Transamazon Town


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Transamazon Town transformation of a Brazilian riverine community
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x, 265 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Miller, Darrel Lee, 1947-
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Subjects / Keywords:
Roads -- Brazil   ( lcsh )
Migration, Internal -- Brazil   ( lcsh )
Itaituba, Brazil   ( lcsh )
Rodovia Transamazônica (Brazil)   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 254-264.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Darrel Lee Miller.
General Note:
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University of Florida
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Darrel Lee Miller





My interests in Brazil and the Amazon region began in 1973

when Dr. Charles Wagley gathered together an interdisciplinary group

of students to assist in a research project already under way in the

Amazon. My curiosity about the project had been aroused by a course on

lowland South American Indians taught by Dr. Maxine Margolis. Conver-

sations frequently centered on the effects the new Transamazon Highway

was having on Brazil's Indian population and the exciting atmosphere

of Brazil's new frontier. As a result of this curiosity I spent the

summer of 1974 on the Transamazon Highway where Emilio Moran and Milli-

cent Fleming-Moran were conducting a research project and also in a

small Amazon River community which Charles Wagley had studied in 1948.

A fellowship from the Tropical South America Program at the University

of Florida funded that research. My second encounter with the Amazon

began in December 1976 when my wife and I began the research on which

this dissertation is based. A fellowship from the Organization of

American States (#PRA-54903) made the study possible.

Throughout my graduate career and in particular with my work in

the Amazon, Dr. Charles Wagley has been a constant source of support

and encouragement. His emphasis on the humanistic side of anthropology

is reflected in this work. In addition to Dr. Wagley, my directions

in anthropology have been greatly influenced by Dr. Paul Doughty,

CI r I I I I i I I __ ~4pd

Dr. Maxine Margolis, Dr. Elizabeth Eddy and Dr. G. Alexander Moore.

Their help in the preparation of this manuscript is deeply appreciated.

I would like to give special thanks to Dr. Alfred Hower who

first introduced me to the Portuguese language and who has challenged

me throughout my graduate program to learn more about the Brazilian

people and their language. The Center for Latin American Studies at

the University of Florida provided financial and moral support for

three years of my graduate program. For this support I would like to

thank Dr. Ivan Schulman, Dr. Terry McCoy, and Mrs. Vivian Nolan. In

the Department of Anthropology, there are many people deserving mention,

but in particular for their many small favors and friendship I wish to

thank Mrs. Lydia Deakin and Mrs. Idella Bivens.

Our introduction to Brazil and the city of Belem was greatly

facilitated by contacts arranged by Samuel and Elisa Si. We could not

begin to thank their wonderful family for all the help and support they

provided during our nine months in Brazil. While in Belem, we found a

haven and a home at the Goeldi Museum. The director of the museum,

Dr. Miguel Scaff and his family, were always available in case of need.

Our academic affiliation was arranged through the Federal University of

Para in Belem and also the State Planning Agency. At the planning

agency, Dr. Fernando Jorge and Simao Jatene were of enormous assistance

in providing information and in discussing our research. Special thanks

go as well to the OAS accounting staff in Brasflia who helped us tackle

the problem of cashing fellowship checks in the Amazon--a seemingly

easy task which proved to be a major stumbling block.

Without our informants and friends in Itaituba, this research

would have been impossible. I cannot even begin to single out everyone

who assisted. Several organizations lent invaluable support. They

include: the mayor's office, the Catholic Church, and the State Uni-

versity of Santa Catarina's extension campus. Two people must be singled

out for special thanks: the vicar of Itaituba for the use of his refri-

gerator and a multitude of less tangible kindnesses, and Julio, our

daily companion and research assistant.

Several people assisted in the preparation of this manuscript.

Ms. Amy Bushnell deserves the writer's appreciation for her excellent

typing of this manuscript and Ms. Jill Loucks for her preparation of

the maps. Alice Hahn, Mayanne Downs, and Carol Albert gave additional


Finally, I wish to thank my colleague, co-worker, and wife, Linda

Miller. Without her support, both in the field and in the preparation

of this manuscript, I would have long ago given up any hopes of becoming

an anthropologist.

This research could not have been accomplished without the help

of those people listed above. Any errors or faults in this study,

however, are entirely my own responsibility.






LIST OF FIGURES . .... .. viii

ABSTRACT . .. . ix


* I. INTRODUCTION . . .. 1
Notes. . .... . 17

Studying the Larger Community . ... 18
Research Methods . . ... 20
Notes . . . 31

The Extractive Economy: An Introduction .. 32
The Extractive Economy: An Historical Perspective 35
The Aviamento System . . .. 41
The Highway Boom . . .. 46
Notes. .. . . 53

Transportation and Communications . ... 55
The Neighborhoods . .... 59
The Cidade Alta . . 65
Notes . . . 76

The Agricultural Sector . .. 77
The Mining Sector . . .. 85
The Commercial Sector . . .. 100
Notes. . ... .. 109

Approaches to Entrepreneurship . .. .110
A Typology of Entrepreneurs . .. .116
Case Studies . .. .. . 119
A Processual Model for Entrepreneurial Change .. .. 140
Notes. . . .. .149

Introduction . ... .. 151
Local Agencies . . ... .. .152
Communications . .... .. .158
Public Utilities . .... .158
Financial Institutions . ... .159
Social Services . . 162
Health Services . .... .163
Educational Services .. . .165
Highway-Related Agencies . ... .171
The Military . . ... .174
Mineral and Natural Resource Management ..... 176
Conclusions . . ... .179
Notes . ... . 187

Introduction ............. .. .. 188
Social Class: Pre-Highway . ... .189
Social Class: Traditional River Village ... .192
Social Class: Itaituba Today . ... .194
Social Organization and Social Structure ... .205
A Dynamic Look at Social Class: Entertainment .... .206
Notes . . .. 217










I r I I r I r~


Table Page

4-1 Modes of Transportation: Itaituba-Santarem .. 58

4-2 Comparative Demographic Data by Neighborhood .. 61

5-1 Hierarchy of Personnel in Amazonia Extractive System 98

7-1 Agencies in Itaituba . ... 153



1-1 Brazilian Amazon Highway System . .

1-2 Itaituba: Central District . .

3-1 Land Division of a Gleba Along the Transamazon Highway
Near Altamira . . .

4-1 Highway Connections to Cuiabg, Brasilia and the South of
Brazil . . .

4-2 Neighborhoods of Itaituba . .

4-3 States and Regions of Brazil . .

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



Darrel Lee Miller

June, 1979

Chairman: Charles Wagley
Major Department: Anthropology

This study deals primarily with the effects of the Brazilian

Transamazon Highway and Colonization plan on a traditional river town.

The decision in 1970 to begin the Transamazon project has meant a pro-

found change for the Amazon region of Brazil as a whole. The planned

communities which are a part of the project and the small farmers in

these communities have been the focus of much research. Little atten-

tion has been given to the towns and villages already in existence for

hundreds of years which have also been affected by the Transamazon pro-

ject. One such town, Itaituba, Para, was selected as a research site

for a study of economic and community development.

The research focus is on three principal areas of change in the

town: population growth, an expanded commercial sector, and a greater

bureaucratic presence. In the area of population growth the reasons

for continued arrival of large numbers of immigrants in spite of a

decline in colonization efforts by the government are explored. In the

economic sphere, the integration of the local market into the national

economy and a rise in the incidence of entrepreneurship are two


significant changes brought about by the highway project. The plan

itself called for an increased number of state and federal agencies to

provide "infrastructure" for the immigrants. The growth of the bureau-

cracy and its effects on the community are detailed.

The main hypothesis of the study is that growth is occurring in

Itaituba, but without development. The three major changes listed above

are analyzed in terms of the growth versus development issue. Findings

indicate that although certain conditions for development are met--the

integration of markets, the presence of entrepreneurship, and a bureau-

cracy to control the distribution of resources--others are not. Pri-

marily, the region remains underdeveloped because of a kind of internal

economic colonialism. Until this condition is resolved and a solid

economic base for the region established, the economic condition and.

hence, the social structure will remain unchanged.

I a



During the 1970's, Brazil has focused its attention on the

development of the vast Amazon region. In 1970 President Medici

announced plans for the construction of a highway network and for the

colonization of virgin forest in the sparsely populated Amazon Basin.

The First Plan of National Integration (1 PIN 1970) for Amaz6nia has

since been replaced by a second. In 1975 after it was clear to every-

one that the Amazon highway and colonization plan had been less than

successful, the federal government changed its focus. The Second

National Plan (II PIN 1975) centers around numerous "poles of develop-

ment." Fifteen such "poles" or micro-regions were delineated in the

Brazilian Amazon. Each pole was chosen because of a particular re-

source which could be exploited. The plan is known as POLAMAZONIA.

It is administered by a separate bureaucracy which functions within and

as a part of the original development agencies (SUDAM, the Amazonian

Development Agency, for example) and within established federal and

state agencies.

The original colonization plan of 1970 foundered on the weak

soils of the Amazon. All along the 5,400 km of the Transamazon Highway

soils were spot checked and 100 km on either side of the highway was

set aside for small farmers who would occupy 100 hectare lots. Unfortu-

nately, only the land around the town of Altamira on the lower Xing6

II -

River in the State of Para is suitable for agricultural development on

the scale envisioned by the federal plan. Soils in the Itaituba sector

west of Altamira on the Tapaj6s River are unsuitable. As a result,

colonization was halted near Itaituba. Those who had settled along the

highway between an area 120 km west of Altamira and Itaituba were having

a difficult time and many returned home abandoning their lots. In this

respect, the plan failed. Yet, in another area it did not. The atten-

tion given to the Amazon region throughout the nation brought about a

large migration to that region, particularly around the traditional

river towns which lay in the path of the new highway: Marabi, Altamira,

and Itaituba in the State of Para. The original plan for settling the

highway gave relatively little attention to these small towns already in

existence. But it is exactly in these river communities where a minor

social and economic revolution has taken place.

These small river towns were originally seen as areas which

already possessed some infrastructure and could therefore facilitate the

colonization program (Kleinpenning 1975:101). Eventually they could

serve the same function as the planned ruropolis in which market and

governmental facilities were to be created. Yet while the new communi-

ties (the agrovilas, agropolis, and ruropolis)1 of the original coloni-

zation scheme were planned down to the last detail in most instances, in

fact the traditional communities along the highway were ignored despite

the fact that they had histories of a hundred years or more. They grew

quickly and without planning. In 1970 Altamira had an estimated popula-

tion of 5,000; today it approaches 30,000. Itaituba had approximately

2,000 residents in 1970 and slightly over 12,000 today. Each town has

increased in size six times over during the past seven years and their

populations are continuing to grow.


This study focuses on the effects of the Transamazon Highway on

one of the traditional river towns in the State of Part--the town of

Itaituba. Anthropologists who have conducted research along the Trans-

amazon Highway in the recent past have concentrated on the government-

sponsored colonization plan and the agricultural performance of the

colonists (Moran 1975, Poats 1975, Velho 1972). As a counterpoint to

the developments in the small-farm sector, the traditional river towns,

including Itaituba, grew into relatively larger urban centers which

served the colonists and other migrants who came in response to the new

colonization effort. Historically, each of the towns was a trading

center for the collection of forest products and distribution of trade

goods for their respective regions. Each town is located near the upper

limits of navigable waters on the major tributaries of the southern

shore of the Amazon River: Maraba at the Tocantins, Altamira at the

Xingu and Itaituba at the Tapaj6s (See Figure 1-1). The Transamazon

Highway now links these centers by land. The spark which set off the

growth of each town was the coming of the highway and the opening of

land transportation links with other parts of Brazil. Because of the

researcher's previous visit to the area and its relatively smaller size,

Itaituba was chosen as the site for research dealing with the transfor-

mation of a traditional river town into a regional urban center.

The municipio of Itaituba lies in the southwestern corner of the

State of Para. Bounded on the north by the municipio of Aveiro, on the

east by the municfpio of Altamira, on the south by the State of

Mato Grosso, and on the west by the State of Amazonas, it is the largest

municipio in Brazil. The town of Itaituba, seat of the municipio of

Itaituba, is the largest urban center in the Upper Tapaj6s Valley. In

__ __





C :


sharp contrast to the planned agrovilas, agropoli and ruropolis of the

Transamazon colonization project, Itaituba has grown without planning

(See Figure 1-2). It has the appearance of a boom town with a flavor

of the American West. The streets are as yet unpaved. There is constant

truck and automobile traffic which accounts for the cloud of dust which

hangs over the city. Above all, there is a constant hum of activity,

unlike the sleepy river towns in other areas of the Amazon interior.

Itaituba has movimento (literally, movement), which is a highly valued

urban characteristic in Latin America. It refers to the bustle of life

in the city--restaurants, theaters, bars, stores, and people in the

streets (Wagley 1971:106). To the newcomer the most evident aspect of

movimento, aside from the automobiles careening down the dirt streets

at breakneck speeds, is the loudspeakers which blare out messages of

upcoming social events to all members of the community, interested or

not. The most frequently cited observation by those who have visited

Itaituba before and after the recent growth is that before there was no

movimento and now there is too much.

The question of whether growth in Itaituba is simply population

growth or whether it can be classed as development is a central issue

in judging the effects of the highway project on Itaituba. Before em-

barking further into the specifics of the situation in Itaituba, it

might be useful to review the meaning and implications of the term

"development." Definitions of the word vary widely from study to study.

J. Freyssinnet (1966) has collected over 300 such definitions. Drawing

on Andr4 Gunder Frank's definition of real development as "a structural

transformation of the economy, society, polity and culture of the satel-

lite that permits the self-generating and self-perpetuating use and


Figure 1-2
Itaituba: Central District
Source: Projeto Rondon, Itaituba, Para

development of peoples' potential" (Frank 1967:153). I distinguish

development, a change in structure of a society, from growth, which is

a change in degree--a larger population, an increase in production, and

the like-without a change in the basic structure of the society.

Development strategies fall into three categories according to

Keith Marsden: "crash modernization, dual development and progressive

modernization" (1969:389-418). Crash modernization on the scale of the

Soviet Union and post-war Germany are rarely if ever found among Third

World countries. A more common Third World pattern is the dual develop-

ment model which divides the society in the process of development into

two parts. The more traditional part lags behind the more advanced

segment. According to the dualist model a society passes through a

series of stages on its journey from underdevelopment to development.

W. W. Rostow (1960) is perhaps the best known of this school of theorists.

He describes five states: (1) traditional, (2) preconditions to take

off, (3) take off, (4) the drive for maturity, and (5) mass consumption

(1960:4-12). Cyril Black lists four stages beginning with a confronta-

tion between the traditional society and modernity and ending in the

reintegration of the society (Black 1966:67-68). Yet another of these

unilinear theorists, S. N. Eisenstadt, writes of the two stages of mod-

ernization which he simply calls first and second phases (Eisenscadt

1966). The listing of stages common to all societies fails to take into

account differences between societies and relegates the lagging portion

of the dual society to perpetual poverty.

