraction of cassiterite and conceded

mineral rights to several multi-national and domestic mining

corporations to mechanize the extraction process.

Most of the garimpeiros Placerr miners) were removed

from Rondonia by the military and flown to other parts of

Brazil. Thousands remained, among them many who had been

rubber collectors before becoming garimpeiros. Some returned

to rubber and brazil nut extraction. Others sought

employment in Porto Velho, others continued mining

cassiterite clandestinely, and still others turned to

alluvial gold mining on the Madeira river above Porto Velho.

The mechanization of cassiterite could only absorb a

miniscule proportion of the garimpeiros: most were not


interested, in fact, since the government offered to fly them

to other areas of garimpagem.

The end of one era appeared to herald the beginning of

another. As the garimpos Placerr mines) were closing,

farmers in search of land began arriving. They came from the

south of Brazil along the first precarious road from

Cuiaba. The new era, however, implied a change not only

in the economic foundations of settlement, but brought about

a radical transformation in the effects of resource

exploitation, the pattern of settlement, and the status of

Rondonia in the national context. Rondonia after 1970 is a

fundamentally different subject for analysis that requires an

understanding of a broader range of outside forces

conditioning the progress of occupation. What was

essentially a dependent enclave for three centuries would

become, in the space of a single decade, an integral and

geo-demographically contiguous part of the Brazilian

industrial economy. Although Rondonia was to remain

dependent in many, and perhaps more profound ways, the change

in its relation to forces shaping national development was a

dramatic one. What came about was much more than a shift in

economic orientation: Rondonia experienced a complete shift

in the infrastructural foundations of settlement and growth.

The territory was lifted up from the fringe and set down in

the sphere of influence of major transformations going on at

the very core of Brazilian national society.


The outline of this new occupation however, was sketched

nearly three quarters of a century ago in the geopolitics of

Brazilian sovereignty in the Northwest, expressed by the

expansion of Brazil's telegraphic communications. The

installation of telegraph lines from CuiabD to Santo

Antonio do Madeira, near Porto Velho, was led by the

legendary explorer, from whom the territory derived its name,

Marechal Candido Rondon. It was along the course of this

early path that the first road connecting Porto Velho to

Cuiaba was built.

The communications lines and the outposts established to

maintain them did not in themselves lead to extensive

settlement. Along this stretch, which passed through the Ji

Parana and Jamari river valleys, a few of the outposts

became town centers: Vilhena, Presidente Hermes, Marco

Rondon, Ji Parana, Pimenta Bueno, and Ariquemes. But

before the recent colonization they were little more than

small centers of commerce for seringueiros and garimpeiros.

The location of these centers was determined by smaller

rivers flowing towards the Madeira and Porto Velho: small

nuclei such as Pimenta Bueno, Ji Parana, and Ariquemes

served as entrepots in the extractive economy (Dias 1980:72).

The basic character of settlement only began to change

after 1960 when the CuiabA-Porto Velho road was first

opened. Although the completion of the road was a project of

Juscelino Kubitscheck's administration, it was actually begun

in 1943 by the Brazilian military. At the time it was


considered a strategic neccessity; the valuable resources of

the Northwest required a more direct link to the industrial

south. The end of the war however, saw the end of

construction: the need was less immediate and the government

following the one that initiated the project perceived it as

a purely "demagogic" enterprise. Political support for the

road aid not resurface until 1959 during the administration

of Governor Paulo Nunes Leal. The earlier construction

efforts had left 240 kilometers of road: 100 from CuiabS

heading northwest, and 140 from Porto Velho descending to the

southeast. Nunes Leal resurrected the arguments supporting

construction in a lengthy series of emotion charged,

newspaper articles concerning the region's great potential.

These were presented to President Kubitscheck in January of

1960. In February the President's support for the project

was announced in this headline of the Porto Velho "Gazeta":

President accepts our suggestion for the urgent
construction of the BR-29 to link Acre, Rondonia,
and Brasilia. We suggested the construction on
the 12th and 19th of January. The President
announces his deliberation on the 5th of February.
By December of this year the road will be com-
plete. The Indians will probably attack. The
BR-29 will reveal a rich sub-soil. Porto Velho
will attract capital from Sao Paulo. (Cited in
Ferreira 1982: 367-371)

Construction began in March and by September of 1960 the road

was, indeed, passable. A caravan of seven trucks set out

from Cuiab& on an inaugural passage in October and two

months later arrived, at last, in Porto Velho (Ferreira



Migrants did not arrive in great numbers until the major

bridges of the road were completed in 1967 (Dias 1980:67).

By this time, the road had received its present designation,

the "BR-364" (the people of Rondonia call it, simply, the

BR). A period of "spontaneous" colonization along the

highway brought thousands of families into the region setting

the stage for conflicts over land. It was primarily the

intensification of conflict that motivated the Institute of

Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to accelerate its

program of directed settlement in this region. It should be

emphasized that INCRA itself came in response to a

spontaneous demographic process. INCRA cannot be attributed

primary responsibility for the migration of colonists to

Rondonia. The causes of this demographic movement lay

primarily in "push factors". Migration was primarily a

consequence of economic and technological changes occurring in

rural areas of the South and Center-South of Brazil (cf.

Margolis 1973 and Vollweiler 1979). With or without INCRA,

the floodgates were thrown open when the highway was

completed and Rondonia truly came of age as an integral part

of Brazil. Rondonia began to absorb migrating landless

families who had until then been moving into Mato Grosso,

Goias, ParS and into Paraguay, which borders with the

state of Parana.

In retrospect, population growth between the turn of the

century and the opening of the BR-364 was, in spite of the

booms and busts discussed above, a continuous process. At


least since 1940 there had been slow population growth.

According to the census figures, total population in Rondonia

was 21,297 in 1940, 36,935 in 1950, 70,232 in 1960 and

111,064 in 1970. The rate of increase by decade declines

slightly between 1960 and 1970 (1940-1950: 73.4 percent;

1950-1960: 88.7 percent; 1960-1970: 59.2 percent) but the

absolute increase still exceeds those of the previous

periods. As the dynamics of occupation changed, so did the

scale of in-migration and by 1984, the population of Rondonia

grew to more than 800,000 inhabitants.

Recent Colonization: 1970-1984

The first colonization projects along the BR-364 were

established by private enterprise in the late 1960s after

ground transportation was significantly improved. The major

private project, CALAMA, S.A., sold parcels of various sizes

in a 74,000 hectare area in the municipality of Ji

Parana. The parcels varied from 24 to 500 hectares in

size; most were either 24, 36, or 48 hectares, a few were of

120 or 240 hectares, and there were no more than 10 equal to

or exceeding 500 hectares in size. The total number of

properties came to 1,461. The CALAMA company owned 300,000

hectares altogether (all within Ji Parana) and would

later sell more parcels of land to colonists and

entrepreneurs. Services provided by the company consisted

only of opening roads (which was in large part never carried

out), demarcation of parcels, and provision of land titles

(Mendes 1979:262). This area soon became a source of tension


and widespread violence (cf. Gall 1978; Camara dos Deputados

1977) due to conflicting claims to land, inadequate physical

infrastructure, and disorganized urban growth. Against this

backdrop of rapidly growing disorder INCRA entered the scene.

