COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AND NATURAL RESOURCE USE IN A RURAL AMAZONIAN COMMUNITY: Ubintuba, Coastal
Region of Pard State, Brazil
John William Moon
Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida N 1994
I wish to thank my parents, Mary Hazel Ford Moon and
James Loyd Moon, for, among other things, transmitting their passion for Brazil and its people. At the University of Florida, sincerest thanks go to Nigel Smith for many hours of lively discussion and countless insights on Amazonian themes, and for orienting my research for more than two years. I also wish to thank the Brazilianist students at the Center for Latin American Studies for their intellectual stimulation and sense of fun, among them Gary Schaeff, and Cl~udio P~dua, and especially Pennie Magee, and Lynne Warren for help in focusing studies and research. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge the Tinker Foundation, for funding research in Bel6m and the Bragantina region in 1991.
In Brazil, I owe a lifelong debt to Arar6 Bezerra Machado and his family, for more than fifteen years of initiation into Amazonian life and lore, and to A.G. Andover.
Finally, in Ubintuba, I wish to thank Manoel Dias and Argemiro for their openness in sharing information. And I must express my deepest gratitude to the people of Ubintuba, also friends for more than fifteen years, and who since 1988 have made their community my home. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................... ii
ABSTRACT .......................................... vi
I INTRODUCTION ...... ............................ 1
Background ..................... 8
Methods and Organization of the Study........12
II A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMAZONIAN AGRICULTURAL AND
EXTRACTIVE ACTIVITIES AND EVOLUTION OF AMAZONIAN
COMMUNITIES ............................ 17
Phase 1 Before the Europeans ................ 17
Phase 2 Contact and Colonization ............ 19
Phase 3 Development of Traditional Amazonian
Communities ....................... 22
Phase 4 The Rubber Boom and its Effects
on Caboclos ....................... 26
Phase 5 The End of the Rubber Boom and the
Search for Substitutes ............ 29
Phase 6 From Highways to the "Decade of
Destruction" ...................... 34
Phase 7 The "Greening" of Amazonia and the
Search for Sustainability ......... 36
Caboclos and the Intensive Colonization
Movements .................................. 43
III THE BRAGANTINA COLONIZATION "FAILURE" AND
ITS LESSONS ................................. 47
Introduction ............. ........... 47
History, 1600-1908 ............................ 50
The Salgado/Bragantina Since the
Rubber Boom, 1908 to the Present ............... 56
IV UBINTUBA: THE EVOLUTION OF A COMMUNITY
AND ITS RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ................... 65
Location and Description ........................ 65
Phase 1 (Before 1900):
The Earliest Settlers ............................ 71
Phase 2 (1900-1942):
Timber Boom on the Bituba ........................ 74
Phase 3 (1942-1958): Forced Diversification ..... 75
Phase 4 (1958-1975): The End of the Sawmill
and the Rise of the Dias Family ................ 78
Phase 5 (1975-Present): From Rivers
to Roads--Organization, Prosperity,
and Challenges .......... .. ................... 81
An Ubintuba View of History ...................... 91
V UBINTUBA TODAY: A STORY OF ADAPTABILITY IN THE FACE OF
REGIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES ...... 95
Acess to Land and Resources ...................... 95
Swidden Agriculture Rogados .................... 98
Vegetable Gardens Hortas ...................... 101
Tree Crops and House Groves Pomares ........... 114
The Division of Activities by
Gender and Age ................................. 139
VI WE'RE NOT THERE YET: CLOUDS ON THE
UBINTUBA HORIZON ........................ 146
The Eclipse of EMATER ........................... 147
Internal Dissensions ............................ 148
The Future of the Association ................... 157
Are Ubintuba's Residents "Environmentalists,"
Practicing Sustainable Development? ........... 157
The "Manioc Boom" and Future Prospects for
Production .................. 159
Vegetable Gardening ........................ 162
Fishing .................................... 165
Brick Making and Tree Resources ............ 166
VI STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AREAS
OF TRADITIONAL SETTLEMENT IN AMAZONIA ......... 174
Introduction ...... ............................... 174
Recommendation .................................. 179
Take into Consideration the Caboclos
and their Contributions to Sustainable
Development ............................ 182
Devote More Attention to Well-Established
Regions such as the Bragantina ........ 184
Devote Research and Projects to Areas of
Secondary Growth ...................... 186
Focus on Developing Regional Markets for
Diversified Agricultural and Forest
Products ............ .......... ....... 188
Conclusion Ubintuba and the Next Century ...... 191
GLOSSARY OF PORTUGUESE TERMS .......................... 193
REFERENCES ............................................ 195
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...................... ....... oo207
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AND NATURAL RESOURCE USE
IN A RURAL AMAZONIAN COMMUNITY: UBINTUBA,
COASTAL REGION OF PARA STATE, BRAZIL By
JOHN WILLIAM MOON
Chairman: Peter E. Hildebrand Major Department: Latin American Studies
Dramatic environmental and social changes in Brazilian Amazonia during the last three decades have drawn worldwide attention. Deforestation, the impact of immigrants from other regions of Brazil, and devastation of Indian societies by development pressures have been extensively studied and documented by scholars. Plans for preserving the ecological integrity of the region often recommend the preservation of Indian cultures and their knowledge, as indispensable for harmonious and sustainable development.