A second common feature of dual development is that the emphasis

by many theorists is often on growth rather than development. Phrases

such as "sustained growth" (Lewis 1955:9; Rostow 1960) and "cultural

p~-Ll~---~-- -~s ~I~_ ~--~-c~ Ir- ------ ----C--TPr~7r

impediments to economic development" (Buchanan and Ellis 1955:90) are

common. Economic growth and increases in GNP are seen as ends in them-

selves. A sharp increase in GNP can only mean an improvement of the

standard of living of all the people, only one sector of the society, or

first one group and then another within the society experiencing

change. In point of fact, however, seldom does economic growth benefit

all sectors of a society. Only a reallocation of resources on a global

scale would allow for the inclusion in the "modernized" world of a large

portion of the Third World population. As a result, in countries such

as Brazil only a small percentage of the population (perhaps 15 percent

in this case) live on a par with the industrialized countries. The

remainder live in a state of "underdevelopment" (cf. Glower et al. 1966).

A distinction between growth and development is therefore important.

Joseph Schumpeter (1934:64) calls development "a distinct phenomenon,

entirely foreign to what may be observed in the circular flow [of re-

sources]. It is spontaneous and discontinuous change in the channels of

flow." He further clarifies the distinction by noting that any number

of rail coaches do not make a railway. Mere growth is not sufficient

to create development. The dualists failed to see the global situation

(Epstein 1973:2).

Several authors have attacked the applicability of the dualist

model to Brazilian society as a whole (Frank 1967; Prado Junior 1966;

Epstein 1973). Andre Gunder Frank (1967) has proposed a model of the

Brazilian economy based on a hierarchy of dependencies (also Cotler

1976). The theme of dependency is a phenomenon noted by many anthro-

pologists especially in the analyses of patron-client relationships

(Epstein 1973:3). Wagley writes of the dependency of lower-class people

on patrons (1960:183). Anthony Leeds proposes the term panelinhas

(little pots) to describe the groups of upper class people who band

together to help one another according to their various specialties--

law,medicine, banking, and the like (1964:1330). The panelinhas are

arranged in a hierarchy ranging from the local level to the national

level (Leeds 1964:1339). The panelinhas can serve as patrons to one

another depending on their position in the hierarchy, or they can serve

as a source of patronage to the lower classes.

Dependency on the local and individual level closely parallels

Frank's dependency on the political level. Frank defines dependency in

terms of two groups--the satellites and the metropoles. The United

States, according to Frank (1967:146) is the current world metropole.

It has internal satellites (the Southern U. S.) and international

satellites such as the industrialized south of Brazil. In turn, a

chain of satellites exists beginning in Sao Paulo and its regional

satellites such as Salvador, Bahia, and Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais,

and continuing down to the smallest municipal seat and its dependent

villages. This theme of dependency which results in a kind of internal

colonialism will be discussed throughout this study for it best exempli-

fies the dependency of Itaituba on national metropoles such as Sao Paulo

and regional ones, Santarem and Belem. It reflects the central govern-

ment planning done in Brasilia and the "colonial" administrators they

send out to implement policy at the local level.

Turning from the dualist model and its critics and alternatives,

there is another model of development which Marsden (1969) calls "pro-

gressive modernization." It refers to the development process as a

whole, a process which takes into account the economic, social and

---- -S~S~--C"I--L~-C --s ~lj~Lii:

political realities of a society. Societies are viewed individually

and on a more micro-level than they are in the dualist models. This

is an area in which anthropologists have been able to employ their

expertise. Arensberg points out that all of the social sciences have

observed development, but anthropologists have had "experience with

grassroots cultures and its fieldwork outside national capitals and

project planning headquarters [gives] it a special advantage" (1978:52).

Similar to Marsden's model of "progressive modernization," is that

introduced by Norman Uphoff and Warren Ilchman (1972) as an outgrowth

of their theory of political economy of change (Ilchman and Uphoff 1969).

The development model they propose rests on the assumption that "econ-

omic, social and political relations are in effect exchanges between

persons of [resources] having economic, social, or political value"

(Uphoff and Ilchman 1972:78). Status is in social terms, what goods and

services are in economic terms. If one defines development as structu-

ral change, "then, we are talking about changes in the pattern of

resource possession and use by persons" (Uphoff and Ilchman 1972:90).

The Peruvian community studied by William Foote Whyte and Lawrence

Williams (1968) is an illustration of such a structural change in a local

economy. With the advent of a new road to the capital, Lima, traditional

subsistence production gave way to the growing of fruit which could be

sold in the urban market. I have chosen as a framework for my data the

concept of development set forth by Uphoff and Ilchman. It emphasizes

the holistic and the micro-level, making it extremely suitable for

anthropological study. Its major areas of emphasis correspond closely

to the significant changes occurring in Itaituba.

In analyzing the flow or exchange of resources, Uphoff and

Ilchman suggest four basic conditions for development: (1) integration

of markets, (2) increase in factor endowment, (3) organization of re-

source flow, and (4) the exercise of entrepreneurship (1972:92-99).

Each of these conditions for development covers one of the significant

areas of change occurring in Itaituba.

The first area, integration of markets, refers to the integra-

tion of the local market into the national economy. The increasing

interdependency between national manufacturers and the newly opened

Amazon region lies at the heart of Gunder Frank's dependency or internal

colonialism model. The Amazon, for instance, is being flooded with

goods manufactured in southern Brazil, thus inhibiting the development

of local industries. In return, areas like Itaituba provide extractive

products to satisfy the raw material needs of the manufacturers.

Although the data will show that the Itaituba market has been integrated

into the national system, the imbalance of the resource exchange--raw

materials for manufactured goods--means continued underdevelopment for

the communities of the Amazon.

The problem of integrating rural peoples into national life is

not only an economic issue, but also a social and political one (Nash

1966:353). It raises the question of linkages between the local commu-

nity and the wider society. The concept of linkages is not a new one.

In economic and political terms, Albert 0. Hirschman (1958) analyzed

the significance of linkages. In anthropology, Robert Redfield (1941:

54-68) notes the linkages between the village of Tepoztlan, Mexico, and

other villages in the municipio. These linkages led Redfield to propose

his folk-urban continuum which represents types of communities "between

____ _____ ~IIP-P-P--PPX

the primitive tribe and the modern city" (Redfield 1941:217). Oscar

Lewis (1951:36-49) expands on Redfield and describes the linkages

between the village and the state of Morelos and neighboring regions

and even between the village and the United States. Lewis lists the

schools, administration, the Catholic Church, political changes, and

expanded economic ties as influencing and increasing linkages between

the village and the outside world. From his work in Puerto Rico, Julian

Steward proposes a more sophisticated hierarchy of levels of socio-

cultural integration which ranged from the local core to national insti-

tutions (1955:64-77).

In a more recent work, John Gulick (1973) discusses the effects

increased linkages can have on a community. Local residents and insti-

tutions serve as brokers between the larger society and the hinterland

region. This includes administration, transportation, commerce, and

communication. Strangers and outsiders visit the community, bringing

in new customs and points of view. Social classes become evident. The

upper class has connections with the larger cities which bring its

members prestige and/or power. Social relations are characterized, in

general, as impersonal, rationalistic, goal-oriented rather than person-

al although vestiges of personal relationships exist. Local residents

lose control over local conditions because of the greater influence of

the larger society. In short, there is more cultural heterogeneity.

Following Gulick, then, one of the goals of this study is to

trace the social and economic links between Itaituba and the outside

world. In addition to tracing links between the upper class and the

"outside," links between the immigrants of other socioeconomic groups

and their native regions will also be noted. In short, focus will not


only be on the integration of the local market into the national economy,

but also on integration in the social and political spheres as well.

The second condition in the Uphoff and Ilchman model deals with

"increase in factor endowments" (1972:94). This means that through

development the populace of any given community will have more resources

to exchange. Here again, Gunder Frank's dependency theory can be ap-

plied to the Amazon development situation. Historically, the Amazon

economy has been based on extractivism. Extractive labor-intensive

projects have abounded. The varying demand of the international market

for such products and the concomitant fluctuations in price have meant

a boom-bust pattern for the Amazon. The major decision-making powers

are certainly out of the hands of the local population.

The most recent development effort in the Amazon, the Transamazon

Highway, is directed at the agricultural sector. Writing in 1953,

Charles Wagley spoke of the need for modern agricultural practices to

establish a "more stable and permanent exploitation of the region"

(Wagley 1976:293). Other scholars have noted the importance of the

agricultural sector (Wharton 1968:19) and the necessity of developing

the human labor potential in an area where capital is scarce (Dorner

1972:131). However, the Transamazon project has accomplished little in

this direction. The highway has opened up new lands for subsistence

agriculture, but a significant increase in per capital agricultural pro-

duction did not occur.

The data will show that: (1) the agricultural sector did not

improve in Itaituba, (2) no industrial enterprises were begun, and

(3) major emphasis has recently been placed on mining, a continuation

of the extractive pattern. As Guy Hunter points out in reference to a


study in India, "'more of the same' without structural change, is not

a [viable] long-term policy by itself" (1969:44). He further states

that "if the result is increased density of population, this may be a

. temporary benefit in terms of individual incomes and may well

freeze the social situation. ." (1969:44). The data in the case of

Itaituba closely parallel this pattern. Increased population density

has mitigated the effects of an increased amount of resources, i.e.,

growth without development.

The organization of resource flow (condition number three) is

one of the two most significant changes in Itaituba (the other being

the presence of entrepreneurship). The vast number of new governmental

agencies and their personnel have meant profound changes for this Amazon

hinterland. Ilchman and Uphoff maintain that the creation of infra-

structure is the major means of integrating markets (1972:97). By ex-

tension to the social sphere, administrators can be a means of intro-

ducing national social patterns to the rural community. In short,

administration provides "new institutional channels through which new

forms of relationships can flow" (Hunter 1969:195).

The new bureaucracy in Itaituba has introduced new ideas. Their

attitudes, however, are often similar to those of British colonial admin-

istrators sent out to govern a backward colony. The educational and

cultural dichotomy between the rural Amazonian people and the urban

administrators is often a stumbling block to communication between the

two groups. This pattern has led to difficulties in other development

projects in Brazil (cf. Oberg and Rios 1955 and Moran 1975).

Another Brazilian administrative pattern involves the direction

of decisions from the national level down to the local (cf. Epstein 1973).

a~;*srr~sa2~~ruserrrrs ~ -rv..

This thesis will demonstrate that organizational initiative does not

often originate in the community itself, but rather from the regional or

national level. Change then is unidirectional--it begins at the nation-

al level and moves through bureaucratic channels down to the local

level. This process results from a pattern established by an extractive

mode of production. The pattern of booms and busts created communities

which are vague and amorphous unlike the closed corporate Indian commu-

nities of highland South America. Amazon communities lack a cohesive-

ness, an esprit-de-corps, and the sense of volunteerism that can even be

found in U. S. communities. Amazon communities, then, are communities

in the sense of a settlement, but often lack the cohesiveness which

characterizes what Victor Turner calls communitas (Turner 1969:111-112).

This dichotomy is also discussed by Eric Wolf when he contrasts

open and closed corporate communities in Latin America.

Here too [in open communities] people live their lives within
the relatively narrow confines of their villages or neighbor-
hood, but these lives are strongly connected to the happenings
of the outside world. The community, as such, lacks strong
organization. Rather, the individual can reach out beyond the
community to enter whatever advantageous relationship is open
to him. In contrast to the closed communities of the highlands,
these communities are "open" to the world.(Wolf and Hansen

In open communities people look to the government or other outsiders

(patrons, etc.) when faced with a crisis. Many times the researcher

heard informants, when asked about the economic and social problems in

the town, complain that the government had abandoned them or had done

nothing to solve a particular problem. Planners, on the other hand,

complained that communities in the State of Pari do nothing for them-


The last condition for development discussed by Uphoff and

Ilchman is the presence of entrepreneurship. They state that "the

establishment of structure by innovative means involves usually some

form of entrepreneurship" (Uphoff and Ilchman 1972:98).4 The rapid

growth of the commercial or service sector in Itaituba is evidence of

the amount of entrepreneurial activity occurring. Because of the ex-

panded resources available from mining activities and increased region-

al funding by the federal government, entrepreneurship is the only

condition for development which is fully present in Itaituba.

In order to understand the direction and nature of this change,

I have proposed in Chapter VI a model which plots the synchronic and

diachronic aspects of entrepreneurship in Itaituba. The model will

demonstrate how entrepreneurship changes as the local economy is further

and further integrated into the national economy. Again, these data

show the applicability of the internal dependency model proposed by

Gunder Frank (1967) for Brazil.

In summation, the analysis of the four conditions of development:

the integration of markets (Chapters V and VI), the increase in factor

endowments (Chapters III and IV), the organization of resource flow

(Chapter VII), and the exercise of entrepreneurship (Chapter VI); and

their interaction pattern will give a picture of development or the

lack of it in Itaituba in light of the Transamazon highway construction

and colonization scheme. These data will also be analyzed in terms of

their effects on social structure and organization (Chapter VIII). As

an overall conclusion, the data will show that Itaituba is experiencing

growth without development.



Agrovila, agropolis and ruropolis are the names given to the
planned communities of the colonization scheme. The agrovila is the
smallest and the ruropolis, the largest.

2The term municipio is roughly equivalent in meaning to the
American political subdivision of "county." However, in Brazil there
is no jurisdictional division between a town or city and the county.
The mayor of a municipio, then, is the mayor of a county.

Gulick proposes these characteristics, however, in relation
to social changes in the human urban environment.

A detailed discussion of the literature and typology of entre-
preneurs appears in Chapter VI.

I s 3111 ~y~r ~c---~-l ---- -~ rrr~ss~a(B~i~i~



Studying the Larger Community

Traditional anthropological studies have dealt with small

communities, peasant villages or aboriginal groups, with populations

from several hundred to perhaps 2,000. My previous research project in

the Amazon was conducted in a community of 1,300. Doing research in a

larger community presents a very different set of problems. In the

smaller community, it is possible to study and observe all aspects of

community life although one aspect is very often emphasized over another.

In a larger community, one is limited by time and sheer physical size

to a smaller unit of research than the entire community. As such,

urban anthropologists have looked at traditional topics such as kinship

and social structure but within the context of the total urban environ-

ment. They have also studied institutional networks, or "the deployment

of institutions over a given area" (Gulick 1973). In the same vein, I

limited myself to a specific set of data: entrepreneurs, the commercial

sector, and the bureaucracy. Where exactly does a study of the commer-

cial sector of a community end? What events or institutions should be

explored in detail and which should be largely ignored? These are just

two of the many questions which I faced during the first two months of

research. Although I knew that it was impossible for me to do a commu-

nity study of a city the size of Itaituba (12,000 inhabitants), those

first months were marked by a conflict on the one hand, between not

wanting to miss any event or interviewing everyone with whom I came into

contact and attempting, on the other hand, to narrow my topic of research

to something more manageable. In retrospect, this initial period could

be classed more as getting to know the community rather than actual

research on a specific topic. Eventually, I came to understand the

dynamics of town life so that I was better able to judge what was impor-

tant to me and what was not. The bureaucracy, social structure, and

festivals and entertainment proved to be areas very integral to the

understanding of relationships and networks in the commercial sector.

Education, religious life (other than festivals), extensive kinship

networks, and the like, proved to be of much less importance.