As part of the Program for National Integration (PIN),

Legal Decree no. 1.164, 1971, determined that all lands

within 100 kilometers of each side of national highways would

come under INCRA's control. The law applied also to areas

within 150 kilometers of the international borders. This

placed nearly all of Rondonia under INCRA's jurisdiction.

Henceforth, all existing "titles" and all new claims would be

validated or rejected through this agency alone.

INCRA was actually preceded by the Instituto Brasileiro

de Reforma Agraria (IBRA) which took the first inventory of

lands available for distribution and settlement in Rondonia.

This survey was completed in 1967-68. INCRA took over the

functions of IBRA in 1970 and repeated the land survey in


Between 1968 and 1977, 22 official colonization projects

were installed in various regions of Brazil. Fourteen of

these projects were located in the North region; seven in

Rondonia. During the same period 26,664 families were

settled in these projects nationwide. The North region

accounts for 22,448 or 84 percent of these families.

Rondonia received 14,456; 54 percent of the national and 64

percent of the regional totals. Altogether the 22 projects

encompassed 7,365,411 hectares. The North region accounted


for 94 percent or 6,888,476 hectares and Rondonia, with

2,813,896 hectares devoted to colonization, comprised 38

percent of the national and 40 percent of the regional

totals. Rondonia's share in terms of land distributed to

colonists is somewhat distorted by these figures. The

Altamira project in Para encompassed 2,495,250 hectares

but settled only 2,955 families over this period--about

one-fifth of the number of colonists settled in Rondonia

(Mendes 1979:252-53).

During the early 1970s, the Rondonia colonization

projects of Ouro Preto, Ji Parana, and Jaru grew beyond

their original limits as the rate of in-migration continued

to rise. INCRA swept in behind to survey, drew official

boundaries and issued the colonists "licenses of occupation"

which could later be exchanged for "definitive title".

INCRA's basic mission was to keep the peace; to resolve

existing conflicts and nip others in the bud. Although the

initial role defined for INCRA embraced more than juridical

functions (viz. additional support in terms of roads, urban

services, extension, and cooperatives), being based on a

broad concept of functionally "integrated" colonization, its

regulatory aspect dominated for several reasons.

Federal funds for INCRA were reduced after the apparent

failure of the Transamazon scheme and a general shift in

national economic policy regarding the development of

Amazonia. National investment turned to the support of

capital intensive development (ranching; large-scale,


agro-industrial production; mineral extraction) through SUDAM

(Superintendencia de Desenvolvimento da Amazonia) and away

from the earlier orientation towards small-scale agriculture.

INCRA simply did not have the resources, financial or human,

to follow through with its original goals; the sale of large

tracts to private capital helped, in fact, to finance the

agency's limited operations.

The rate of demographic growth in Rondonia also

increased the pressure on INCRA to concentrate on regulatory

action. Public knowledge of the agency's presence

contributed to intensified in-migration and colonization

generated information encouraging friends and relatives of

colonists to follow them.

Finally, settlement in the official projects and

construction of access roads provided improved conditions for

squatters to extend the boundaries of settlement areas.

INCRA's regulation of settlement only seemed to generate a

greater need for regulatory action.

INCRA's directed settlement in Rondonia began with the

Ouro Preto Integrated Colonization Project where the first

organized settlement of migrant families took place in July

of 1970. This particular project was created to relieve some

of the tension building in the adjacent area of Ji

Parana. But the demand for parcels in Ouro Preto soon

exceeded the supply. In 1971, hoping to relieve some of the

growing pressure on the BR-364, INCRA planned another project

near GuajarA Mirim. Families were settled in this new

project, Sidney Girao, in 1972. Migrants continued to

arrive at an increasing rate and over the next three years

INCRA organized and settled the following projects in the

BR-364 area: Ji Parana (1973), Padre Adolfo Rohl (1973),

Paulo Assis Ribeiro (1974), Burareiro (1975), and Marechal


The latter two, Burareiro and Marechal, were to be

somewhat different than the preceding projects, given the

financial limitations of the colonization agency. In

contrast to the "Projetos de Colonizagao Integrado"

(PICs), in these "Projetos de Assentamento Dirigido" (PADs)

INCRA's role in terms of infrastructural support ( roads,

health, education, housing, cooperative organization, credit,

and commercialization) was to be more limited. However, the

decision was soon made to provide the same assistance to the

PADs. Essentially this meant that INCRA would set up

convenios, or agreements, with other state and federal

agencies to provide support services. In the end, the PICs

and PADs, in terms of INCRA administration, differed in name

only. For the first eight years of directed settlement INCRA

coordinated the various aspects of infrastructural support.

In 1979, administrative control of these services was passed

over to the territorial government or directly to other

federal agencies (INCRA 1984:19).

Between 1970 and 1983, the number of families settled in

these seven projects reached a total of 23,655. An

additional 13,613 families were settled in scattered areas


throughout Rondonia (but outside of the official projects)

under a category designated assentamento rapido or rapid

settlement. Furthermore there were many families that

settled as squatters, outside of project areas, which later

acquired titles from INCRA. In 1979-81, 13,147 families

acquired ownership to land in this manner (INCRA 1984).

New colonization projects were planned in the late 1970s

and in 1984 were in the process of execution. They were a

part of the world Bank funded PULONOROESTE program which will

be discussed below. These new projects known as Urupa,

Machadinho, Marmelo, Capitao Silvio, Bom Principio, Terra

Firme, and Conceicao, have an estimated capacity to settle

an additional 20.000 families.

By mid-1984 approximately 3,000 of these families had

received land, in the Urupa and Machadinho projects (the

number of families actually having occupied these parcels was

probably less than half that figure given limited access and

support services available in these areas). The new projects

were somewhat different than the earlier ones in that the

size of parcels distributed was reduced by 40-70 percent.

Forest reserves were maintained in blocks rather than attempt

to enforce a requirement that farmers leave 50 percent of

their parcels in forest reserve, which had been the policy in

earlier projects. The Machadinho project was fundamentally

different in terms of settlement pattern. In this project

the parcels--from 25 to 50 hectares in sized--were demarcated


in such a way that a maximum number possible were bordered by

or contain some stream or river.

These projects differed significantly in that

non-settlement of the areas prior to organized distribution

was, for the most part, successfully enforced by the

colonization agency and the military. The reduction of land

invasions in these areas may also be related to increased

awareness of the difficulties of isolation, the danger of

disease in particular, the poverty of the new migrants, and

labor opportunities on existing farms and in town centers.