Natural resource uses of caboclos, the traditional Amazonian rural dwellers, also frequently demonstrate a skillful exercise of indigenous knowledge. And areas with dense, long established caboclo populations, such as the Bragantina region on the coast of Par& State, offer opportunities for study of a variety of land and resource vi
uses during an extended period. Data on agricultural production in Par& reveal the continuing importance of the Bragantina in producing food and cash crops.
The Bragantina community of Santa Maria de Ubintuba has demonstrated resilience in response to change for almost a century. This study documents and analyzes Ubintuba's history and the evolution of its resource use practices, as well as the impact of community organizations on these activities. Observations and interpretations of economic practices are based on extensive accompaniment of residents' daily activities.
Ubintuba's economic activities provide for subsistence and income. Families use traditional methods to produce manioc and some crops for home use, while obtaining most cash income from vegetables, bricks, and increasingly, tree crops. Residents cultivate or manage more than 85 species of trees, often for multiple uses. Community organization provides adequate land for subsistence and means for marketing cash crops.
Threats to community stability are discussed, as well as the environmental impacts and sustainability of major economic activities. The study provides suggestions for enhancing the adaptability of Ubintuba and other Amazonian communities in the face of continued unpredictability in the regional economy. These recommendations may also apply to other rural communities in the Bragantina and Amazonia.
Few areas have captured wo rldwide attention in the last two decades as has the vast Amazon region. Along with documenting and analyzing environmental devastation, researchers also examine methods for environmentally benign activities that will benefit the region's inhabitants while sustainably utilizing its natural resource base.
The use of Amazonian lands for market-based economic activities began with the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Brazil, the country with the largest Amazon territory, has been through various cycles: sugarcane, forest products, cacao, coffee. The Amazon region was involved to some degree in all of these cycles (Sweet 1977), as well as playing the central role in the Rubber Boom.
During the second half of the twentieth century, land use in most of the Amazon region entered into a new phase. Governments of countries owning Amazon Basin territories launched programs to colonize their territories. Brazil, for example, embarked upon the TransAmazon Highway project and similar land settlement programs. Floods of settlers,
followed by larger businesses tried their hand at rice
farming, cacao planting, cattle ranching, and lumbering.
The process helped create some fortunes, increase national debt, deforest a heatedly debated quantity of rainforest, and provoke a swirling controversy that continues to generate intense polemic in the press, in the political forum, at all levels of government, and in academia.
- Some scholars have focused their studies on specific techniques and methods of land use. Attempts at using "Western" agriculture with fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil-fueled mechanical cultivation have been tried, as in the Yurimaguas area of Peru (Nicholaides et al., 1984). Cattle ranching has frequently been condemned, at least when it replaces tropical rainforest with pastures (Hecht 1989). However, some scientists believe that with proper management of pastures, introduced grasses, and maintenance of a degree of tree cover, ranching can be viable and profitable (Serr&o 1989). Another form of land and resource use, timber extraction, generates questions of sustainability, species diversity, and soil degradation (Fearnside 1989). Some have looked beyond agricultural practices and noted the subordinate position of tropical nations in the world economy (Janzen 1973). In this analysis, many of the environmental difficulties in regions such as the Amazon stem from this subservient position, where the developed nations view tropical regions as sources to be exploited for raw materials.
A current research trend among those attempting to develop sustainable management plans for Amnazonia is to focus on "Indigenous Knowledge." Much of the more famous research has been done on communities of Indians (Posey, 1992). A wealth of data has been collected on the management of forest succession for production of staple foods, fruits, fiber, and game, as well as a profusion of medicinal plants, by Amazonian Indian groups such as the Aniuesha of Peru (Salick, 1992), and the Ka'apor, of the Eastern Brazilian Amazon (Bal6e and Gely, 1989). Numerous magazine articles, films, and books praise the harmonious Amazonian Indians coexistence with nature, and they have a network of environmentalists, journalists, lawyers, and other activists in Brazil and around the globe who espouse their cause.
There is some discussion as to the degree to which the practices of the Amazonian Indian cultures are actually environmentally benign. Some argue that Indian practices have changed after contact with Westerners and are now more predatory. Furthermore, they contend that even before contact many Indian groups had a history of serious impacts on the environment (Redford, 1990). others defend the elaborate knowledge systems of Indian groups which have often survived, even after prolonged contact with Westerners. They also counter that impacts on Amazonian ecosystems caused by Indians often promote environmental
vitality in tropical forests by enhancing adaptability and biodiversity, and are certainly more benign than Western colonization activities (Sponsel, 1992).