In one sense, then, the study, of which this work is a result,

is a limited community study. In another, it represents a study with

much wider links than a community study. Economically, these links

represent ties with the national level. For Itaituba the relationship

is one of dependency in the manner described by Andre Gunder Frank.

Economically speaking the links to the national level have meant an

internal colonialism, but on other levels, those of communications,

transportation, and contacts with other segments of the national society,

there has been a broadening of local horizons.

One of the goals of the study was to trace regional links between

Itaituba and the larger cities in Para: Belem and Santarem. After

beginning the study this was expanded to include links to other urban

centers including Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais; Brasilia; and Sao Paulo.

Social relationships were investigated to look for changes which may have

been a result of increased linkages with the region and nation. Using the

researcher's previous experience in a traditional river community



(Miller 1976) as a baseline for comparison, the existence or absence of

certain characteristically rural Amazonian traits such as patron-client

relationships was determined. Again, the study of entrepreneurs and the

commercial sector seemed an excellent subject for determining the extent

of such linkages or changes.

Research Methods

Initially, I would like to make a distinction between informal

and formal methodology. By informal methodology I refer to a methodology

of a contingent nature, meaning that the methodology was not entirely

unplanned, but neither was it entirely predictable as first envisioned

in my research proposal. In the words of Robert Merton, the experience

was serendipitous (Merton 1957:103-107). In the first stages of field-

work certain offers and decisions are made. The results of making these

choices can profoundly affect the course of one's fieldwork. For in-

stance, by accepting housing at Project Rondon we became identified as

students of the Project.I This association became invaluable in that

we were accepted more quickly in many situations and, despite our claims

to the contrary, it provided us with a locally acceptable affiliation.2

The Rondon students had been coming to Itaituba for years doing odd things

and asking interminable questions and we fit right in with that pattern.

Even our strange "accent" was similar to those from Santa Catarina, if

not in fact then in perception. This turn of events signified that "we

were quite literally 'in'" (Geertz 1973:416).

Along with our link to Project Rondon, we made other initial

contacts with people who could best be classified as outsiders. These

include Padre Giovanni and Sister Teresa, two couples from the Army

base, the college students home for vacation, the furniture merchant

Francisco Borges, several employees of the Bank of Brazil, Alberto, the

owner of the rice warehouse, the gold buyer Silvio Oliveira and several

recent immigrants to the Cidade Alta. There existed, then, a pattern of

contact with outsiders, i.e. recent immigrants or agency personnel who

were (very much like ourselves) in Itaituba only for a short time, as

opposed to long-time local residents. Itaituba is inhabited by approx-

imately 10,000 recent immigrants (about 80 percent of the population).

Social ties and networks are in a state of flux. New residents are

arriving daily and other residents are leaving. Agency and military

personnel change rapidly; two years is the maximum stay for all but a

few. By the end of our field stay we were considered old timers by the

agency people we were dealing with since most had arrived after us.

The long-term residents and more permanent newcomers deal with

this constantly changing situation by ignoring all but the most important

recent arrivals such as the commander of the military base, medical per-

sonnel with the Public Health Service (FSESP or Fundacao Serviqo Especial

de Saude PGblica) or the State and Federal Tax Collectors. In the begin-

ning, we were also ignored. It took us many months to build up friend-

ships with some of the original local residents and many never accepted


An excellent illustration of the latter case is our relationship

with the mayor, Sr. Arriberto, and all but two of the councilmen. The

mayor had reason to award us his reluctant cooperation because of our

association with the State Planning Agency (SEPLAN), which reviewed and

approved or disapproved his budget proposals. His own demeanor, polite


but distant, was matched by that of the city council. Several

approaches were made to the mayor but no substantive information was

gained and except for helping with the house rental, no promises were


The town's leading merchants are another example. Reng Santos,

owner of the town's largest store and supermarket, became an informant

only during the last three months. We met him at the home of another

local merchant and native of Itaituba, Jurandir Oliveira, who operates

an appliance and furniture store. We met Jurandir through Guillermo

Roxo, the administrator of Project Rondon. Joao Carlos, who had been

the major merchant before 1972, was introduced to us by a military

friend. Although we spoke several times on subsequent occasions, Joao

Carlos never really "opened up" or became a major informant. In both

cases, outsiders who are friends to both parties initiated the contacts

and acted as brokers on our behalf. The outsiders who acted as brokers

are either prestigious people, in the case of the military man who is

a medical doctor, or long-term residents such as Guillermo, who came

in 1973 as administrator for Project Rondon and stayed on in Itaituba

after leaving his post.

Vicente Pereira represents a major informant who is also a long-

time resident of Itaituba. We met him through his daughters, college

students home on vacation. Sr. Vicente, open from the start, provided

a history of the region, information on the family and business back-

grounds of various local residents, and his own personal history in great

detail. He readily understood what kinds of information we were after

and helped to fill in gaps and clarify certain connections between

individual businessmen. Part of the reason for his openness was that

he, among all of the local notables, had had the most contact with out-

siders during his lifetime. He had also spent time traveling and even

lived for a short time in a river town nearer Belem.

A second aspect which affected our "informal" methodology is the

married couples versus the singles. Because of our connection with

Project Rondon we spent a great deal of our evening time socializing

with the students working in the Project. This coupled with the friend-

ships made with the college students home on vacation brought us into

association with a group which was predominantly unmarried. It was

during this period that we met the single agency personnel, many of the

pilots who flew charter planes to the goldmines, and some local young

people. Many times we were the only married couple in a group, although

at some events there were couples from the military base or from one

of the agencies. The singles group congregates at two bars in town.

The most popular is the Barraca da Santa situated on the riverbank in

front of the Catholic Church. The building itself is leased from the

Church. Drinks and dinners were served every night of the week. The

second bar is located on Sonda Street one and one-half blocks from the

river. It is a new nightclub with a restaurant section and a large ball-

room. This second place is not considered very animated (movimentado)

and is therefore less-frequented than the first. It is the scene of

many parties where the singles sit together on one side and couples on

the other. For such events, there is a local rock group or, if at all

possible, a group is brought in from Santarem.

After moving into our own house in town, our social status

appeared to change. We were not so closely identified with the Project

-r ~qlpl~eLT Iple~sslLS~T~


and began to make friends with more married couples. We were asked to

visit more homes and were generally accepted by a different kind of

Itaitubense. It was during this period that we met two couples from

the military base and were able to visit them socially. Several local

merchants and bank personnel also numbered among our acquaintances.

We met the merchant Jurandir and also Francisco Borges. The social

events we attended were family gatherings rather than parties associa-

ted more with the singles group. In short, through the circumstances

of our housing arrangements we were put into close contact with two

very different groups in the community. None of this was planned or

even foreseen before we arrived.

This informal part of the methodology, of course, affects the

formal or planned data gathering. For instance, one of the most impor-

tant sources to anthropologists are their key informantss. A key

informant is one who spends a great deal of time with the anthropologist

providing large bodies of information or filling in gaps and helping

with interpretations. My own key informants include Mario Doca, the

second director of Project Rondon, Guillermo, the administrator, Sr.

Vicente, Padre Giovanni, the family of Dona Clara Mendes, and a former

employee of the Bank of Brazil and his wife: Claudio and Fatima CAndido.

When we first arrived in Itaituba, Claudio was still an employee

of the bank. He is a native of Santa Catarina. His work experience

had been with a number of banks in the South. In search of adventure

and the quiet life in the interior, he applied for a post in Itaituba.

Itaituba with its frontier town atmosphere is, in his opinion, worse

than the metropolises in the South. We first met him at the home of

Sr. Vicente and during our first month he attended most of the functions

of the singles group. Then he disappeared for several weeks, only to

return with his new wife from Santa Catarina, give up his post at the

bank, and move to a new lot he bought 60 kilometers east on the Trans-

amazon Highway. At first, he lived with a sawmill owner near his lot

until he could raise enough capital to begin a new house and clear the

lot. He devised several schemes during this interim period which would

assist him in his plans. One plan called for establishing a coop of

farmers to pool harvests of vegetables and fruit, truck them to town

and sell them in a market in one of the outlying neighborhoods, the

Cidade Alta. A second project was arranged with Varig Airlines and

their hotel in Santarem whereby Claudio would serve a luncheon meal at

a small building near the highway for hotel guests who wished to take

an excursion on the Transamazon Highway. By the time of my own depar-

ture neither one of these plans had become operational. However, his

dealings with local businessmen, the bank and bureaucracies provided

me with a substantial body of information.

In addition to key informants, participant observation, question-

naires and interviews were employed in the data gathering process.

Since both my wife and I were conducting doctoral research, we made an

effort to pursue different interests in our observations. Throughout

the research we both kept field notes. During the first two months of

the field research our notes revealed that we spent many hours together

attending special events, festivals, parties, and the like. As the

study progressed, her research on the schools and mine on the commercial

life took us along different paths. Field notes and impressions were

constantly exchanged so that we could benefit from each other's work

and observations.


My initial work centered around a census and survey of the town.

The census included limited information on houses and their inhabi-

tants, and also the number and type of business establishments. Part

of the census gathering involved mapping out the "streets" in a dis-

trict of the town known as the Cidade Alta. The "streets" at this point

in my research were little more than paths. I was struck by the pheno-

menal growth of the Cidade Alta and I decided to return to do more

extensive research there.

Opportunistic interviewing of almost any businessman or merchant

with whom I came into contact took place during this period of research.

I was able to isolate a few sympathetic informants who partially under-

stood what my research was about and what information I wanted. These

initial contacts gradually allowed me to widen my network of comer-

ciantes. I also spent a great deal of time shopping. One could hardly

drop in on businessmen and waste their time talking when they had cus-

tomers to serve. Therefore, I deemed it important to become a customer

and thus strike up conversations, finding after certain initial problems

that this created a bond and opened the way for my questioning. I

could also make observations of customers and their interaction patterns

with the shopkeepers. This provided valuable information as to which

shopkeepers sold on credit and which did not.

Near the end of my field stay I administered a short questionnaire

to a random sample of merchants. The questionnaire consisted of only

ten items and was primarily intended to serve as an opener for a more

lengthy interview. In many cases, this method succeeded and much infor-

mation came from these interviews. Certain patterns and trends became

apparent, and I was able to make generalizations about the attitudes of

entrepreneurs in the community and collect many life histories.

With the cooperation and assistance of Project Rondon I devised

a socio-economic survey of fifty households in Cidade Alta. These

fifty households represent a 10 percent random sample of all residents.

The actual interviews were conducted by myself. The survey was designed

to gather a broad range of information about each family, including

data on place of origin, family income and expenses, education, and

social life within the neighborhood and in the town as a whole. Admin-

istering the questionnaire took a full month. It provided additional

contacts with families who were only marginally connected with the com-

mercial life in the central section of the city. The sample represents

the latest in a series of migrations spurred by the opening of the

Transamazon Highway. This type of data on the new immigrants allows for

an analysis over time of the changes wrought by the highway. The group

of immigrants found in the Cidade Alta neighborhood of Itaituba are a

distinctly different group than those colonists who first took up resi-

dence in the agrovilas and agropoli along the Transamazon. They have

different goals and different reasons for immigrating. These differences

will be highlighted in later chapters.

The merchants in Itaituba proved to be a rather difficult group

to study. At first, they were suspicious of my intentions, fearing

that I might be working in conjunction with the federal or state tax

collectors. There was also a reticence to talk about one's own business

from a personal and private standpoint. I discovered that all of the

comerciantes or entrepreneurs loved to discuss the problems and even

successes of their friends and competitors. My research in the begin-

ning was marked with frustrations on all sides. In the end, I decided

that some of the merchants would cooperate and others would not. I

IT pi c ~ -~ 9MOMMUN LU"

accepted the fact that some would not participate no matter what my

approach or affiliations.

Andri Monteiro is an illustration of the latter. Andre is one

of the first outsiders to break into what one of my key informants

called the "clique of four," the four most prominent merchants and land-

owners in Itaituba before the Transamazon Highway. Andre came in 1972

with the intention of establishing a distributorship for soft drinks

and beer. Unfortunately, Rene Santos, owner of "The Supermarket" and

one of the clique of four, also owned a distributorship. Together with

fellow clique member and owner of the only gas station in town at that

time, Joao Batista, Rene conspired to refuse to sell gasoline for Andre

Monteiro's trucks. Andre overcame this difficulty by delivering his

drinks and collecting empties with horse drawn carts. Eventually

Andre broke the monopoly, as more and more newcomers started pouring

into town. However, he had been socially ostracized from the community

for a long time and has only recently come to terms with the three

living members of the clique of four who had tried to thwart him in


My own first attempt to discuss business conditions with Andre

Monteiro was an unmitigated failure. I had met him several times soci-

ally and he seemed quite friendly and talkative. When I heard from

another merchant that Andre had retrenched a bit in his business because

of uncertain conditions in Itaituba, I thought that Andrs might be

willing to discuss it with me. After a short opening conversation about

the weather and our respective families, I used some of the questions

from my commercial questionnaire to try and turn the conversation toward

business. I asked casually, "How's business?" His response was,

"Everything's excellent, great." This answer was completely opposite

of what I had been led to believe by his friend. My next questions

elicited only one word answers and I got the feeling that I was never

going to get any further information, at least about business. Subse-

quent attempts met with similar responses. Monteiro's reticence about

discussing business affairs was similar to that of many of his colleagues.

Fortunately, each failure was accompanied by a success. Information

about merchants such as Monteiro was culled from others. Admittedly

this represents a gap in my data but I do not believe that the gap af-

fects the basic conclusions of this study.

The research focus on merchants did not preclude the gathering

of information on the town as a whole. Where the merchants worshipped,

played, or socialized was also my concern. Who businessmen socialized

with and how frequently turned out to be a key aspect of the research

for there were several distinct types of businessmen who reflected

social divisions in the community as a whole. The most significant

variable was one's status as native or non-native, but other divisions

among the non-natives were noted.

Because of my emphasis on regional ties, visits to other commu-

nities within the region were frequent. An attempt was made to visit

representative villages throughout the area including a farming village

in each direction along the Transamazon Highway as well as one on a

section of the Santarem-Cuiaba Highway and several river villages in

both directions. I also spent some time in the larger cities of Santarem

and Belem gathering official data and doing some archival work. Trips

to various types of communities were helpful in that it gave an overall

view of the region and enabled me to make comparisons. In the final

L17-CY FC 4Bq~pl--r~pBp~ PP~SCbR95llt~L

analysis, I attempted to determine the links between Itaituba and the

region and between Itaituba and other regions of Brazil. This type of

research gave an indication of the integration of Itaituba into national


In summary, Itaituba was chosen as a research site because it is

a center of population growth for the Tapaj6s sector of the Transamazon

Highway. The focus of the study is on economic development. What is it?

What has it meant for Itaituba? I have chosen to look in depth at the

entrepreneurs and bureaucrats who are the most visible new groups in

the town in order to illustrate: (1) changes in the social order, and

(2) the establishment of Itaituba as a regional center with links to

the rest of Brazil. This new order, of course, is in great contrast to

the sleepy river community which existed in the early years of the


The methodology for data gathering includes both a formal and

informal aspect. The formal resulted from prior planning and training

and the informal from unforeseen circumstances during the actual field

research. The formal methodology includes a census, questionnaires,

participant observation and interviews. The informal includes such

factors as the type of initial contacts, whether native or non-native.