Also, at least in Urupa and Machadinho, the system of access

and feeder roads was essentially in place before land was


INCRA data on numbers of families settled, areas

demarcated, titles issued, etc. are rife with contradictions

and ambiguities. The figures already cited and those found

below should be taken as very general estimates. In terms of

Rondonia's history of directed settlement what was most

important was the difference between the rate of demographic

increase and the pace of land distribution.

The data available on INCRA distribution of land does

not permit a year by year comparison with annual in-migration

estimates. In any event, the overall discrepancy between

them and the increasing pace of in-migration in the past few

years will suffice to make the point: in-migration far

exceeded the capacity of INCRA to provide land for new



Rondonia's population grew at a rate of 15.8 percent per year

between 1970 and 1980. The total population of 111,000 in

1970 grew to nearly 500,000 in 1980 (Instituto Brasileiro de

Geografia e Estatistica 1981:46). One estimate suggests an

in-migration of between 329,000 to 339,000 persons during

this period. (Wood and Wilson 1982). In the second half of

1977 the territorial government began to keep records on

in-migration and continued to do so. Only recently, however,

did the registration posts which counted the number of

incoming migrants begin working around the clock. Hence,

prior to this change the migrants entering at night were not

counted. The figures cited below are likely to underestimate

the true intensity of demographic growth due to in-migration.

In order to compare in-migration to settlement, the

population figures in Table 2.1 have been divided by a factor

of 5 to estimate the number of families entering Rondonia.

Five was chosen since this figure approximates the average

family size of households in Rondonia. (Instituto Brasileiro

de Geografia e Estatistica 1983a:86). INCRA settled a total

of 50,415 families between 1970 and 1983 (and expected to

settle an additional 22,000 in new projects). Perhaps

another 3,000 families received parcels in 1984 (in the

Machadinho and Urupa projects), bringing the total number of

families settled between 1970 and 1984 to about 53,000.

According to Wood and Wilson (1982), the number of families

migrating to Rondonia between 1970 and 1980 was approximately

65,800. An additional 65,112 were counted at the

Table 2.1
Migrants Registered Entering Rondonia



1977 3,140 (2nd semester only)
1978 12,658
1979 36,791
1980 49,205
1981 60,218
1982 58,052
1983 92,723
1984 65,369 (1st semester only)

Total 378,156

Source: Secretaria de Planejamento
de Rondonia 1984.


registration posts between January 1980 and June 1984.

Together, these figures yield a total of 130,912 families.

This figure implies that there was an excess of 77,912

families over the number of families settled by INCRA. If

the 19,000 remaining parcels in the new projects are taken

into account, there still remains an excess of about 59,000

families over projected INCRA parcels available. The excess

was quite likely to grow at an increasing rate, since the

rate of in-migration appeared to be growing by leaps and

bounds. The number of migrants arriving in the first 6

months of 1984 was more than double the number registered

during the same period of the preceding year.

The projected settlement of 20,000 families between 1982

and 1988 in new INCRA projects fell about 7,700 short of the

number of families already on waiting lists for land as of

June 1983 (Nobrega et al. 1983). The pressure on INCRA to

find new areas for colonization was such that there was an

attempt in progress in 1984 to authorize colonization in a

large area of the Guapord Valley. This area had already

been designated for indigenous and natural reserves; a policy

decision that was, in fact, one stipulation of the World Bank

loan for POLONOROESTE funding. These lands had also been

determined inadequate for agricultural exploitation, which

would violate yet another stipulation of the loan: that

colonization be encouraged only where soils were suitable.

Ironically, unexploited lands existed throughout the state in

less isolated areas. They were not, however, available in


the juridical sense, as they were legally owned by

large-scale private investors.

Land was unevenly distributed in Rondonia since the

beginning of official colonization. Large claims were

successfully defended by mining companies, seringalistas,

plantation owners, and land speculators since the earliest

days of federal intervention; some were still in litigation

in 1984. The distribution and sale of public lands by INCRA

had in itself served to increase the degree of concentration.

Rondonia's lands were quite successfully accumulated by

private capital before the significant advance of the

small-farm frontier. Indeed, the prior appropriation of

large areas by various individuals.and investment groups,

from this region and from other regions of Brazil, defined

the area available for colonization. In some cases the

defense of prior claims (sometimes entirely or partially

fabricated) resulted in resettlement of farmers already given

lands by the federal colonization agency.

Table 2.2 shows a highly skewed distribution of land in

1970 and 1980. One need only take a brief look at the

extremes to conclude that a definite imbalance existed.

Between 1970 and 1980 the disparity decreased slightly

overall but not significantly. In 1980, 1.5 percent of the

establishments owned nearly 40 percent of the land, while the

"bottom" two-thirds of the establishments owned only half as

much or about 22 percent (Instituto Brasileiro de Gebgrafia e

Estatistica 1983b:2-3).

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Between 1970 and 1980 the total area encompassed by

private landholdings in Rondonia increased nearly threefold.

By 1980 about one-fifth of Rondonia's land was under private

ownership. The occupation and/or exploitation of the land in

various ways had, of course, taken its toll on the natural

environment. According to Fearnside (1984), deforestation

increased 37 percent per year over the 1975-1980 period; from

0.3 percent to 3.1 percent of the land, or from 1,216 to

7,579 square kilometers of Rondonia's forests.

The heavy in-migration and the actual availability of

land, i.e. the limitations on the rate of agricultural

settlement, resulted in rapid urbanization of this frontier.

The urban population of Rondonia has, in a short period,

nearly caught up with the national-level distribution between

rural and urban areas (see Table 2.3). Population density

has increased from 0.46 persons per square kilometer in 1970,

to 2.03 persons per square kilometer in 1980. This was still

a relatively low population density in comparison to

non-frontier states. Nevertheless, rapid and unrelenting

growth was beginning to create a visible strain on economic

and social conditions, especially in the towns along the

BR-364 highway.

There were three major reasons for the rapid growth of

town centers in Rondonia. First, large numbers of migrants

were awaiting land from INCRA, others received land but did

not have the capital resources to begin farming, and many did

not have adequate access to their parcels. Hence, many

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migrants opted for settlement (temporary or permanent) on the

fringes of these growing centers. Here tney may have found

temporary employment or they may have established small

businesses. Second, there was a strong attraction of

commercial capital that came to Rondonia specifically to

provide goods and services in an expanding and highly

optimistic market. Third, there was a proliferation of

local, state, and federal agencies.

An interesting fact appeared in the migration data for

the first half of 1983: 70 percent of the migrants entering

Rondonia were coming from urban areas. While many of the

migrants may actually have represented migrant wage labor

which merely declared residence in urban centers, a large

number were undoubtedly coming in search of urban employment

or commercial opportunities. The "crisis" in Brazil's

economy exerted strong pressure on labor and capital to seek

new markets on the frontier. The perception of possible

opportunities in Rondonia was as much of a driving force

among unemployed professionals with college level educations

as it was among skilled and unskilled wage labor.

The intensification of urban growth in recent years led

to new sorts of problems for Rondonia's towns. Town

infrastructure lagged far behind the demand for such basic

necessities of town life as electric power, water and sewage

facilities, natural gas, waste disposal, housing, urban lots,

health care, educational facilities (primary and secondary),

etc. These inadequacies resulted in social tensions which,


in mid-1984 broke into street riots, looting, and even a

forced shutdown of the BR-364 by thousands of demonstrators.

A relatively new city hall in one of the major town centers,

Cacoal, was razed to the ground by arsonists in protest

against inadequate electric services. State authorities were

sufficiently worried over one incident to invoke national

security measures and temporarily removed the mayor from

,office in the largest town of the BR-364, Ji Parana.

Rondonia was no longer simply an agricultural frontier,

but neither was it a region with significant urban

development based on regional industry. There was little

industry in Rondonia beyond the mining operations (which

absorbed a very small quantity of labor). The proliferation

of town entrepreneurs appeared to exceed the demand for goods

and services. The rapid growth of boom towns along the

BR-364 reflected expectations that exceeded opportunities for

employment and commerce. In large part the growth of these

towns was also a result of state intervention which installed

myriad agencies of federal, state, and local government.

In the late 1970s the territorial administration and the

federal government, recognizing the need for intensified

support of economic development in Rondonia, devised a plan

to improve the precarious condition of the BR-364 between

Cuiabg and Porto Velho. At the same time a survey of

conditions prevailing in the agricultural sector was carried

out by the territorial Department of Agriculture and a plan

was drawn up for the reinforcement of small-scale production.


The latter agency produced a massive report describing a

comprehensive plan to improve the conditions for agricultural

production in Rondonia (cf. Secretaria de Estado da

Agriculture de Rondonia 1980).

Financing for pavement of the BR-364 was sought from the

World Bank and a new program, POLONOROESTE, was created

within SUDECO (the Superintendency for the Development of the

Center-West). The World Bank approved a loan of four hundred

and forty three million dollars U.S. to carry out the road

project and a number of other sub-projects related to health,

settlement consolidation, development and preservation of

forest resources, and protection of indigenous peoples.

Paving of the main highway was completed in September of


The sub-projects were essentially conditions attached to

the loan; the road was not to be given support unless

POLONOROESTE also addressed the socio-economic,

environmental, and indigenous problems that would no doubt be

intensified by the highway itself. The release of financing

from the World Bank would be held up if the conditions were

not met; this would later prove to be an entirely inadequate

means of enforcement and raised controversy over the loan and

over the accountability of the World Bank itself.

POLONOROESTE will be explored in greater detail in Chapter

Six as it is a major question facing development in Northwest

Brazil and raises several important issues regarding the

nature of state intervention in the development process.


The course of small-farm colonization was in many ways

defined by events and forces in Rondonia's history described

in this chapter. Before moving on to a discussion of pioneer

farmers in Ariquemes it would inform that discussion if we

first take a brief look at the history of Ariquemes as a

growing town.


The history of the town of Ariquemes can be divided into

three distinct phases. Each is related to the changing basis

of the local economy. It began as an entrepot in an economy

based on rubber extraction. Later it took on a similar

function in the economy of manual cassiterite mining.

Finally it became what it is today, a town center growing as

a function of agricultural settlement and the continued

influx of landless migrants.

Ariquemes and Extraction

Prior to the rubber boom Ariquemes was the site of

indigenous villages along the banks of the Jamari river and

was called Papagaios. What became of the Indians who lived

there is something of a mystery and beyond the living memory

of even the oldest residents (the resident who had been there

the longest arrived in 1916, shortly before the Rondon

expedition reached Ariquemes). Some say the Arikemis

Indians, as they were called, were massacred by the

seringalistas or decimated by disease. Other stories tell

that a small group of surviving Indians fled down the Jamari

to what is now Vila 7 de Setembro, near Porto Velho, or that

they fled westward into the forest in the direction of the

Serra dos Pacaas Novos. Some believe they may have joined an



indigenous group living in that region today, known as the

Uru Eu Wau Wau.

Non-indigenous settlers arrived first during the rubber

boom before the turn of the century. Papagaios was then a

small trading post depositt) which served a large seringal.

Marechal Candido Rondon passed through the area laying the

telegraph lines around 1916 and changed the settlement's name

to Ariquemes.

By the close of the rubber boom (1911-12) the seringais

extended up the Jamari river which originates in the Serra

dos Pacaas Novos, cuts across the present municipality of

Ariquemes, and eventually flows into the Madeira. Extraction

branched out and up the waterways feeding the Jamari--the

Massangana, Rio Preto, Rio Branco, CanaA, Pardo, and Quatro

Cachoeiras rivers. To the north and northwest of Ariquemes

extraction extended up the Ji-ParanA, Machadinho and Jaru

rivers which also lead eventually to the Madeira.

Seringueiros of the Ariquemes area came from Amazonas,

Pars, Maranhgo, and the Northeastern states, primarily

Cearl and Piaui. These early northeastern migrants

sought refuge from the chronic droughts in their home region.

They traveled up the Amazon and its tributaries expecting

wealth but instead found isolation, exploitation, conflict

with indigenous peoples, hunger, and as some survivors

bitterly recall "a morte a mingua" (roughly, merciless



Raimundo, a self-trained nurse who worked in various

seringais of the Jamari valley during the 1940's estimated a

population of some 1,000 seringuieros. He recalled that

perhaps half of these men had families of 5 to 10 children

living with them at the extraction site (colocaQao).

The remaining half were single men living alone or in pairs.

The population was quite dispersed, each site being one or

two hours walking distance from the next.

The original settlement of Ariquemes was located just

below the confluence of the Jamari and Canaa rivers, about

3 kilometers west of the present center of Ariquemes. The

concrete floor of the first deposit where goods were stored

still remains where it was set down more than eight decades

ago overlooking the Jamari from a sharp rise on the east

bank. In later years, particularly in the 1940's when rubber

extraction was revived during the war effort, other

structures were constructed by several seringalistas who used

Ariquemes jointly as an entrepot between their seringais up

river and Porto Velho.

The trip down to Porto Velho took about seven days. The

return trip was several days longer. Balls of smoked latex

were tied together like giant strings of beads to form wide,

spiral rafts called "caiapos". Seringueiros who remained in

the area said that Amazonenses usually performed this

dangerous feat of navigation, being more skilled in this task

than others. Other goods and passengers were transported to

and from Porto Velho by canoe. During the dry season river


transportation above Ariquemes was difficult and often slow

since in some spots the rivers became too shallow. Raimundo

described how he often had to drag his patients in a canoe

across the river bed for several kilometers.

Stumps of telegraph posts, dating from 1916, may still

be found in backyards and gardens of households along the

river. The original telegraph station burned down many years

ago and its ruins were replaced by gardens of manioc and

corn. When in operation the'telegraph outpost employed a

dozen men to run the equipment and maintain the lines over a

60 kilometer stretch to the north and south. These repairmen

guardss da linha) lived in Ariquemes with their families

sharing the duties of inspecting and repairing the lines. In

addition to the telegraph personnel there were a number of

others living there who worked for the seringalistas:

gardeners, messengers, storekeepers, persons to take care of

the pack animals and others.