In the following chapters I will take a closer look at the people

involved in the changes taking place in order to provide a basis for

analyzing and drawing conclusions about processes of growth and develop-




1Project Rondon is a national program which coordinates visits
of students from certain universities to the more remote regions of
Brazil. In most instances one university sends its students continually
to the same community. Such is the case with Itaituba. Every thirty
days a new team (turma or equipe) arrives. The students work on projects
for the municipio, but the main function of the program is to give the
students an opportunity to see parts of Brazil they would not normally

2My wife, Linda, and I were both conducting research in the

Information was limited due to the fact that I had to do the
complete census myself. Financial constraints kept me from hiring other
census takers and designing a complete census form. Counting houses
and people in a town of 12,000 took me almost four weeks.

I----------= _--- --C ~- ,



The Extractive Economy: An Introduction

From the time of first European contact, the primary means of

production in the Tapaj6s River Valley can best be described as extrac-

tivism.1 The first product extracted by early European settlers was

Indian slaves who were used to work various kinds of crops in the

coastal and riverine areas. Explorers during the late seventeenth

century described plantations along the Lower Tapaj6s where Indian

laborers numbered in the hundreds. Concomitant with the need for

slaves was the abundance of marketable jungle products. These pro-

ducts included: sarsaparilla, guarani, Brazil nuts, and rubber.

The latter became the most important product ever extracted from the

Amazon region during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the

first decade of the twentieth. The social and economic patterns of the

extractivism pervaded the Amazon during this period. Even after the

rubber boom ended "mini-booms," centered around the extraction of other

products-lumber, gold and other types of minerals--continued many of

these patterns to the present day.

Forces in the international market controlled the extraction of

the abovementioned products during the first three centuries of Euro-

pean contact. First it was Portuguese trading companies and later


European and North American markets for raw materials. More recently,

especially since the opening of highways connecting the north of Brazil

with the south, economic dependency is national rather than interna-

tional, although certainly international forces continue to play an

indirect role. Industrialization of the south of Brazil has created a

domestic market for Amazonian raw materials. Andre G. Frank refers to

this as the satellization of internal markets to a metropolis, in this

case the metropolitan Sao Paulo area (Frank 1967:190). Raw materials

are extracted from many areas of Brazil, then consumer and industrial

goods are manufactured in Sao Paulo or other areas of the south and sold

back to the less developed areas. For example, in Itaituba gold is

sold to companies in Sao Paulo. The vast majority of consumer goods on

the shelves in Itaituba are manufactured in Sao Paulo. With the cost

of transportation, consumer goods therefore cost considerably more than

if they were manufactured locally-locally meaning almost any of the

northern or northeastern cities.

The historical pattern of dependency has given rise to a hierar-

chical patron-client system. During the rubber boom era this was

referred to as the Aviamento system. Cardoso and MUller (1977:13) refer

to it as a system of multiple dependencies. At the top of the hierarchy

were the international companies and their trading houses in Belem and

Manaus. At the bottom were the rubber gatherers.

Originally, Indians provided the needed labor to collect or farm

in the Amazon region. As in other areas of Brazil, the Portuguese soon

discovered that the Indians made poor laborers. They could easily

escape into the forest. They were unaccustomed to many of the tasks

required of them. Their nomadic way of life as hunters and gatherers

~B~s~-Pi~qs~ICnl~~4P~DP-~-~ 94r~prUI


and shifting cultivators stood in sharp contrast to the sedentary life

of the plantations and missions established by the Portuguese. Above

all, however, Indians lacked immunity to many common diseases brought

by Europeans from the Old World. Whole settlements of Indians could

be all but wiped out by an epidemic of measles. For these and other

reasons, Indian laborers were replaced whenever possible by other groups.

Thus began a series of migrations from the northern and northeastern

areas of Brazil to the interior of the Amazon. These immigrants often

intermarried with the remnants of the native population. The off-

spring--an Indian and European admixture--were referred to locally as


The permanent resident population composed largely of caboclos

could never provide the labor needed for the extractive system. This

was especially true during the rubber boom when thousands of North-

easterners immigrated to the Amazon to man the rubber trails as col-

lectors in the hopes of making their fortunes. The drought of 1877 in

the Northeast provided a major impetus to this immigration of North-

easterners to the booming rubber states in the Amazon (Reis and Ferreira

1972:85). Droughts in the Northeast and the land tenure situation in

southern Brazil coupled with the opening of vast areas of the Amazon

along the Transamazon Highway has meant a continued pattern of immigra-

tion to the states of Para and Amazonas, in general, and the Tapaj6s

River Valley in particular.

There are, in short, two features of the extractive economy

which figure predominantly in the history of the Amazon and the Tapaj6s

River Valley--immigration and the hierarchical patron-client system.

Since they figure prominently in the events of Itaituba today and bear

directly on the question of what kind of change is occurring, they

will be discussed in detail in this chapter, particularly within the

framework of the history of the Tapaj6s River Valley.

The Extractive Economy: An Historical Perspective

In 1637, the Portuguese navigator Pedro Teixeira began a journey

up the Amazon River from Belem to Quito, Ecuador. Upon reaching the

Tapaj6s River he heard rumors of vast quantities of diamonds and gold

in the interior. He also heard tales of a fierce Indian tribe, the

Tapaj6s, who fought with poisoned arrows (Edwards 1847:79). Teixeira

returned to the Tapaj6s in 1639 and verified that it was navigable.

Next, the Jesuits arrived and began work among the native Indian

groups (Edwards: 1847). By 1746 several missions had been established

and the Tapajos Indians had vanished. In that year the famous serta-

nista, or explorer, Joao de Sousa Azevedo, set out from Cuiabi in Mato

Grosso and traveled down the Tapaj6s, and, in a smaller river on the

east bank of the Tapaj6s, he discovered an abundance of gold (Serra

1847:4). Azevedo began his trip in Mato Grosso and sailed into the

State of Pari from the south. Tocantins (1877:90) reports that Azevedo

extracted sixty-four oitavas5 of gold at a place called Tres Barras;

Azevedo named the smaller river where he discovered gold, Rio d'Ouro.

By 1749 the Tapaj6s was established as a trade route between

Mato Grosso and the south of Brazil and the cities of Para. Traders in

canoes were attracted to the region because of Azevedo's discovery of

gold (Serra 1847:11-12). The headwaters of the Tapaj6s River are con-

nected by a short portage to southern rivers such as the Paraguay and

-Cl~s I~s~E~p~UIP~C~- IIIML

the Cuiabi. Serra saw the Tapaj6s as a major route between the

interior of Brazil as far south as the Paraguay River and Belem where

gold, diamonds and other products could be transshipped to Portugal.

The placer mines and large tracts of cacau, sarsaparilla, clove, and

other forest products could contribute to the commerce of the region,

increasing its population and thereby strengthening the sparsely set-

tled interior as a defense against Spanish encroachment. Serra put

forth his ideas after an exploratory voyage in the late 1790s. His

statements sound very similar to the arguments put forth for the con-

struction of the Transamazon Highway and colonization of lands along

its path some 200 years later.

Serra's advice went unheeded; however, settlement of the inter-

ior slowly increased largely because of an agreement reached between

the Mundurucu Indians and the Portuguese. The Mundurucu, a fierce

tribe, were forced into such an agreement because of an expedition

ordered against them by the governor of Para in 1795 in retaliation

against attacks by the Mundurucu on the towns of Santarem and Gurupa.

Robert Murphy (1960:29) notes that after this agreement the Munduruc6

"began to drift into the proximity of civilized settlements." They

also helped the Portuguese fight against other Indian groups. The

threat of Indian attack was thus removed from the Tapajos.

In 1823, according to NimuendajG (1963:246), the village of

Itaituba was founded with a group of Mauls Indians. The location of a

village at Itaituba was probably due to the high ground, lack of insect

pests, and position north of the first major set of rapids at Sao Luis.

Hercules rForence on an expedition down the Tapajos from Diamantina,

Mato Grosso, in 1828 found Itaituba to be the seat of the district

commander. The village consisted of 200 Maues and ten to twelve houses.

The Maues planted manioc and collected sarsaparilla from the forest.

Florence notes a Portuguese schooner docked at Itaituba and cites it as

an "indication that we had arrived at a maritime country, although we

still were more than 160 Portuguese leagues from the ocean" (Florence

1941:202). The explorer also referred to the abundance of rubber trees

as a "source of great future richness" (Florence 1941:202). Other lo-

cal products listed were clove, and guarani (which was in great demand

in Cuiaba). The extraction of jungle products was almost exclusively

the domain of native Indians at this point in time.

Extractivism and trade continued, but the focus of trade became

centered in Santarem located at the confluence of the Tapaj6s and

Amazon Rivers, rather than Cuiaba and the south. In 1847, the explorer

William H. Edwards stopped in Santarem. He described cacao plantations

on the Tapaj6s and the trade canoes which came down the river with gold

and returned with salt and guarani. Edwards cites labor as a difficult

problem; there were few slaves and Indians were difficult to catch and

keep. Bates (1863:233) states that "there were no permanent Brazilian

settlements south of Itaituba as late as 1852." Only itinerant tra-

ders plied the upper Tapaj6s since there was not enough trade for perm-

anent commercial posts. Traders used canoes of five to ten ton capacity

to sell merchandise in exchange for garden and forest products-most

often sarsaparilla, manioc, and rubber. Even today there are a few

settlements south of Itaituba and itinerant traders still travel be-

tween the rapids of Sao Luis in the north and the Mundurucu missions in

the south during the dry season.

Yet another explorer, W. Chandless, visited Itaituba and the

Tapaj6s. Chandless reports that fleets of ten to fifteen canoes make

- -~P-e 3ClC -CLI-~slF----- ------~~

the trip "between Cuyobi [sic] and Itaituba, at the head of deepwater

navigation on the Tapajos" (Chandless 1862:278). These trips represent

a revival of trade in the south due to the Paraguayan-Brazilian war

from 1864 to 1870. During that period the Paraguay River was closed to

Brazilian traffic and the city of Cuiabi, capital of Mato Grosso, was

thereby isolated from the south of Brazil. The citizens of Cuiaba had

to conduct commerce with Amazon cities (Murphy 1960:36). On the voyage

down the Jurena, a tributary of the Tapaj6s, Chandless found gold and

evidence of diamonds just south of the Pari-Mato Grosso border (Chand-

less 1862:271).

By 1870, the demand for raw rubber began the largest economic

boom the Amazon had yet experienced. This demand for rubber developed

as the result of the discovery of vulcanization by Charles Goodyear.

Goodyear solved the problem of rubber melting in hot weather and

cracking in cold weather (Kelly 1975:10). By the 1870's the use of

carriage and bicycle tires of solid rubber and in 1888 the pneumatic

tire developed by John Dunlop steadily increased the demand for Amazon-

ian rubber (Kelly 1975:10).

Antonio Tocantins arrived in Itaituba on January 23, 1875,

aboard a steamer of the Amazonas Company. He was to begin an explora-

tory voyage up the Tapaj6s. While in Itaituba he made some observations

concerning the local economy. Tocantins states that the municipio of

Itaituba is one of the richest in the Amazon Valley for natural re-

sources. Yearly Itaituba exports about 150,000 kilograms of rubber to

Belem. Guarang is also exported to Belem and Mato Grosso. Other ex-

ports include sarsaparilla and oil of the copal balsam6 tree (Tocantins



Itaituba by 1895 had grown to 100 houses and a population of 800

according to the explorer Henri Coudreau (1897:21). Rubber was the

mainstay of its commerce. There were eight or nine business establish-

ments, two royal palms and four mango trees. Coudreau calls Itaituba

unhealthy and further states that "a stay of three weeks here can seem

longer than a stay of three years in Belem or in the sertao" (the inter-

ior of northeastern Brazil). By 1900, the municIpio completed construc-

tion on a new town hall overlooking the river. Rubber gatherers moving

into the area from the Northeast had destroyed all but one Mauls village

and had taken possession of their land.

The price of rubber in 1911 reached U.S. $2.90 per pound, a

price which was never again equalled (Burns 1970:241). By 1914 Asian

rubber began to reach European markets and as the price of rubber fell

it was accompanied by a concomitant drop in commerce and population.

Asian rubber, of course, planted in groves on disease resistant stock

could be sold at a much lower price and in greater quantities than the

natural rubber collected in the Amazon. Rubber trees in the Amazon,

because of natural pests grew at scattered intervals and were tapped

via rubber trails. The rubber trade never fully died out and exper-

ienced fluctuations during the late 1920's as a result of export limi-

tations imposed on British planters in Malaya (Murphy 1960:46), and

during World War II owing to the capture of the Asian rubber plantations

by the Japanese.

Itaituba, even during the height of the rubber boom, never

achieved the booming conditions described by Charles Wagley (1976) for

the Amazon River community of Ita. Itaituba is situated at the very

end of the trade route between the upper Tapaj6s and Belem. Ita and


other towns along the Amazon are situated on a major transportation

route between Belem, Manaus and the upper reaches of the Amazon. The

isolation of Itaituba when the river was the sole mode of transport

was much greater than the other towns. Even so, during the rubber boom

Itaituba could boast a post office, a new town hall, eight or nine

stores, a bakery and a row of large houses parallel to the river where

the important traders and functionaries lived. A newspaper article in

the Digrio de Notlcias reports that older residents described the town

hall as decorated with carpets, crystal chandeliers, vases of French

porcelain and mirrors bordered with marble from Carrara, Italy. Houses

were built in the colonial style with balconies. Foodstuffs and mer-

chandise were imported exclusively from Europe. In 1914, Itaituba was

the only municfpio in Brazil to be represented at the exposition of

tropical products in London. But the price of rubber fell; the impor-

tant traders and merchants left Itaituba. The population of Itaituba

in 1920 was less than half the figure in the early 1900's. It stabil-

ized at about 500 and remained there until tne gold and highway boom of

the 1960's and 1970's.

Two factors stand out in Itaituba's economic history. The first

is that the local economy was entirely based on the extraction of what

many writers referred to as her riquezas naturals or natural riches.

The second important factor is Itaituba's location at the end of the

navigable portion of the Tapaj6s River. Rapids above Itaituba prevent

deepwater boats from further navigation. Itaituba, therefore, was an

important stopping-off point on the trade route between the upper and

lower Tapaj6s Valleys.

The Aviamento System

Natural resources available for extraction and a location along

a trade route are at the basis of Itaituba's economy, but there are

other factors involved: a labor force and a system for organizing that

labor force. As noted previously, the labor force working the rubber

trails during the boom period--approximately 1870 to 1914--came in the

form of migrations from the northeast of Brazil. That is not to say,

however, that there were not those who came to the Amazon from other

parts of Brazil or even from Portugal.

The elites during the boom period lived primarily in the cities

of Manaus and Belem. Opulence and extravagance became the norm as

wealthy rubber barons imported the best Europe had to offer, built

palatial houses, and attended social and cultural events patterned

after those in European capitals. Manaus was renowned for its opera

house and its twentieth century modernities. Belem became a port city--

importing goods and exporting rubber. It was also the first stop for

immigrants coming to the rubber areas. Except for a few towns and

cities, the rubber areas were remote outposts with few of the modern

amenities available to the vast majority of those involved in the col-

lection of rubber. Immigrants lured to the Amazon by tales of vast

riches for the most part found the life exacting and the rewards few.9

The rubber collector, or seringueiro, was at the bottom of the

social ladder. His life was controlled by his patron, the owner of

rubber lands or seringalista. A third figure, the itinerant trader or

aviador, represented the large trading companies from Belem and Manaus

selling goods to the patrons in exchange for rubber. Ideally, the


patron operated a trading post or barraca along a major river at the

point where a smaller network of rivers branched off. Not only was

this convenient for buying rubber and selling goods to the collectors,

but he was able to watch and make sure that no collectors who owed him

money escaped. Indeed, few collectors were able to stay out of debt to

their patron for the patron operated his trading post in the absence

of almost all competition.

The sole competitors to the powerful patron were the regatoes

or river traders who were actually precursors of the rubber patrons.

For a half century or more before the rubber boom, the regatoes plied

the networks of rivers buying jungle products from the local caboclos

and selling them trade goods in return (Kelly 1975:12). A river trader

regularly visited a certain territory and quite often had a small tra-

ding post in that area. The river trader began the credit system

which was quickly adopted by the rubber traders when they arrived.

The river trader would advance credit to the collectors in the form of

shoddy and over-priced goods. In return he expected to receive a cer-

tain amount of cacao, Brazil nuts, cloves, or pelts. The natives were

more often cheated than not so that they became suspicious of the


The rubber trader added a further refinement to the system. By

controlling the transportation route out of a specific area, sometimes

with armed guards, he could keep a rubber collector who was in debt

from escaping. This debt-peonage condition resulted from the rubber

patron's insistence that the collector sell only to him. Cheating the

collector became easy. The rubber boom meant the end for some river

traders or regatoes who were forced out by powerful rubber traders.

Others were able to operate in direct competition with rubber traders

by secretly buying rubber from a collector in an area under the serin-

galista's control (Kelly 1975:14). Both the collector and river trader

(regatao) may have seen their transactions as a form of revenge taken

on the seringalista.

Most rubber traders, as was true with the collectors, came from

outside the region. Through political connections, they were able to

acquire huge tracts of land. The rubber trader then employed a man

called a mateiro who opened up rubber trails. First, he would find the

trees and then mark them. The patron, meanwhile, oversaw the building

of his barracao which also served as his residence. He also began to

"import" collectors from Belem or Manaus and to set them up on a trail.

The collector usually began his collecting career in debt to the

rubber trader who provided him with the necessary equipment for slash-

ing the trees, collecting the latex, and smoking it.10 Many collectors

also owed their patrons for the passage from the Northeast to the

rubber area. He would also need a supply of food and utensils for

cooking and surviving in the forest. He built his own house which

usually amounted to not much more than a hut on stilts. Stilts were

necessary because of the annual flooding during the six month rainy

season. In return for the initial credit, a collector was expected to

sell his rubber to his patron. The patron in turn, would provide addi-

tional trade goods and foodstuffs. Since scales in the Amazon were

notorious for registering short weights, the collector was invariably

cheated and returned home after a visit to the trading post even deeper

in debt (Goulart 1968:119-120). The terms "buy" and "sell" are, of

course, used loosely. No money changed hands, only goods.

I I IIII I -~ Illr In

S The itinerant river trader, the rubber trader and the aviador

are all representatives of the entrepreneurial class which came to

Amazonia in response to the rubber boom. They came to earn their for-

tunes and then to return to their native states. Entrepreneurs native

to the region came out into the hinterlands and if and when their for-

tunes were made returned to the urban centers of Belem or Manaus. In

the case of Itaituba, it is interesting to note that informants re-

ferred to three or four leading merchants who dealt in rubber during

World War II when the region experienced a mini rubber boom. None of

these merchants or their families operated in Itaituba during the first

rubber boom. Almost all of the original rubber entrepreneurs left Ita-

ituba after the boom turned into a bust. Those few families or indivi-

duals who remained returned to the ways of the old itinerant river

traders and traded up and down the river. The entrepreneurs who

arrived in Itaituba during World War II were newcomers to the region.

Three of the four major merchants during that period came from the

Northeast. The fourth was a native of a city near Belem. In brief,

entrepreneurs (and I believe to some extent all immigrants to Amazonia)

came to exploit an extractive economic boom, to make their fortunes,

and then to return to their native homes. Entrepreneurs historically

have not come to colonize and stay. Rather, they are transient. As

we shall see, this is true to some extent for those attracted by the

current highway related boom in Amazonia.

The native has not been mentioned thus far in the narrative of

the rubber boom. Needless to say, the natives or caboclos did not

enter into the extractive systems with many of the constraints under

which immigrants from the Northeast and elsewhere operated. The native

knew the terrain, was accustomed to the climate, and had a command of

the language which was composed of a high percentage of Tupi-GuaranI

words (Kelly 1975:27). The Northeasterners who came to Amazonia came

from the drought-ravaged area of that region known as the Sertao. The

sertanejos or natives of the Sertao were faced with a tropical climate

alien to their semi-arid desert-like Sertao. Flora and fauna differed

radically. The language differed, too, since Tupi-Guarani words were

common only to the Amazon. Many sertanejos died of disease soon after

their arrival.

The natives also fared better with the aviamento or trading

system. First, they were already familiar with how it functioned in

that region. Second, they did not begin with a debt to their patron for

passage to the rubber collecting area. Finally, and perhaps most impor-

tantly, the native could always fall back on subsistence farming in

times of need or to supplement the food which was purchased from the

seringalista. Subsisting exclusively on imported foodstuffs was an

expensive proposition. Those unable to supplement their diet suffered

varying degrees of deprivation and perhaps starvation. Thus, after

each boom and subsequent bust, the native population returned to sub-

sistence horticulture as practiced by their Amerindian ancestors--an

adaptation to the Amazon habitat evolved over centuries.

In short, the aviamento system, as it functioned during the

rubber boom, established a social hierarchy which continues to influence

the economy and the social system of the Amazon region today. At the

top of the hierarchy are the international or national companies who

deal in the products extracted from the Amazon. They are represented

by the aviadores in the region. The aviadores buy the product from the

~~r~c~-e~-~4-rqpa~-~F, -es-C~`T ~aO~PP-~I~---~---~


landowners or seringalista. The rubber trader (seringalista), in turn,

receives imported merchandise from the aviador. The merchandise is

"sold" to the rubber tapper who actually collects the jungle product,

in this case rubber, and uses it to "pay" for the merchandise. Each

member of the hierarchy is dependent on the other. This dependence is

characterized by the relationship between the collector and the rubber

trader known as patronage-clientage. The trader, of course, is patron

to the client collector.1 The aviador and rubber trader in the avia-

mento hierarchy are entrepreneurs who came to the Amazon in search of

quick wealth. Labor for the extractive system is drawn from native

caboclos or immigrant groups. These patterns noted for the rubber booms

of the early twentieth century and World War II are present in the

Amazon's latest boom, the Transamazon Highway.

The Highway Boom

The federal government's decision to fund a large scale road-

building and colonization project for the Brazilian Amazon marked the

beginning of the second major economic boom in that region. Since the

end of the rubber boom in 1914, the Amazon had experienced several

minor economic upsurges especially during World War II when Brazilian

rubber became important to the Allied war effort, but until 1970 when

the highway project was announced the Amazon had been largely neglected

by the federal government. In June of 1970, President Medici intro-

duced the Programa de Integraqao Nacional consisting of a proposal for

the colonization of the Amazon and a plan to construct an east-west

highway (the Transamazon) as well as north-south highways (the Santarem-


Cuiabi and the Manaus-P6rto Velho) to open up this region. The announce-

ment of the plan followed a visit by the President to the drought-

stricken Northeast. The colonization and highway plan seemed an excel-

lent solution to the problems in the Northeast by providing land and a

promise of a better life to the thousands of families displaced by the

latest of the cyclical droughts in the Northeast.

The resettlement of families from the crowded Northeast in the

Amazon is not an original plan. J.M.G. Kleinpenning (1975:78) notes

that in 1877 after a disastrous drought, "Pedro II offered the 'flage-

lados' [literally, "sufferers"] free transport to the ports of Belem

and Manaus." This, of course, occurred in the very early days of the

rubber boom. The earliest appeal for colonization of the Amazon came

from Ricardo Serra (1847) in the 1790's. Serra's reasons for suggest-

ing colonization lay in the Brazilian fear of Spanish encroachment on

lands claimed by the Portuguese.

The fear of encroachment is also an integral part of the current

colonization effort. Increased mineral and oil explorations by the

Spanish speaking countries along Brazil's western border were as much

an impetus to the Transamazon plan as the desire to resettle drought-

stricken Nordestinos. This nationalistic appeal to settle the Brazil-

ian Amazon with Brazilians soon became the government's rallying cry

for support of the Program of National Integration. In later years,

T-shirts sold to colonists were emblazoned with the slogan "Transama-

zonica 4 Brasil Gigante" encircling a map of Brazil. Indeed, the plans

for building a 3,000 mile highway through virgin forest and moving

100,000 families onto plots along that highway seemed an almost impos-

sible task. Undaunted by critics and skeptics the government allocated

e-CIII~L---~C- -I~C-~CL p ~_--~P-C-I ~--

two billion cruzeiros to fund the project from 1971 through 1974

(Kleinpenning 1975:78).

Colonization efforts are coordinated by the Federal Colonization

Agency (INCRA).12 In this sense, the colonization plan drawn by INCRA

was highly ambitious. The government claimed all land 100 km on

either side of the highway. Settlements were planned at 10 km inter-

vals along the main highway and along side roads which run 10-12 km

into the forest. The modular colonization plan called for three types

or levels of communities: agrovilas, agropolis, and ruropolis. The

agrovila is a farming village of 40 to 60 families located along the

main highway and along side roads at the intervals noted above. Agro-

polis are planned as towns of 300 families which would serve as admin-

istrative centers for approximately 22 agrovilas.3 The final level

or ruropolis were envisioned as cities of 1,000 families serving sever-

al agropolis in many of the same ways as agropolis serve agrovilas.

Agropolis and ruropolis would be spaced at appropriate intervals de-

pending on population density. This ideal plan did not materialize.

Only one ruropolis was constructed, namely Ruropolis Presidente Medici,

at the juncture of the Transamazon and the Santarem-Cuiaba. Ruropolis

President Medici never developed into a full-fledged city and adminis-

trative center. Several agropolis were built, the ones near Altamira

on the Xing6 and Marabi on the Tocantins function more or less as

planned. The Agropolis at Miritituba, across from Itaituba, is being

abandoned. Administrative offices have been transferred to Itaituba

and the Ruropolis Presidente Medici.

Agrovilas were built and remain populated. The ideal plan

envisioned small farming communities each having a 20 km area along the

highway divided into lots of 10,000 square meters or 100 hectares
each.14 Each gleba, as a collection of 40 to 60 lots is called, has a

breadth of 5 km along the main road and 20 km along a side road (See

Figure 3-1). Initially only 48 to 64 families were settled in each

agrovila (Kleinpenning 1975:102). The remaining area is conserved as

a forest reserve until population increases make it necessary to dis-

tribute more land. In addition, each colonist is required to clear

only one half of his land. The rest must be set aside for a forest

reserve. Each gleba also contains an agrovila. Families receive a lot

within the agrovila of 1500 to 3000 square meters. Houses are built by

INCRA. They are constructed of wood and are all built following the

same plan. Each house has 53.4 square meters of floor space divided

into five rooms. Other facilities in the agrovila include a school, a

small shop, and a medical post. Families also have the option of living

on their farming lots.

The infrastructure or bureaucratic support for the colonists is

formidable. The increased bureaucratic services and personnel rivals

the migration of colonists as the most striking change for the Trans-

amazon region. Aside from INCRA, which controls the colonization

through distribution of land and services in the colonized areas, there

are banking, educational, medical, marketing, agricultural extension

and other similar services located in the original cities along the

Transamazon Highway in the State of Para: Marabi, Altamira, and Itai-

tuba. Credit and extension services are specifically provided for in

the colonization plans. The Bank of Brazil located three offices in

the three major cities along the highway to service loans and repayments

for colonists. ACAR-Para, recently reorganized as EMATER-Parg,

~ sPP-~8~9~ -p---sc _--qp -~P~--9---~ -s- ---s*~-qf&/di~

*I _________
S0 Ikm

Figure 3-1
Land Division of a Gleba Along the Transamazon Highway Near Altamira
Source: J.M.G. Kleinpenning, The Integration and Colonisation
of the Brazilian Portion of the Amazon Basin, p. 103.


provides agricultural services to colonists, including seeds, technical

advice, tractor service (one tractor per agrovila), and transportation

of produce to market. Of course, with the population increase, medical

facilities and schools were built to accommodate the newcomers and to

replace outmoded facilities in operation before 1970. Other bureaucra-

tic services accompanied the highway boom. Itaituba, for example, has

the offices of over thirty federal and state agencies.

A third significant area of change resulting from the highway

and colonization project is the transformation of the commercial life

of the region. The arrival of new entrepreneurs opening businesses and

shops has meant a manifold increase in the commercial sections of all

of the original towns. Kleinpenning (1975:105) notes the expanded

number of bars, restaurants, taxis, and city services, e.g. electricity

and water mains, a new hospital, air service, and street repairs. On

a smaller scale, entrepreneurs have appeared in the agrovilas. In Vila

Roxa, Emilio Moran noted two colonists, both store owners and success-

ful farmers, who have emerged as entrepreneurs in that agrovila (Moran

1975:258). The burgeoning entrepreneurial group was not part of the

original colonization plan. They arrived in response to the massive

federal infusion of money into the Transamazon region. They serve the

greatly expanded centers with their burgeoning bureaucracies as well as


The older urban centers were by and large neglected in the ori-

ginal plan. They were seen as future ruropolis, but no definite or

explicit directions were suggested. These towns--Maraba, Altamira, and

Itaituba--have experienced enormous population booms. Land near each

of the three Transamazon towns in Para is at a premium. Newcomers are

-- 'L- -- L-CC I ----sP ~-- -~-9~C+b~L~i

currently gravitating toward these population centers rather than the

colonization areas along the Transamazon Highway and the Santarem-


Original estimates of the number of colonists to be settled along

the Transamazon Highway were around 100,000. The plan called for

10,000 families to be settled each year between 1972 and 1975. Other

official documents listed even higher numbers (Kleinpenning 1975:92).

In actual fact, by mid-1973 only about 4,000 families had been settled

from Maraba to Itaituba where highway construction was still in progress.

Although colonists continue to arrive their numbers have never reached

the estimates envisioned in the original colonization plan. In fact,

by 1977, INCRA's colonization efforts began to slow down. In the Ita-

ituba sector almost no new colonists were settled in that year, no

colonization was permitted in the Itaituba-Humaita sector, and sponta-

neous colonization was underway with minimal INCRA supervision along

the southern (south of the Transamazon) portion of the Santarem-Cuiaba.

The Colonization Agency even began selling some of its property in the

Agropolis of Miritituba.