For over five decades the settlement, which probably

never exceeded more than 40 to 50 households, did not expand

far beyond the banks of the Jamari. The residents of the

original settlement site, aging seringueiros and their

descendents, still referred to this place as Papagaios. In

1984, however, the residents decided to change the name. It

is now called Vila Marechal Candido Rondon. The change came

about in reaction to their being called the "Vila Velha" by

the rest of Ariquemes which they perceived as somewhat

derogatory. The name Papagaios had been maintained in use in


order to distinguish themselves from what they called "Novo

Ariquemes". The latter term did not refer to the town center

of the most recent settlement (which they referred to as "0

Centro" or "A Cidade") but to an airstrip settlement that

appeared with the discovery of cassiterite.

Ground transportation in the area before the 1950s was

limited to a crude road that had been cut from Ariquemes to

Seringal 70, a seringal and trading post 70 kilometers south

of Ariquemes. The rubber was transported by land from

Seringal 70 to Ariquemes where it continued on by river as

there was still no ground route to the Madeira River. Hence,

when cassiterite extraction began, the preferred means of

transporting the heavy and valuable mineral to river boats in

Porto Velho was by air. Space for an airstrip was cleared

adjacent to the Papagaios settlement in the late 1950s and a

new era of prosperity returned to Ariquemes. Along the air

field two rows of houses were built by pilots and merchants

engaged in the mining trade. It came to be called "Novo

Ariquemes" and soon provided goods and services to a flow of

prospectors (garimpeiros) numbering in the thousands by the

mid 1960s.

Two of the local seringalistas turned from rubber

extraction (which by this time had declined to a small

fraction of its former pace) to cassiterite and invested in

new stocks of goods; the tools of placer mining. The most

successful was Flodoaldo Pontes Pinto whose family still

holds a substantial share in the mechanized mining operations


of the TABOCA Company (a subsidiary of the PARANAPANEMA

Corporation). The seringueiros who were in Seu Flodoaldo's

employ were given the option of participating in the

extraction of cassiterite or of continuing in the rubber

trade. In reality however, according to those who were given

this choice, the support system for rubber extraction soon

became unreliable or in most areas collapsed completely.

Cassiterite was by far a more profitable commodity for the

ex-seringalista upon whom the marketing network of the

traditional rubber trade depended.

On the other hand, from the point of view of the

seringueiro turned garimpeiro, the change in living standards

declined, in spite of higher income. The work was far more

demanding and, although the compensation was higher, the

costs of subsistence goods rose accordingly. It was no doubt

a profitable activity for the more experienced, professional,

and single, garimpeiros who migrated to Rondonia during this

period. But the ex-seringueiro with a family to support, a

family that he might be separated from for long periods of

time, had less to gain from the changes that rapidly

transformed the slow paced but consistent way of life to

which they had adjusted.

Novo Ariquemes did not grow beyond the airstrip since

only limited commerce, some storage facilities, and temporary

housing for a few pilots were necessary. The garimpeiros

camped and worked about 50 kilometers to the west. Another

landing strip was located within the mining area where the


planes picked up and delivered cassiterite, subsistence

goods, and passengers.

The road connecting Ariquemes to Porto Velho was

completed shortly after mining began. Henceforth, the

cassiterite was transferred from small planes to trucks and

delivered to Porto Velho by land. Just as it had during the

rubber era, Ariquemes functioned as an intermediate, transfer

stop between two more distant points: the producing area and

the market, via the Madeira.

The garimpo was closed by the government in 1971. This

action was justified on the basis that placer mining of

cassiterite was less efficient than capital-intensive,

mechanized operations. The closing was announced on April

15, 1970 (Portaria No. 195) giving the garimpeiros a few

months time to make alternate plans. Small aircraft and

trucks arrived in Novo Ariquemes to haul the men to camps in

Porto Velho. Within a few weeks many of the garimpeiros were

transported to other parts of Brazil where placer mining was

permitted. As the clerks closed shop in Seu Flodoaldo's

airstrip headquarters, the officials of INCRA moved in to

begin setting up their own.

Ariquemes and the Agricultural Frontier

When the garimpeiros left, Ariquemes experienced the

largest outmigration in its history. Yet, while the

garimpeiros were being shunted off the scene, the

frontrunners of the agricultural frontier were quietly

slipping past and laying claim to land. The new migrants


began settling along the BR-364 as well as along a major side

road of this highway, the BR-421, which crosses then

parallels the course of the upper Jamari river. Early

settlement on both of these roads was characterized by

conflicting claims usually resulting from fraudulent sale of

lands by land grabbers (grileiros). The major conflicts

occurred in the Nova Vida and Seringal 70 areas of the BR-364

where squatters (posseiros) occupied the lands of relatively

powerful landowners. Before settlement penetrated beyond the

fringes of the highways INCRA took actions to distribute

lands in an orderly fashion. A rather bloody conflict that

erupted nearby Ariquemes in a place known as Nova Vida

inspired the federal colonization agency to speed up its

regulatory and distributive actions in the Ariquemes area.

Consequently, relative to other areas to the south, the

occupation process in Ariquemes was somewhat more organized.

However, INCRA's official actions never quite caught up with

the pace of new migrants arriving in search of land. The

result was rapid growth of the center that is now the town of

Ariquemes. In any event, the "newest" Ariquemes was a

product of INCRA's land distribution program and its basic

layout was planned by the agency in some detail.

The site for the new town was set on the east side of

the BR-364 across from the Papagaios-Novo Ariquemes

settlements. The town was not located west of the highway in

consideration of the fact that the Jamari river floods a

large part of the land to that side and would eventually


restrict expansion. Territorial policy also indicated that

town centers should not grow up directly on the BR-364 (a

policy that went into effect only after several towns such as

Ji Parana, Ouro Preto, Cacoal, Vilhena, and others, had

already done so) which would inhibit the flow of traffic and

increase the number of highway accidents (cf. Monte-Mor

1980). A number of small businesses, owned almost

exclusively by ex-seringueiros and ex-garimpeiros, appeared

along the BR-364 and remained there in 1984 in spite of

several attempts by municipal and state authorities to have

them removed.

The town was loosely modeled, for better or for worse,

after Brasilia. Its center, about two kilometers removed

from the BR-364, was a long, broad, rectagular quadrant

called the Institutional Sector. Located within it were the

city hall, the police station, the city council offices, the

Banco do Brasil, CEPLAC (the cacau agency), SUDHEVEA (the

rubber agency), the Banco da Amazonia, ASTER-RO (the rural

extension agency), SUCAM (the malaria eradication agency),

SESP (a regional health agency), the town gymnasium, a large

primary and secondary school, the bus station and various

other offices.

The Commercial Sectors of town were set on either side

of the Institutional Sector and were more densely occupied by

shops, stores, about ten hospitals and clinics, medical labs,

restaurants, bars, a video game parlor, the radio and

television stations, real estate offices, lawyers' offices,


brothels, clerical offices (despachantes), about 20

pharmacies, ice cream parlors, and more. Nearly any sort of

business could be found there, only ten years after the first

trees were felled to make room for a cluster of shacks. In

1983-84, many of the businesses were in the process of

reconstruction, changing over from temporary wooden

structures to more permanent buildings of concrete and


The area directly adjacent to the highway was reserved

for industrial activities such as coffee processing,

mechanical repair shops, lumber mills, construction

contractors, etc. This area contained two coffee processing

plants, at least 15 auto and truck repair shops, a half-dozen

lumber mills, one large construction company, numerous

automotive parts stores, and the warehouses of several

produce dealers.

Several residential sectors were included in the plan

but others seem to have been added as the town grew. In 1984

there were five, with another in the making. The first

sectors, one through four, were distributed free to the INCRA

colonists as well as to non-farmer migrants.

The internal layout of the residential sectors was such

that the houses of each block faced inward to a broad area

about 25 meters wide (called an alameda) that separated

them from the next row of houses. In these spaces there were

to be neatly planned recreational facilities for children.

Motor vehicles, horse carts, etc. were to be parked behind


the houses on the sides facing the streets. The recreational

spaces were never developed and their appearance varied with

the seasons. In the rains they very quickly formed high

corridors of weeds, obscuring the view and passage from one

row of houses to the next. They were in places an abundant

source of squash and various other garden vines. During the

dry season the weeds disappeared and the alamedas became

enormous trash middens which, actually, seemed to be amusing

enough for the local children.

The spacing between the rows of houses gave the

impression that the town was much larger than it actually

was. Like the city upon which it was modeled, it had an

atmosphere of expansiveness; not a very practical consequence

of modern design for those travelling on foot. The alamedas

literally doubled the surface area of the town and, since

they were entirely cleared of forest, increased the

temperature as the heat reflected off the barren ground.

There were clear differences in socio-economic level

between some of the residential sectors. The larger, more

elaborate dwellings of Sector One, the earliest sector to be

distributed and the sector closest to the commerical center

of town, reflected a higher concentration of wealth. Sector

Three, a relatively new addition, was beginning to show an

even higher degree of wealth by the greater number of

concrete block dwellings under construction. Sector Four was

rather mixed; one room houses of rough lumber with plastic

roof coverings were often standing beside large, tile roofed,


four bedroom houses with in-door plumbing and attractive

concrete verandas. Sector Two had the largest number of

lower class dwellings and in places was reminiscent of urban

ghettos (favelas) in Sgo Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent sector added was Sector Five and was

distributed quite differently than the rest. The municipal

government decided that this time the town lots would be sold

at a price of about 100 dollars U.S. each. One had to submit

an application however, to purchase a lot, giving the

municipal administration control over who would, and who

would not, have the opportunity to invest in this

increasingly valuable town real estate. Construction in this

Sector had not begun by -the time I left the field but it was

clear that the purchasers of these lots were generally

members of the wealthier classes of town--wealthy farmers,

bureaucrats, professionals, businesspersons, etc. Most of

them owned and resided on other lots in town and intended to

build rental properties or sell the lots for profit.

In 1976 there were about 6,000 residents in the town

center, by 1980 there were 13,600 and in 1984 approximately

30,000. By restricting the pace of rural settlement for the

sake of organization, INCRA merely traded one problem for

another. Would-be rural squatters simply became unemployed

or underemployed town residents. Many found work in the

informal sector or as day laborers in the rural area.

On the whole, the population of the town was dominated

by farmers of the Burariero project, town entrepreneurs,


civil servants, and town and rural workers. The Marechal

project farmers were poorly represented in numbers and in

political influence. For the most part the small-farm owners

who were granted or who purchased town lots before moving to

their farms sold those properties. In many cases the sale of

these lots was a necessary step in accumulating capital to

open up their farms. But as a clientele for the various

merchants and professionals, particularly doctors and

pharmacists, the Marechal farmers were indeed an important

element of the town economy. They represented nearly half of

the municipal population. Some Marechal farmers whose rural

parcels were within a few kilometers of town made their homes

in the' town area. Others whose farm parcels were not yet

accessible by road also tended to live in town and work for

wages. The Marechal farmers living in the rural area tended

to visit town at least once or twice a week and usually had a

regular place to stay with friends or relatives. The same was

true for the relatively smaller number of Burareiro farmers

who lived on their lots, but a greater part of these farmers

maintained two households. Some of the more successful

Marechal farmers maintained a second household in town,

particularly when they had children studying beyond the

fourth grade since the rural area schools did not offer

instruction beyond the primary level.

The largest contingent of town residents, and the

fastest growing segment, were landless families in search of

employment opportunities (rural and town) or awaiting the


conditions to purchase or receive land. Their presence and

growth was increasingly important to the local agricultural

economy, in particular to the larger, more capitalized farms

that required workers and which would benefit from a downward

pressure on local rural wages. This group was also

particularly important in the context of town development and

the overall quality of life in the town. The

disproportionate expansion of the poorest sector in Ariquemes

and other town centers in Rondonia severely taxed

infrastructural support systems--water, sewage, electricity,

road maintenance, health care, etc. In turn, these

inadequacies led to an increase in social tensions. A major

and always immediate problem for the social services agency

in Ariquemes was finding housing for new, unemployed

migrants. The availability of town lots for new settlers was

no longer what it had been when the earliest migrants


In 1982, there was a spontaneous occupation, by about 50

squatter families, of what will eventually be Sector Six.

Most of them were women and children, the families of men

working for wages in the rural area. The concentration of

shacks was quietly nested in essentially uncleared forest

until local police expelled the residents in an overnight

raid. The event did not end there. Facing the social

dilemma of several hundred homeless people some local clergy

members organized a temporary shelter in the town's new

gymnasium. The temporary shelter evolved into a showcase of


social injustice and the despejados (evicted persons)

organized an indefinite sit-in. They stated that they would

only leave the gymnasium when town lots were arranged for all

of them elsewhere.

Recognizing the political expediency of resettling the

despejados the mayor authorized their removal to a part of

Sector Five. That is where they remained in 1984; without

the utility services or regular road maintenance enjoyed by

the rest of the town's residential areas. Ariquemes earned

its first official slum.

After this controversial eviction occasional squatting

on municipal land was swiftly remedied. In early 1984, for

example, an 80 year old woman was literally carried out of

her forest shack by local police when verbal persuasion

failed. Her meager dwelling was destroyed and she was placed

into the care of the social services agency (SETRAPS). Much

to the municipal administration's advantage the population of

potential squatters was not large enough or sufficiently

organized to elaborate and execute the sorts of massive

overnight squatting strategies developed by urban lower

classes in larger urban centers such as Porto Velho,

Brasilia, Sgo Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro.