The directed colonization plans for the Transamazon Highway have

not in general succeeded. Moran's study pointed to several areas in

which the ideal and real did not correspond. A smaller proportion of

Northeastern colonists were settled than the 75 percent called for at

the beginning of the program. Relations between the technicians and

civil servants and the colonists were poor largely due to cultural

differences between the urban bureaucrats and the rural farmers.

Access roads, transportation of crops to market and other services

simply did not materialize or were provided on a very inconsistent

basis. Moran's community had the advantage of relatively good soil

fertility. Other areas along the highway were of such poor soil quality

that even subsistence farming was difficult. This is true of the land

on the Itaituba sector.

Even though the planned colonization did not succeed, spontaneous

colonization and general population growth continues. The construction

of a highway network has opened up a new region. Opportunities for the

exploitation of the Amazon's resources are greater. The boom brought

on by the Transamazon Highway has had lasting effects on the region and

brought about significant changes. The nature of these changes--

governmental services, transportation and communications, commercial

expansion, the integration of the immigrant population--will be explored

in the chapters that follow.


1Extractivism here refers to the collection of natural resources
to market nationally or internationally.

Guarani is used to make a tea-like beverage and a soft drink.

3The common cold, measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox were the
most frequent causes of Indian mortality.

The term caboclo now has a much broader meaning which corres-
ponds to "hick" or "country bumpkin" in English.

An old Portuguese coin equivalent to 1/8th of an ounce or
3.586 grams.

In Portuguese, copiaba (Copifera langsdorfi).

Belem, Para, October 12, 1969.

I hasten to add that the situation in Itaituba was not unique.
Many Amazon towns owed their existence to similar factors.


See A Selva by Ferreira de Castro for an account of an immi-
grant's experience in the Amazon.

10For a description of the rubber treating process see Wagley

1A detailed discussion of patronage-clientage appears in
Chapter VI.

12INCRA was created in 1970 to deal specifically with coloniza-
tion and agrarian reform in all parts of Brazil. Its work, however,
is centered on the Transamazon Project.

13The words agropolis and ruropolis are singular and plural.
14is equal to 2.471 acres.
A hectare is equal to 2.471 acres.



Transportation and Communication

The completion of the Transamazon Highway to Itaituba and that

city's location on the Tapaj6s River has meant the establishment of

Itaituba as a transportation and communications hub for the Upper Tapaj6s

Valley (Santarem serving the Lower Tapaj6s Valley). It is this factor

which led to the major population growth in Itaituba during the first

several years of the 1970's. The importance of transportation and com-

munications infrastructure in development projects in other parts of

the world is well-documented in the literature. For instance, Belshaw


I have seen with my own eyes the ways in which peasants enter
management activity--commerce spreads, agricultural producti-
vity can increase, markets can be opened up, and ideas flow
faster, all as the result of the completion of a 20 mile dirt
road (Belshaw 1976:175fn)

The changes brought about by the new highway have been manifold

for the town of Itaituba. The highway has not only opened up the area

for colonization but has also increased transportation and communication

links within the region and with the rest of Brazil. A direct highway

or trucking link is now possible between Itaituba and Sao Paulo, the

major manufacturing center of Brazil (See Figure 4-1).1 This link,

however, only functions under the constraints of the wet and dry season-

al pattern in the Amazon. An average rainfall of 2700 mm, a majority


.AO* -. ',,3 TAO

k.. **" *


G 0 s s 0 .asdlia


:/ A -iA.11

I- OOSI -.
.0 GRAno
00 suk

ans, mazon i-
Refatec road sys
B* razil's C.-pral
3 Ports
S~* Other mator ctie

. -. -.

1' .-I

,gth- wa
. 053


Figure 4-1
Highway Connections to Cuiaba, Brasilia and the South of Brazil
Source: Shelton H. Davis, Victims of a Miracle, p. ii.

~~ -,

1 ~

of which (2100 mm) falls during the months of November through April,

means heavy rains and the washing out of roadbeds on the unpaved high-

way. Streams which are small trickles during the dry season become

raging rivers by February during the rainy season. Highway maintenance

is spotty and difficult.

In addition to trucking and automobile travel, there is daily

bus service to several communities. These include: Santarem (8 hours),

the Ruropolis (4 hours), Jacareacanga (10 hours) to the west and

Cachimb6 (16 hours) on the Santarem-Cuiabi Highway to the south. There

is also service three times a week to Marabg with connections to Belem

and Brasilia and the rest of Brazil from those points. Air service is

provided by a regional carrier three times a week to Santarem where

there are connections to Belem and Manaus. There are two local carriers

and innumerable small planes flying to Santarem and even Belem almost

every day of the week. Finally, boat service to Santarem is possible

four days a week. This overnight trip is the least expensive of all

the above mentioned modes of public transportation (See Table 4-1).

Service directly to Belem by boat is available once a month. Otherwise,

connections via river boat to Belem or Manaus can be made almost any

day in Santarem.

Prior to 1970, the only regular transportation service to and

from Itaituba was a biweekly boat service. Once a month or perhaps

twice a month the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) would land a plane at the

airstrip and take on a limited number of passengers for Belem. Commu-

nication was just as sporadic. There were no radio phones, newspapers

or even regular mail and telegraph service.

I I II I I I -'I

Table 4-1
Modes of Transportation: Itaituba-Santarem

Mode of Transportation Frequency of Cost (U.S. Duration
Service Dollars) of Trip

Airplane 3 times/week 40 50 minutes

Bus daily 8 7 hours

Car Notea Noteb 5 hours

Boat 4 times/week 6 18 hours

aThe National Road Department (DNER) estimates the average number
of cars traveling in the direction of Altamira and Santarem
at fifty per day (DNER 1977:37).

bThe cost of gasoline in January, 1977, was U.S. $0.62 per liter.


Today, functioning out of a new building inaugurated in 1976, the

post office receives and dispatches mail three times a week. Excellent

telegraph service to Brazil and foreign countries is available each day

of service (Monday through Saturday noon) for a small fee (less than

U.S. $1.00). The Telephone Company of Para (COTELPA) has established a

small office with a radio phone which provides contacts with Santarem

and Belem on days when atmospheric conditions are at their best. The

company envisions regular telephone service for the community and to the

exterior within the next five years. The three times weekly flights

bring in forty copies of two daily newspapers from Belem as well as

magazines. The availability of radios at a price affordable to many

more segments of the population enables most to keep abreast of national

and international news developments. There has even been talk of a

television relay station being constructed which would bring television

programming via taped cassettes. These immediate benefits of the high-

way have brought the citizens of Itaituba into regular contact with the

rest of Brazil.

The Neighborhoods

Improved transportation and communication, as well as the opening

up of a hitherto almost inaccessible region to colonization and economic

exploitation have all been factors in a striking population increase for

Itaituba. The Handbook of Municfpios (IBGE 1956) puts Itaituba's popu-

lation in 1950 at 653. By 1970 that had increased 3 1/2 fold due to the

investments in lumber operations and the discovery of large deposits of

fluvial gold. According to informants, approximately 2,500 residents

~--~- I g Cc

inhabited the community in 1972, two years after construction of the

highway began. By 1974 when I first visited the community, there were

approximately 8,000 residents. During my second visit in 1977, my

census of the community revealed that there were almost 12,000 resi-

dents (See Table 4-2). This rapid and enormous population growth resul-

ted in a change not only in the size of the community but also in its

social structure. Instead of four streets parallel to the river and

several cross streets, there are now four separate and distinct neigh-

borhoods on one side of the river and a separate neighborhood on the


Each of the five neighborhoods represents a different stage and

type of immigration. For example, the neighborhood across the river

from the main portion of the community was originally established as a

part of the highway colonization program: the agropolis of Miritituba.

The colonization agency (INCRA) has been gradually pulling out of this

agropolis, leaving very few personnel. The 1,000 residents who remain

consist of workers and families of the National Road Department (DNER)

which is charged with the maintenance of the portion of the highway

from Itaituba 250 km east to Ruropolis (Presidente Medici) and 350 km

west to Jacareacanga. The neighborhood of Miritituba supports one store,

three bars, a gas station, a hotel, a rice warehouse, the offices of

the State of Pari Dock Authority (CDP), and some colonization agency

offices. Since there is no bridge across the Tapaj6s River to the

Itaituba side, residents are dependent upon the ferry (which only oper-

ates from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and small outboard motor boats for

transportation to the city proper (U.S. 65 cents each way). This neigh-

borhood is perhaps the most homogeneous in that residents depend upon

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two bureaucratic agencies for their livelihood and all but a handful

of the families are new immigrants to the area who are only in Itaituba


The main part of the city contains four neighborhoods which I

shall refer to by name (See Figure 4-2). The central city area is by

and large that part of the city which existed prior to the coming of the

highway. There are four streets parallel to the river and eight cross

streets. Within this area are located approximately 6,000 people.

There are several areas even to this part of the city but none has the

character or geographical separation to make it a neighborhood in and

of itself. The first street contains the better homes of the city,

some stores, and a great number of government agencies and offices.

Second Street is now the busiest street since it has become the main

commercial street. Third and Fourth Streets are mostly residential.

The cross streets are commercial between First and Second Streets and

residential beyond that. This portion of the city has also expanded to

the south along a road which was constructed out to the military base.

The military road also passes by the Construction Battalion's residen-

tial area and the Extension Campus of Project Rondon. In addition to

these agencies, the new middle school has been built along Rondon Road,

as well as a growing number of new and well-constructed houses. These

new houses, built in the style of homes in Brazil's larger cities, are

occupied by the more wealthy newcomers to the community. The mayor, in

fact, only grants property to "upper class" people along this stretch

of the road.

Property values in this center section of the city are increasing

rapidly. There is a trend for some of the wealthier residents to offer





6-- .j 4 11


c Q -

'II r-I / -- 1~
'I /9 j

Figure 4-2
Neighborhoods of Itaituba

__ __

the poorer residents new houses in other areas of the city in exchange

for their property. The property then might be turned into rental

houses of a better quality or sites for commercial establishments.

There is a mix of residential and commercial, rich and poor in this sec-

tion of the city, but all important agencies and businesses are located


The remaining three neighborhoods are residential areas where

the more recent immigrants to the city have located. When immigrants

first started arriving in Itaituba, the main section of the city attrac-

ted far and away the greatest number of people. However, at the north-

ern end of town, in a low lying, swampy area, a predominantly poor and

Protestant neighborhood, known as Vila Caqula,3 took form. The focus

of this neighborhood is the largest Protestant church in town, the

Assembly of God. Besides working on road and building construction,

the men of this neighborhood are fishermen. In bad times they fish

exclusively and sell their catch in the municipal market. The houses

are largely of thatch and wood construction, and there are only a few

stores and businesses. The neighborhood boasts a two-room school house

and its own bakery. In years when there has been an excessive amount

of rainfall slightly over half of the neighborhood floods and people must

move in with friends and neighbors. This did not occur in 1977, but

residents told me it had happened in 1976. The 775 residents of the

Vila Caqula are perhaps the poorest of the city.

The neighborhood of Perpetuo Socorro lies at the rear of the city

and is contiguous to it. The three streets and one cross street are the

home of slightly over 1,000 persons. Since space is lacking in the main

part of the city, some middle and lower middle class persons have begun

__ __

constructing homes in this area which borders a small stream. The

stream at times overflows but almost all of the new homes are above

the flood plain. This neighborhood has its own butcher shop (such a

luxury store would not be supported in Vila Caqula), a chapel, and a few

small bars and stores. The city is only a short walk away and most

shopping, etc., is done in the city center. There is a mix of bureau-

crats, teachers, miners and their families, and shopkeepers who have

their homes in Perp4tuo Socorro. Bounded on the south by the Trans-

amazon Highway and on the west and north by the small stream, this

neighborhood has no room to expand. At the time of my research all

lots had been occupied. It is significant that this neighborhood con-

tains a small sawmill and the only rice processing plant in town. The

neighborhood appears to be prosperous, and there is a high incidence

of consumer goods in the homes: radios, sewing machines, refrigerators,

stoves, and even automobiles.

The Cidade Alta

The fourth and largest of the auxiliary neighborhoods is known

as the Cidade Alta (Upper City), so named because of its location on a

high bluff overlooking the main part of the town and the Tapaj6s River.

The Cidade Alta is bounded on the east by a stream and steep hillside

which form a common boundary between it and Perpetuo Socorro. On the

south the Transamazon Highway forms the border, and on the north a

large fazenda owned by one of Itaituba's leading citizens. There are

ten streets parallel to the river and several cross streets which often

run no more than a block or two. The last several streets are no more

I sl III r~-


than paths which will be bulldozed into streets as soon as all property

on that street is allocated. In the spring of 1977, the central portion

of Cidade Alta received electric power. Water is primarily provided by

private wells. Residents boast of their good well water. During the

summer of 1977, a water tower was completed which will eventually be

hooked into the city water system as soon as the new water treatment

plant is completed. Water in the main part of the city is drawn directly

from the river in front of the town and is untreated. As a result, in-

testinal disorders are common unless water is filtered and/or boiled.

Residents of the Cidade Alta also like to boast of the breezes they

get from the river which keep away many of the mosquitos which plague

the lower city.

This neighborhood could be best described as the growth neighbor-

hood of Itaituba. When I first came to Itaituba in 1974, the neighbor-

hood consisted of approximately six houses with forty residents. Upon

my return, the population had increased to over 3,000 in 510 residences

with new houses springing up each week. The reason for the enormous

growth in the Cidade Alta is that it is the only direction in which the

town of Itaituba can grow. Growth is circumscribed by land contours in

all other directions.

Since growth is most obvious and dynamic in the Cidade Alta, I

concentrated my research on this particular neighborhood in the hope of

isolating and identifying the reasons why these immigrants have located

in Itaituba and the process whereby social order is being established

in the community. This research was accomplished by using a question-

naire administered by the researcher to a 10 percent random sample of

residents of the Cidade Alta in May and June, 1977. All figures cited

below are the results of that questionnaire (See Appendix I).

I have separated the immigrants to the Cidade Alta into two

groups: (1) those who have immigrated from within the municipio and

from nearby municipios (27 percent of the total sample), and (2) those

who have immigrated from outside the immediate area (73 percent). The

reasons for locating in Itaituba are very different for each group and

necessitated this initial division. In general, all of these new immi-

grants represent a heterogeneous group who, unlike the colonists who

have migrated to the Transamazon Highway to own and farm their own

plots of land, have a variety of reasons for locating in Itaituba.

Among the so-called local group (category 1 listed above),

50 percent gave as their reason for moving to the Cidade Alta the hous-

ing and land shortage in the lower city caused by the rapid population

increase. Fourteen percent moved from the colonia (an agricultural

area outside the city limits) into the city so that their children

could attend public school, and 36 percent because they did not like

their living conditions elsewhere in the Itaituba area. The latter

group gave reasons ranging from dislike of the insects to the desire

for living in a city.

Of those who moved from outside the area (category 2), 40 percent

gave as the reason for immigrating to the Cidade Alta relatives and

friends already living in Itaituba who wrote home telling of the avail-

ability of land and jobs. Another 24 percent located there because they

learned that gold had been discovered nearby. Twenty-three percent

came because they wanted to better their economic situation and had

heard from sources other than friends and relatives that Itaituba was

booming. Ten percent immigrated because of news stories about the

Transamazon Highway. These were mostly small-scale entrepreneurs hoping


to cash in on the boom. Finally, 3 percent of the residents were trans-

ferred by employers to Itaituba and could not find housing in the lower


Not only did the reasons for migrating to the area differ but

also the immigrants' regions of origin. Forty-six percent came from

the North, 44 percent from the Northeast, and 10 percent from the Center

West (see Figure 4-3).

The Itaituba sector along the Transamazon Highway provides an

interesting contrast in that the number of colonists from the south of

Brazil accounts for whole communities and an extremely large proportion

of the total number of immigrants in that sector. The absence of south-

erners in the Cidade Alta indicates a shift in emphasis by the national

government. The southerners came to live along the highway east of town

largely in response to the government's campaign to promote coloniza-

tion along the Transanazon Highway. In 1975-76 colonization was unoffi-

cially halted. New colonists are moving into several areas but the

high government subsidy program has halted. The federal government

has shifted away from its planned colonization scheme and into a new

phase. The new plan for development known as the Programa de P8los

Agropecuirios e Agriminerais da Amazonia (POLAMAZONIA) emphasizes the

primary natural resources of a region (II PIN 1975:55). For Itaituba,

known for its poor soils and hilly terrain, this means that mining will

be emphasized over farming. The end result is that southerners are no

longer immigrating to the area.

Who are the people immigrating to the Itaituba area and why are

they coming? Further extrapolating from the data, we find that 40 per-

cent of the immigrants come from the State of Pari (North region) and

0 A 'AARANMAt; .
O ,C~e&


w E S J ")A M

qGROSSO O,- to,


_E* ,T .J
.- .- T C t.4AN01


Figure 4-3
States and Regions of Brazil
Source: J.M.G. Kleinpenning, The Integration and Colonisation
of the Brazilian Portion of the Amazon Basin, p. 8.


'A A


40 percent from ;he State of Maranhao (Northeast region). Those from

Para are largely from the Tapaj6s Valley. They represent those who

have heard first-hand about the gold (including some but not all of the

27 percent immigrating to the Cidade Alta from the local area) and,

since Itaituba's airstrip has become the transportation center for the

mines, they have located their families here. Many of the families

from Pari whom I interviewed are former subsistence farmers. They come

looking for quick riches. The husband builds a simple wooden house and

then goes off to the mines. Husbands seldom have the opportunity to

send money home, so that wives and children are forced to take menial

jobs in order to buy food which the family had previously grown for

themselves. These families represent, then, a fatherless (temporarily,

at least) group of families whose members are involved in marginal

entrepreneurial areas such as deliverymen, seamstresses, button

coverers, itinerant vegetable sellers, and the like. Periodically, the

father returns home. A few large purchases are made such as a gas stove

or refrigerator, and there is plenty of money for a while. When it is

gone, the father returns to the goldfields.

The families from Maranhao, on the other hand, are mostly from

several municfpios along the Belem-Brasilia Highway. The vast majority

of them are subsistence farmers who have been forced from their homes

in Maranhao due to the growth of such cities as Imperatriz and Estreito

and the concomitant shift by large landowners to a less labor intensive

sysLem: cattle raising. These families were drawn to Itaituba because

of the availability of small plots of land near the city in an area

known as the Colonia. The able-bodied males of the households are away

except for week-ends and possibly a day or two during the week in slack


periods. The women often earn what they can in the aforementioned

marginal occupations.

We have, then, two separate groups each of which confronts a

totally new situation in two respects. First, 82 percent of the immi-

grants are natives of rural areas (either Para or Maranhao) who are

living in a city for the first time. Second, after having lived solely

as family units, often isolated even from their nearest neighbors,

families have to cope with neighbors on all sides and with being split

up for part of the week (the subsistence farmers) or even longer per-

iods (the gold miners). These differences occur on top of the normal

problems of having to interact with strangers and fitting into a new

social network.

The families from Para and Maranhao would normally assimilate

very well. The differences between the two groups from adjacent states

are differences of emphasis and degree rather than of kind. The Mara-

nhenses (residents from Maranhao) come from the tropical lowland por-

tion of their state, where agricultural practices, climate, religious

practices, festivals, and the like are very similar to the Tapaj6s

Valley. In the initial stages, however, assimilation did not occur as

would be expected.

The initial stages of life in the Cidade Alta were chaotic.

Houses were being constructed rapidly, only two streets were opened

through the new neighborhood, and lots were not always surveyed properly.

In addition to these problems, the families were adjusting to an entire-

ly new social situation as mentioned above. They were learning how to

deal with close neighbors, perhaps for the first time, and with a family

which was no longer together all of the time. Additional stress arose

from these pressures. Finally, in the beginning there were no local or

national institutions which could intervene and mediate the situation

by either resolving conflicts or providing the means for bringing

people together.

The result was suspicion, frustration, and isolation. When I

first visited the neighborhood, this was particularly evident in the

prejudices expressed by the Paraenses against the Maranhenses and vice

versa. Paraenses felt that Maranhenses were clannish and snobbish.

They would sometimes taunt the Maranhenses about how they had to leave

their home state. The Maranhenses claimed that the Paraenses were

slovenly about keeping their community clean. They also noted that

Paraenses spoke Portuguese "incorrectly" and that they really could not

understand what Paraenses said during their first few months. If the

Paraenses and Maranhenses did not get along, residents from other states

who had very few neighbors from their home states were in many respects

even more isolated.

Why was there an initial lack of outside institutional support?

The primary reasons are the rapid growth of the community as a whole

and the Cidade Alta's geographical isolation. The only road to the

Cidade Alta requires one to drive out of Itaituba proper and along the

Transamazon Highway. Two dirt paths carry foot traffic down the hill-

side to the lower city. Secondly, and compounding this problem, the

mayor and his administration were entirely unable to cope with the situ-

ation. Due to the ban on elections in a High Security Area (Area de

Seguranca Nacional) the current mayor (elected in 1968 when Itaituba

had 2,000 residents) has been reappointed two times, in 1972 and 1976.

Coping with a sleepy river town of 2,000 is very different from coping


with a rapidly growing city of 12,000. By the time the mayor became

aware that he had a serious problem, the Cidade Alta had about 2,000

residents, no services, and a small vocal minority who were complaining

bitterly. There was no water, electricity, streets, gutters, etc. When

the problems finally came to his attention there was, of course, a

considerable lag between presenting his plans to the state government

and actually getting the money to begin to remedy the problems. During

this lag, the neighborhood grew even more and the mayor became less

and less popular.

Early in 1977, the first benefits arrived from the mayor's pro-

gram. Part of the neighborhood was provided with electricity. Work was

begun on a water tower which will eventually provide water for the whole

community. Finally, during April, 1977, a team from Project Rondon

(the university cooperative program) began surveying the streets for

clearing and alignment. Both of the above projects were completed by

August, 1977. Many of the critics were silenced by this burst of


The Catholic Church was perhaps the first national institution to

move into the neighborhood. The Church took over a former nightclub and

turned it into a community center where services were held each Sunday

afternoon. In January, 1977, a Saint's Day festival was held in the

neighborhood. This festival was the first community-wide event for the

Cidade Alta. Participation was not widespread, but it began to bring

the diverse groups together.

After the festival other church-related activities were held,

including courses for women during the day, a small kindergarten and,

in June, another festival which had the support of both the Paraenses

and Maranhenses5 and was celebrated by people from all neighborhood


During the same June festivals, the school, which had opened in

March, held a fund-raising auction. The auction earned a relatively

large amount of money for the school because many gold miners attended

the festival and contributed. In addition, the fact that all of the

neighborhood's children go to the same school rather than attending

several schools in the lower city provides a further common denominator.

The school, then, represents another institution which has helped to

bring together diverse groups of the neighborhood.

Prior to these moves by the municipio, the Catholic Church, and

the school system, there were only three to five commercial establish-

ments in the neighborhood. As the various institutions began to provide

incipient services to the neighborhood, new entrepreneurs appeared.

Whether they were causally related or both a function of the population

reaching a certain level, I am unable to say; however, the beginnings

of a commercial district now exist along one street. Although prices

are slightly higher than in the lower city, almost anything can be

bought. Having their own stores, bakery, and butcher, has also brought

the residents into closer contact with one another, helped to ease ten-

sion, and provided an additional framework for establishing social order.

This brief analysis of conditions in the Cidade Alta and the

other neighborhoods can give us some insights into events in the town as

a whole. First of all, the process whereby social order is established,

that is, the appearance of public and private institutions which provide

the necessary framework for the residents of the Cidade Alta to begin

ordering their neighborhood, demonstrates the important role of state

and national bureaucracies in community development. Without these

inputs the community flounders. Individuals prefer to accumulate wealth

and valuables rather than spending any surplus income on the community

(Wagley 1968:126). The community is further divided in that it is split

by racial, class, political, and regional differences. Also, as a part

of the social ordering process, there is an alteration of traditional

social networks. As I shall demonstrate in a later chapter, new groups

are being incorporated into the traditional social structure of the

Amazon region.

In answer to Lie question about why immigrants are locating in

Itaituba even though directed colonization efforts have ended, from the

evidence in the Cidade Alta there are three primary reasons: (1) the

discovery of gold in the municipio, (2) the availability of small plots

of land on the Estrada da Col6nia, and (3) the possibility for opening

a successful business due to population increase. A final reason, the

burgeoning bureaucracy, is evident from the growth patterns in the

central portion of the city. Each of these reasons centers around a

particular sphere of economic activity. The increased economic activity

and population boom were both spurred by the investment of billions of

cruzeiros by the federal government. This investment, translated into

the highway and directed colonization, forms the most exploitable

resource in the Amazon since rubber.

In the next chapter, I will examine these spheres of economic

activity. They include: the agricultural sector, the mining sector,

and the commercial sector. Chapter VI will analyze the final economic

impetus: the bureaucracy.

I --



Frank (1967) estimates Sao Paulo's percentage of all Brazilian
manufactured goods to be above 54 percent in 1963.

2Estimates are for measuring station Alto Tapajos south of Ita-
ituba (IBGE 1977:25).

3Caqula means the youngest child in a family and, therefore, the
newest neighborhood.

4This excludes the 27 percent local immigrants who had ties with
Itaituba proper prior to moving to the Cidade Alta. These ties to the
lower city may have slowed their integration into the Cidade Alta.

5These June festivals, celebrated in both states, mark the
Saints Days of John, Peter and Paul.




The Agricultural Sector

Although agriculture is not a major focus of this study, its

importance in the initial Transamazon Colonization project makes it

necessary to include a short description of certain aspects of the

agricultural sector. The initial colonization plan called for the con-

struction of small farming settlements (agrovilas) in the Itaituba

sector of the highway. However, soils were discovered to be of such

uniformly poor quality in this sector that intensive colonization on

the scale of the Altamira sector was impossible. This discovery in the

Itaituba sector led the federal government to modify their original

plans and to eventually discontinue colonization altogether along this

section of the Transamazon Highway. The colonization agency (INCRA)

does distribute plots of land to settlers along the Santarem-Cuiabi

Highway south of the Transamazon, but provides no other services. All

other infrastructure is provided by the appropriate state or federal

agency. To date, the only services in existence are schools in nine-

teen "settlements" at five to six kilometer intervals. This is in sharp

contrast to the highly planned agrovilas of the Altamira sector of the

Transamazon Highway described by Emilio Moran (1975).

The major crop along the Transamazon Highway is upland or dry

rice (Oriza sativa). Although the soils are often of poor quality, the



hilly terrain in the Itaituba sector provides well-drained slopes for

the planting of rice. This makes it difficult for mechanical planting

or harvesting, but such machines are beyond the means of all but a hand-

ful of Transamazon colonists. The estimated rice harvest for the Itai-

tuba area in 1977 was 80,000 sacks (60 kg per sack). This is 20,000

sacks lower than the previous year. The reduced yield can be attributed

to two factors. The first is that many farmers have given up; they

have sold their plots and have returned to their places of origin or

even turned to gold mining. Second, without the use of fertilizer, the

soils are rapidly depleted of nutrients thus reducing yields. At first,

this was not a problem since new portions of a colonist's lot could be

cleared, but after several years of cultivation many farmers have run

out of suitable areas to plant rice so that they must either plant

another crop (usually pasture grass) or be satisfied with lower yields.

The future of upland rice in this area is not good.

Drawing upon information of the International Center for Tropical

Agriculture in Colombia, Emilio Moran has defined a small-farm system

as ". a farm enterprise in which production and productivity are

low, real income is low, and the principal source of labor is the farm

family" (1975:99). The small-farm system is prevalent along the Trans-

amazon Highway. Lack of credit, storage, production inputs, transpor-

tation and other services are some of the more critical problems cited

by Moran in his study (1975:272-276). All of these problems noted by

Morau for the Altamira sector are present, if not intensified, in the

Itaituba sector of the highway.

Credit in Itaituba is controlled by the Bank of Brazil and the

Production Finance Commission (CFP), who work hand-in-hand. Ideally,

I I SrB4

the system works in the following manner. The Bank of Brazil has a

special branch of its loan department which deals exclusively with

small farm loans. The entire process and the liaison with the CFP is a

result of the Transamazon Highway's special status as a priority area

for development (Area prioritiria de desenvolvimento). Because of this

special status, the loan application process for the colonist is simpli-

fied in comparison to the normal channels other individuals must follow.

There is little or no investigation by the bank as to the credit worthi-

ness of a colonist. Granting of the loan was described by one bank

official as almost automatic. The colonist used his lot and crops as

collateral for the loan. However, there is a complication which prohi-

bits some colonists from ever completing the loan process and creates

a considerable effort for others. The colonist must spend an inordinate

amount of time in Itaituba waiting at the bank to provide information,

documentation, etc. Moran characterizes the process as time-consuming

and taking approximately 17-30 days to complete (1975:172). Of course,

this time must be deducted from time which could be better spent on

farming activities. Depending upon how far the colonist lives from

Itaituba, the cost of transportation into the city and perhaps meals

and overnight stays if the colonist has no relatives in town can be

prohibitive for the most economically marginal farmers. Dealing with

the bank bureaucracy can be confusing to colonists who may have never

had any contact with such procedures. They are helped by the Rural

Extension Service (EMATER), but EMATER has limited resources and cannot

help everyone. In spite of all these constraints, lines at the Bank of

Brazil on Thursdays and Fridays (special days set aside for rural

credit) are enormous.

Crops financed by the bank in Itaituba are rice, cacao, black

pepper, coffee, and some corn. There is also limited financing of

tractors and farm equipment. Such loans are not processed through the

CFP or INCRA. Although originally INCRA planned to encourage the plant-

ing of cacao in the Itaituba sector, this plan was dropped, largely

because of soil and water constraints. The farmer now selects the crop

he would like to plant. Rice is losing popularity and pepper and cacao

are on the rise. These trends are largely a response to supply and

demand as reflected in the price of a particular product. The past two

years have seen bumper harvests of rice in the north. Decreasing prices

have led many to switch to another crop or plant fields in pasture grass.

The bank does not finance the planting of pasture grass; otherwise, I

believe the whole region would be given over to cattle.2

The CFP guarantees a certain minimum price for the farmer's har-

vest. The Bank of Brazil as an agent of the CFP administers the pur-

chase of the harvests. When a purchase is made, the first priority is

to pay off principal and interest on any loans which the farmer may have

taken out. The guaranteed price is quite naturally low, and profits

are minimal.