Sector Five also included a federally subsidized housing

project of 400 concrete block dwellings constructed in 1981.

The units were financed by the Banco Nacional de

Habitacgo (BNH). They were located, incidentally, only a

stone's throw from the new shanties of the famed despejados.


The sale of housing in this particular project reflects a

central aspect of the town's growth and the process of

socio-economic differentiation: the value and economic

function of town real estate.

Due to bureaucratic, inter-agency disagreements the

subsidized housing remained unoccupied for over two years.

when at long last the municipal government took charge of the

development the downpayment set for each house was so high

that only professionals, successful businesspersons and some

civil servants could possibly afford them. Although the

downpayment was high in relation to cash available at any one

time to most households (about $100 U.S.), the overall cost,

payable over a 20 year period, was indeed negligible. Most

of the houses were bought up quickly and rented out at rates

several times higher than the low mortgage payments.

The municipal income from the sale of these units

(though the municipality only receives a portion of the

payments) and of other town properties such as the lots in

Sectors Five and Six was earmarked by the municipal

administration to be used for the partial financing of a

municipal development company. The appropriation and sale of

the untitled lands occupied by the residents of Papagaios,

Novo Ariquemes, and other areas adjacent to the town was also

being considered by the municipal government as a means of

generating funds. When established, this entity (the

Development Company of Ariquemes), was intended to act as a

contractor and construction company for various municipal


works, primarily town improvements. Ownership of the company

was 80 percent public (i.e. belonging to the municipality)

and 20 percent private (i.e. belonging to private investors).

The individuals who conceived the idea and promoted it

with the municipal authorities were, of course, the major

private investors. Such entities are not uncommon in most

Brazilian urban centers (they are one type of the generic

term "sociedade mixta") and present an interesting problem in

terms of economic development. What differentiates this sort

of company from an entirely state run enterprise is that the

private entrepreneur may purchase stock in the company and

receive dividends on that investment. Briefly, the end

result is that the company profits return to the private

investors in the form of dividends and increasing value of

the basic shares. Profits come from the municipal coffers

which, filled by taxes collected in various ways from all

citizens, pay the company to perform its services. The

profits (and hence the dividends) merely represent a margin

created in the transaction between municipal funds and the

company account. Members of the community with the resources

to invest, and with access to the investment possibility

through personal networks, are able to reap a profit from

civil works like any private enterprise. In effect it

represents a mechanism for the transfer of value from the

citizenry at large to a selected and priviledged few.

The town was in itself the locus of social and economic

interactions which had their own special dynamics related to


the conditions of town expansion. One example is the

transaction and rental of town properties which became an

important mechanism for capital accumulation. The inflation

of land values in the town during 1983 was roughly 600

percent, or about 400 percent above the general inflation

rate. Clearly, it was an attractive investment for local

capital, an investment that rural landowners with adequate

resources did not hesitate to make. There were no less than

five real estate agencies in town. A major part of their

business was in the purchase and sale, or management of

transactions (and rentals) of town properties.

The town economy was not, of course, unrelated to the

rural economy. The two developed along parallel courses as a

function of their basic unity. They were each part of a

single and integrated process of economic growth. The

evolution of socio-economic differences and relations between

social classes in the community (both rural and town) was in

many ways related to the specific functions of the town in

the agricultural economy.

Town and Countryside

The town is a center of such cultural activities as

religious worship, soccer games, cinema and other diversions.

More importantly, however, it is also the place where basic

services, commerce, bureaucratic institutions, and political

interactions were centered. Each of the latter was of major

significance in the formation and maintenance of unequal

relations within a stratified rural economy.


The town is a service center for the rural population.

Most important among the services provided by government and

by private entrepreneurs are those related to education,

health, and financing of agricultural production.

Educational facilities in Ariquemes began with a single

schoolhouse and several teachers; enough to handle about 200

students. In 1984 there were over a dozen schools, the

largest having a capacity for over a thousand students.

Educational facilities were at first limited to primary

education but rapidly expanded to include secondary level

instruction. By 1984 the town could even boast of its

college extension program, through the Universities of Porto

Velho and Para, and of a two-year college for

agricultural technicians that was under construction. Night

classes were also provided for adults through the department

of education. The adult education programs included basic

literacy instruction, accelerated secondary school

instruction, as well as vocational instruction in typing,

accounting, business management, and other office

occupations. There were also several privately owned

secretarial schools.

Educational facilities in the rural area were limited,

as noted above, but were being complemented through new

programs which will be discussed later. The schools in town

were only accessible to farmers who could make arrangements

for the support and supervision of their children in the

town. Therefore, only a small proportion of the rural


population could take full advantage of the educational

programs. Children of farmers who could reside in the town,

of farmers who could afford to maintain a rural and a town

household, or of farmers who were fortunate enough to find

guardians for them in town, had a decided advantage over the

children of poorer rural households. (Even the children of

poor, wage laborers living in town were in a better position

in this respect.) Hence, the existence and progressive

development of more- advanced educational facilities in town

contributed to a widening socio-economic gap, in terms of

occupational opportunities and quality of life, among the

younger generation of pioneers.

The benefits of literacy and higher education, while not a

particularly central question in a causal analysis of

economic development, are, nevertheless, important tools in a

modernizing society. Distribution of educational

opportunities in Ariquemes favored certain segments of the

community and did not, for various reasons, reach others.

Over the long term, i.e. across generations, this may

contribute to the maintenance of the unequal distribution of

economic opportunities. Illiteracy is not a cause of

underdevelopment but the relative distribution of education

becomes an important mechanism in a society that places a

high economic value on certain types of knowledge and

consequently, on certain occupations. When looking at the

town's role with respect to the provision of education, it is


important to keep in mind who, specifically, is provided for

and who is not.

Health services can be viewed in a similar framework

since their distribution was likewise differentiated in terms

of rural vs. town health facilities. But more importantly,

the town as a center of health care raises the question of

health as a commodity since medical examinations, treatment

by physicians, laboratory work, and pharmaceuticals were for

*the most part purchased from private sources.

The local, state, and federal governments did provide

subsidized health care but were far from capable of handling

the demand for these services. Two government hospitals and

several clinics were maintained by various government

agencies. Throughout the year these institutions were over

burdened with patients, primarily suffering from malaria,

intestinal problems, dehydration, and trauma. At the

beginning and end of the rainy season (approximately October

and April, respectively) the incidence of malaria tended to

skyrocket. At these times it was not uncommon to find three

persons per bed in the government hospitals and all-day

waiting lines of in-coming patients.

The private sector included nearly a dozen small

hospitals and clinics and over 20 pharmacies. In emergency

cases even the poorest farmers and workers would go to

private doctors to avoid waiting for hours, or possibly being

turned away from the government hospitals. Not all, but

several of the local physicians would take in patients


without the immediate means of paying for medical services.