Storage and transportation are often problems even in the state

subsidized system. Itaituba has limited storage facilities and ship-

ments to Belem (the state capital) are erratic. During the harvest of

1977 (April and May), warehouses of CIBRAZEM (the federal warehousing

authority) in Belem were filled to overflowing. So much so that the

CFP stopped all shipments to Belem and the Bank of Brazil suspended

buying. If the farmer wished to receive the support price for his rice,

he needed to ship it to Belem himself and stack it outside one of the


government warehouses. This crisis led to innumerable cases of profit-

eering. One local case will be examined in Chapter VI.

In addition to the federally-run CFP there are also private

buyers of agricultural commodities. In Itaituba, most of these men

are from Santarem. They pay above or below the CFP depending on imme-

diate market conditions. If the farmer has facilities to store his crop

and wait until well after harvest, he may be able to take advantage of

higher prices offered by the private commodities buyers. Another advan-

tage to the private buyer is that he will pick up the farmer's harvest

in his own truck whereas the Bank of Brazil requires the farmer to bring

his produce to town at his own expense. Most small or subsistence

farmers along the Transamazon, however, cannot afford this wait because

of loan payments which are due or because they need money to buy food

for their families. Also, storage facilities must be secured against

insects and field mice and this can be extremely costly.

The agency which is charged with helping the colonist with pro-

duction inputs--techniques, types of tools, seed, etc., and assistance

with financing--was formerly known as ACAR. The new agency, EMATER, is

very similar to the old and has essentially the same functions. However,

EMATER is given more latitude in emphasizing local strengths and cor-

recting weaknesses. The state office in Belem sends down yearly plans

based on information provided by the local EMATER office. State plans

can be modified without approval from Belem. This seemingly more flexi-

ble program which has been freed from INCRA constraints has a more

serious problem in that it had not received financing for 1977 by July

of that year. No new projects could be begun and extension services

were considerably curtailed, even though the services of the agency had


been expanded to cover all areas of the municLpios of Aveiro and


The Itaituba area, in addition to the colonists along the Trans-

amazon Highway, has an extensive farming belt to the west and north of

the city. This area is known as the Col6nia and stretches along a road

from Itaituba in the direction of the town of Barreiras. The land along

the Estrada da Col6nia is controlled by the municipal government and

parcelled out by the mayor of the municipio. The farmers do not own

their lots, but rent them from the municipio. After the payment of a

small initial fee the farmer has a legal right to farm the land. None

of the infrastructure of the Transamazon Highway Project characterizes

the settlement of the Colonia. Lots are rudimentarily surveyed by the

municlpio and vary in size but are at most half the size of the lots

along the Transamazon Highway. However, there are no provisions about

how the colonist must use the land, i.e. there was no requirement con-

cerning a forest reserve, etc. These farmers represent a new group of

immigrants described in Chapter IV. They are former residents of the

states of Para and Maranhao who came to Itaituba seeking their own land

to farm. They are largely subsistence farmers and do not deal in large

scale planting of cash crops such as rice, cacao, or pepper.

The farmers of the Colonia represent a traditional element of

the Amazon. They are the Amazonian caboclos whose subsistence practices

and way of life have changed little in the past 100 years (cf. Moran

1974). The subsistence practices described by Wagley (1976) are in

evidence not only in the Col6nia but also along the Transamazon Highway.

This system of swidden horticulture in the Amazon has been ably de-

scribed by both Wagley (1976) and Moran (1975). (Cf. Nye and Greenland

[1960] and Conklin [1963] for descriptions of swidden horticulture in


other areas of the world.) The process involves clearing a plot of land

during the beginning of the dry season, stacking and burning the under-

brush and cleared vegetation at the end of the dry season, planting at

the very beginning of the wet season, and harvesting at the end of the

wet season. Except for variations in the appearance of the wet and dry

seasons the process is identical in Itaituba. The traditional crops of

manioc, maize, rice, and beans are grown and quantities are geared

toward the maintenance of the family plus a small surplus which may be

traded or sold for food or goods not produced by the family. The resi-

dents of the Colinia rarely have enough land or an initial investment

to plant a cash crop such as those financed by the Bank of Brazil.

Slash-and-burn requires no special tools beyond a cutting tool (usually

a machete) and only a small investment in seed. The most labor con-

suming task is the clearing and, if a re-burn is necessary, the re-

clearing of unburned vegetation. Although slash-and-burn land prepara-

tion often appears in conjunction with shifting fields of cultivation,

this is not necessarily true of the Transamazon farmer nor of the farmer

on the Col~nia. As noted by Moran (1975:108) pastures, tree crops, and

unsuitable terrain are often responsible for keeping a small arable

portion of a farmer's land in continuous production.

The distinction noted in this section between the farmers of the

Transamazon and those of the Col6nia is only a general one. Exceptions

can be found in both areas. There are successful farmers in the Col8-

nia who are able to plant limited cash crops. One Japanese farmer has

a thriving vegetable business. There are also farmers along the Trans-

amazon who have very poor land and can barely manage their own subsis-

tence. By and large, however, the farmers of the Col6nia have less

land than those on the Transamazon. They are less involved in planting

cash crops. A majority are caboclos from the North region who have

never farmed their own land. Most have worked for large plantation

owners as sharecroppers or lived in an area where land was scarce. Many

of these farmers interviewed in conjunction with the Cidade Alta survey

expressed great happiness at their new condition in life and described

how bad conditions are back in Maranhao or in some of the municipios

along the Amazon River in Para. They expressed their approval of the

Transamazon Highway or the Estrada da Col6nia (which begins at the Trans-

amazon Highway several kilometers west of Itaituba), for without them

they would not have had this opportunity.

With the poor quality of soils around Itaituba and problems of

credit, transportation, storage, and the like, life for small farmers

often promises nothing more than existence at the subsistence level.

The number of successful small farmers are few and far between. Health

and educational facilities are still extremely limited. Other infra-

structural supports are erratic. The current condition can best be

described as one of retrenchment following the euphoria and boom of the

initial years of the colonization project. The agricultural sector is

still important to Itaituba, but it is not expanding. The city is self-

sufficient only in rice and manioc. Other products must be imported--

chiefly beans, wheat flour, and fresh vegetables of all varieties.

Although many of these items are produced in the agricultural areas

around the city, the transportation and distribution network is still

insufficiently developed to provide economical marketing of local pro-

duce. The time and expense is prohibitive for the small farmer himself,

and as yet no one has attempted to institute a coordinated distribution

plan for the highway and Col6nia farmers.


Looking at the agricultural situation from the historical per-

spective and from the point of view of total production in the municipio

of Itaituba, one sees that there is an enormous increase in farm

production and in cash crops which make Itaituba an exporter of rice and

pepper whereas before it exported no food crops. The city has developed

an incipient credit, transportation, and storage system which could be

further developed. There is a rice processor installed at a local mill.

In general, interviews with long-term residents revealed that food is

in better supply and more readily available in a greater variety than

prior to the Transamazon Highway. The father of a very poor family told

me that now there is always some way to earn a few cruzeiros so that he

could buy rice and beans for his family and perhaps a piece of meat now

and again. When he depended upon his own subsistence farming, there

were frequently times when meals consisted only of manioc flour. The

author's own experience in a small Amazon River community bears out the

opinion of many that there was a lack of variety and supply of many

essential foodstuffs prior to 1970 (Miller 1976).

In short, the small-scale subsistence farming tradition in the

Amazon region has been adopted and adapted to the conditions along the

newly completed highway system, the end result being a substantial ex-

pansion of the agricultural sector but relatively little improvement in

the living conditions of the small farmer. He is still near the bottom

of the socioeconomic ladder.

Mining Sector

The search for fossil fuels and raw materials, which Shelton

Davis calls the "geological imperative" (Davis and Matthews 1976:3), is

the keystone of the Brazilian federal government's Second National

Plan (II PIN). The plan moves away from a total commitment to develop-

ing the agricultural sector which the Transamazon Highway colonization

represents. As noted previously, the varying quality of soils and

other very serious constraints on agriculture were the basis of this

effort to redirect the development of the Amazon. The II PIN focuses

on the microregions (as defined by the Institute of Geography and Sta-

tistics or IBGE) of the Amazon and defines the strong points (in econ-

omic terms) of each microregion. The microregions were then narrowed

down to sixteen "poles" of development for the State of Para. Some

poles are slated for cattle and farming development; others, including

Itaituba, are targeted for the development of mining. The program is

called POLAMAZONIA. Funding for the POLAMAZONIA is being funneled

through existing agencies and involves not only development of the

targeted sector but also areas which affect the lives of those living

in the "polo." Itaituba, for instance, owes its new water treatment

facility and drainage system to the new program. The resulting two-tier

bureaucracy is incomprehensible to all but a few high-level planners.

Itaituba's local politicians, for example, have no concept of the scope

and structure of the program.

Mineral research has been present in many areas of the Amazon for

decades. A good example is the manganese mining operations of ICOMI

(Indistria e Comircio de Minirios S.A.) in the territory of Amapi which

first began explorations and planning in 1946 (ICOMI 1974:3). Today it

represents a multi-million dollar operation and is the primary employer

of the territory. Most mining operations involve investment by an

American or other foreign company (with 51 percent of the capital in



Brazilian hands to give the faCade of Brazilian control). In the case

of ICOMI it is Bethlehem Steel. United States Steel, Kaiser Aluminum,

Aluminum Company of Canada, Bruynzeel, and Volkswagen are among the

most important corporations funding mining operations in the Amazon.

Three factors spurred the increased interest in mining in the

Amazon. The first was the announcement by President Medici of the

new Transamazon Highway Project which would integrate the vast Amazon

region into the rest of Brazil and protect it from foreign annexation.

Secondly, in the same year Project RADAM was inaugurated. Its stated

goal was to radar photograph and do resource reconnaissance over the

entire Amazon Basin. The completed project showed the location of

mineral deposits. Finally, the creation of the National Mineral Re-

source Company (CPRM) led to actual ground exploration projects in

almost every "polo" in the State of Para. The purpose of CPRM (an

agency within the Federal Department of Mineral Production or DNPM)


1. To improve basic geological knowledge of Brazil
2. To provide financial assistance to other companies for
exploration and mine development
3. To sponsor and develop the technological base for a
Brazilian minerals industry (Davis and Matthews 1976:33)

During 1976, the CPRM opened an office in Itaituba in order to

begin mineral surveys in the area. The office was composed of three

engineers and two administrators as well as maintenance and office

staff. Upon completion of their surveys in February of 1977, the team

had located three deposits of limestone, a primary ingredient in the

manufacture of cement. This is a critical find since the State of Para

must import in excess of 80 percent of the cement it uses. Two of the


deposits are located west of town along the Transamazon Highway and the

other east of town also along the highway. One of the deposits west

of town is located at the edge of a national forest reserve and is the

richest or most promising find of the three. The administrator con-

ducted cost analysis studies to determine the comparative cost between

shipping the raw materials out by boat or by road to a new cement plant

near Santarem. Another large deposit was found in the eastern portion

of the municipio just north of Itaituba. This activity was accompanied

by rumors that the government was purchasing colonists' land in these

areas--offering between Cr$10,000 and 30,000 (between U.S. $750 and

$2,300) for a 100-hectare lot. A town resident who worked closely with

the colonists in one area reported that this money was the most any of

the colonists had ever had at one time. They often squandered it in

several months after moving back to their home towns or to one of the

large cities in the State of Para.

The irony is that these colonists were originally financially

supported in the hope that they would be able to improve their condition

in life. Although the total number of families resettled never reached

the proportions envisioned by the original colonization plan, even the

relatively small number of families who did come are now being dimin-

ished by the latest mining schemes. By the end of the researcher's

stay in the community, one large Brazilian cement company had expressed

an interest in extracting limestone.

A mineral deposit of salt was discovered in the late 1960's by

surveyors of the Arruda Pinto Company (of Sao Luis do Tapajos) who were

searching for certain hardwoods. A large Brazilian salt company from

the south (Sal Gema), drawn to invest in the Amazon because of the tax

II I II I I I I,--~I--ICL~

investment incentives offered by the Federal government, has been

attempting to build the necessary roads and facilities to extract the

salt. As of August, 1977, the operation had not yet begun to extract

the salt. The nearest community, Barreiras, the mayor's birthplace,

serves as the operation's headquarters. Although the salt company only

employs fifty people, they are the only employers in the community

aside from the municipal government and thus account for a small boom.

Local businessmen in Itaituba noted that Sal Gema has been preparing

to extract the salt for five years and ventured the opinion that the

salt would never be mined. They suggested the company was maintaining

the pretense of preparing to extract the salt, in order to continue to

receive the tax and investment benefits.

The largest mining operation is the mining of gold. Gold deposits

had been discovered in the region during the 1950's, but extensive

explorations in the interior areas of the municipio of Itaituba did not

take place until the mid-1960's.4 By 1967, almost all able-bodied males

who had worked on the rubber trails or who were subsistence farmers in

the interior became gold miners. Gold deposits in the region are

fluvial deposits. Extraction is accomplished by placer mining. The

state tax collector estimates that there are 186 gold mines (i.e. placer

locations) in the area and approximately 20,000 miners. One of the

local gold buyers estimated the number of mines serviced by Itaituba

at eighty-four. There are eight legalized buyers (registered with the

Internal Revenue Service, the Receita Federal) and thirty-three pilots

who fly supplies and passengers into the mines and gold out. There is

a 1 percent tax on all gold which is flown out of the area. The tax is

paid to the Receita Federal. No portion of this money is returned


directly to the municipio. The Receita has established an office at the

airport used by the goldmine pilots in an effort to improve collection.

Still, estimates between 15 percent and 50 percent are cited when tax

officials, buyers, pilots, and mine owners are asked about how much gold

is actually declared. The average monthly declaration according to the

Receita Federal is 300 kilos. Were that figure 15 percent of the

total, then the total yearly yield would be 24,000 kilos; if 50 percent

of the total, then the total yearly yield would be 7,200 kilos. The

value of a gram of gold in Itaituba ranged between 47 and 60 cruzeiros.

At the latter value each kilo is worth U.S. $4,300. The federal govern-

ment therefore loses U.S. $43 per kilo of undeclared gold. Using an

average figure (32.5 percent) for the undeclared gold, the government is

losing in the neighborhood of U.S. $500,000 per year not including

revenue lost on undeclared income.

The system of credit extension for gold extraction is similar in

many ways to the rubber gatherer-rubber trader system (aviamento) de-

scribed by Wagley (1976) for the Amazon River community of It9 and the

lumber system described by the author (Miller 1976) in the same commu-


The discovery of a mine is the first step. Discovery may be

accidental but the vast majority of mines are found by men whose job

is to look for gold mines. They are usually backwoodsmen who are

familiar with the Amazon rain forest and who enjoy roaming around the

forest in search of a new strike. One such backwoodsman, known as

Zeca, described how he goes about finding a mine and why he does it.

Zeca likes the forest much better than his life in the city. He lived

along a small igarape (stream) in the Upper Tapaj6s Valley for many

I Il I II I I I C~

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