Payment could be delayed for a few weeks or perhaps a couple

of months with correction of the bill for inflation. One

night in the hospital, not including special charges for

medicines and laboratory work, cost on the average an amount

equal to a monthly minimum wage (approximately $30 to $40

U.S.) Frequently, however, the private hospitals would have

empty beds when the government facilities were crowded beyond


As is commonly the case throughout Brazil, pharmacists

perform many of the functions of physicians and nurses. In

addition to selling medicines, the pharmacists generally

offer diagnoses and administered treatments within their

means. By law, they are prohibited from making diagnoses but

do so nonetheless. For the poorer classes they fill an

important gap in the health care system which is certainly

related to the prohibitive costs of private hospitals and


The medical establishment in Ariquemes is a booming

business. Doctors, pharmacists and owners of medical

laboratories were found to be the major recipients of cash

income generated in the small-farm sector. Medical expenses

were consistently indicated as the major household expense in

a survey of small-farm households. They also appeared to be

the major expense for poor, wage laborer families. Capital

accumulation among medical professionals was quite evident in

the rural and town landholdings of doctors and pharmacists.


The largest individually owned cattle ranch in Ariquemes

belonged to a well established physician. Another physician

owned several dozen rental properties in the town. Some of

these professionals had major investments in Rondonia's

gold-mining sector as well.

Health care as a basic necessity and costly commodity

was a major economic link between the farming population and

the town. A precise measure of the transfer of cash value

from the farm sector to the town economy could not be made on

the basis of this research. But its relative significance,

particularly for an important segment of the local upper

class, is quite clear. The health care/ health commodity

system combined with the continued high incidence of malaria

and the lack of success in eradicating this major health

problem is an issue that would easily lend itself to Marxist

economic argument. I am not aware of any formal studies that

have dealt with the issue for the Rondonia case but the

farmers themselves frequently brought up the basic elements

of such an analysis. The farmers were not unaware of the

fact that malaria was the basis for a large accumulation of

wealth in the town and on occasion some farmers stated that

they believed there could be no eradication of malaria

"because too many powerful individuals gained from its

presence" .

The health question is, of course, too complex to be

reduced to an economic argument. Nevertheless, the farmers'

perceptions highlight the exploitative and interdependent


relationship between this particular service sector and the

rural population. Health care was more than a service

provided in the town. It was the basis for a very important

economic exchange between the town and the countryside which,

overall, favored the town economy and was an especially

severe drain on savings in the rural area.

The town was also the locus of another basic service,

agricultural credit. There were several banking institutions

in Ariquemes. The most important for the farmers' were the

Banco do Brasil (BB), the Banco da Amazonia (BASA), and

Bamerindus. These banks were the major sources of rural

credit. Two new banks opened in 1983-84, the Bank of

Rondonia and the Comind Bank. The latter institutions did

not yet play as large a role in the financing of agricultural

production. Between them BB, BASA and Bamerindus, financed

production of cacau, coffee, rubber, food crops, and

investments in agricultural machinery.

Bank loans were particularly central to rural

development in Ariquemes but agricultural credit was also

applied to town investments on a major scale. Much of the

plentiful credit for planting cacau in the Burareiro project

was applied by Burareiro landowners to the construction of

homes or small businesses in town. Likewise, credit for food

crops was frequently diverted from rural uses to investments

in town businesses. In fact, during one year an entrepreneur

and bureaucrat managed to divert most of one bank's funds for

one food crop to the construction of a supermarket. This


case provides an example of how certain classes could divert

funds to inappropriate uses. In effect, town based

entrepreneurs could often compete more effectively for credit

that was intended for agricultural production. This

competition was only possible given the nature of lending in

this society. Getting a loan, and getting away with using it

for purposes other than those specified in the loan contract,

was often a matter of who the borrower knew and their

financial status. The small-farm owners often commented on

their distaste for the banks and bankers. Since they were

poor, they said, the bankers did not treat them with respect.

while wealthier farmers and businessmen did not have to wait

in lines, they (the poor farmers) would have to wait for

hours--sometimes only to be sent away without being attended.

Personal networks and socio-economic standing are usually the

keys to successful banking throughout Brazil.

The small-farm owners often expressed a feeling that

borrowing from the bank, especially given rising interest

rates, high inflation, and low farm prices, was tantamount to

"working as a sharecropper for the bank". This sentiment

discouraged many from applying for operating capital

(custeio), for cash crops or food crops. In their experience

the use of bank credit meant that, since they would have to

harvest and sell their crop fast enough to make the repayment

of the loan, they would not get a favorable return on their

labor. In the case of rice, which was generally the only

food crop grown for sale by the small-farm owners, the risks


of spoilage and loss of the crop were high. If they were

thereby unable to repay the loan they would have to pay even

higher interest. In the case of coffee, their experience

with consistently low prices for the crop and constantly

rising costs of production already reduced the margin of

profit. If they borrowed money from the bank, the interest

could take away yet another portion of the decreasing

profits. On the whole the farmers who operated with little

or no savings felt that the banks only took from the farmer

what he had paid for in hard work.

The town as a center of commerce provides sources for

agricultural inputs, food staples, and other consumer goods.

There were several dozen stores frequented by the farmers who

usually went to town on a regular basis (each week or month)

to buy household items such as.salt, sugar, oil, soap,

macaroni, beans, yeast, and wheat flour. Less frequently the

farmers bought pesticides, barbed wire, herbicides, seeds,

and fertilizers. Usually the farmers had preferences for

particular stores but long term relationships between farmers

and merchants based on credit were rare. The high rate of

inflation may have contributed to the absence of such


Ten produce buyers had warehouses in the town. Some of

them sent trucks out to the rural area while others depended

on local, independent transporters to bring the produce to

town. There were four coffee buyers and four cacau buyers,

the remainder dealt in rice, beans, corn, and rubber. These


entrepreneurs were the most important link to the town from

the perspective of most rural based farmers. Exchange of

crops for cash with these middlemen intermediariess) was the

major source of cash income, particularly for the majority of

the small-farm owners growing coffee but also for a smaller

number of Burareiro cacau growers who lived on their farms

and practiced farming exclusively. Few of the farmers had

strong ties to one middleman or another and they tended to

inquire about prices being paid by the various buyers before

concluding a transaction. Since competition was rather

limited and since outlets beyond Ariquemes were not available

to most farmers, the middlemen tended to exploit the farmers

severely. Often the prices paid for produce, especially for

rice, were well below the minimum price determined by

government policy. Farmers with loans due could not wait

long after the harvest for higher prices. Generally, most

farmers could not wait long to sell produce because the cash

was usually needed for household and medical expenses.

The government installed a system to buy farm products

(CIBRAZEM) but this agency was rarely used by the farmers

themselves. Most farmers did not want to go through the

lengthy bureaucratic process. In any event, the middlemen

tended to monopolize the government warehouses by acquiring

the major part of the agencies stock of the special sacks

that had to be used.

Bureaucratic and political institutions were a crucial

aspect of the town's role in the agricultural economy. This