Included in this study is a brief survey of pre-contact Indian resource uses and especially their influence on succeeding human resource use strategies. But the idea that the best strategy for preserving nature in the New World Tropics is to guarantee the stewardship rights of Indians throughout their traditional lands, is in fact of secondary relevance in the Brazilian Amazon region. Brazilian Indians in Brazil's portion of the Amazon number some 135,000, and have some form of legally recognized title to 790,727 square kilometers of territory (Brasil '92, Perfil Ambiental e Estrat~gias,1992). Even if an exceptionally courageous Brazilian president were to vigorously enforce Indian rights on their demarcated lands (with sufficient funds and helicopters, and genuine support from Brazilian military and police officers and cadres), such a miraculous policy shift would only protect 15.72% of the territory of Brazilian Amazonia. Effective environmental protection requires policies that address issues throughout the 3,851,000 square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon (excluding Mato Grosso) and its 4,425,699 Portuguese-speaking rural inhabitants (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia, 1991 Preliminary Demographic Census).
To be effective, programs of sustainable development must seriously examine the history and development, and realistically consider the desires and priorities of the Portuguese-speaking rural majority in Amazonia. This study will only occasionally or indirectly address the situations of the recent efforts'at Amazonian colonization by immigrants from the other regions of Brazil. Instead, it will focus on the much more ancient traditional inhabitants, called caboclos in the Brazilian Amazon, and offer suggestions for incorporating their knowledge, and effective participation in programs for sustainable development.
Scholars in fact, are increasingly noting that
Amazonian peasants have an extensive knowledge of their environment and are often able to manage ecosystems in a sustainable manner similar to Indian practices (Hiraoka 1992). Considerable evidence of use of indigenous knowledge has come from the Peruvian Amazon's riberehos, counterparts to the Brazilian caboclos (Padoch and De Jong 1992). In the Brazilian Amazon, studies of highly profitable extractive activities on Combu Island near Belfm have noted the unusually high percentage of island residents who are native born, and have a lifelong experience of living in one habitat (Anderson and Ioris, 1992). Through inheritance and adaptation of resource use from Indian ancestors, caboclo indigenous knowledge also encompasses the management of forest succession and use of a wide variety of regional
plants. Lists of medicinal plants used by Portuguesespeaking Amazonians can total well over 300 species (Cid, 1978).
A growing number of organizations are attempting to
discover and implement practices that will encourage the use of indigenous knowledge by Amazonians, both Indian and Caboclo, for the sustainable production of forest products in national and world markets (Clay 1992). Extractive reserves have been suggested as a means of preserving areas of native ecosystem for management by native peoples (Alegretti 1989).
j It is still too early to evaluate the long-term effects of relatively recent planned or spontaneous colonization efforts, which began in the Brazilian Amazon in the mid1960s and accelerated in the following decades. To assess the future of land use in Amazonia it would be desirable to study an area containing upland terra firme lands which have been mostly cleared and settled for a comparatively longer period than the areas of recent colonization which often occupy similar soils. Such a region would have transportation networks in place long enough to allow a market-based economy to develop. In this region, a variety of land-holding patterns would have developed side by side: large properties and predominantly small family farm enterprises. Local communities would have been in place long enough for their residents to have established tenure
and long enough to accumulate a store of indigenous knowledge. This would allow research in specific communities--for example, a community experiencing enough prosperity to justify examining its activities--as potential models for regional development in newer frontier areas.
Such an area does in fact exist in the Brazilian
Amazon, the Atlantic coastal region of the state of Par&, the region known as the Salgado and Bragantina. This area contains hundreds of small communities, many dating back a century or more, with a highly stable population by Amazonian standards. This region was the first large area of upland Brazilian Amazonia to undergo systematic deforestation for the practice of agriculture. This process began with the first major organized colonization effort in the Brazilian Amazon in the 19th Century, with the building of the Bragantina railroad.
Within this region, I have selected a community, Santa Maria de Ubintuba, municipality of Santo Ant6nio do Tau&, where the inhabitants have responded to frequent regional economic changes by organizing for mutual benefit, and by creative use of the community's natural resources. Their strategies for agriculture reveal an innovative blend of traditional knowledge with new techniques. This has allowed them to attain and maintain an impressive level of prosperity in the face of economic vagaries and difficulties faced by Amazonian agriculture. However, certain resource
uses raise doubts about the community's long-term viability, and internal dissensions have the potential for significantly compromising their cooperative efforts.
This study seeks to answer a perplexing question that has accompanied me during travels in Brazilian Amazonia for over twenty years: why, given a high degree of cultural uniformity, are some caboclo families and communities prospering through dynamic responses to changing markets, while other families and communities are withering and succumbing to out-migration? The beginnings of answers to this question might produce programs for replicating successful activities of the dynamic communities in localities experiencing stagnation.
My first eight years were mostly spent in Manaus, State of Amazonas, between two "Booms," the Rubbei Boom and the frenetic expansion that accompanied the creation of the Manaus Free Port in the late 1960s. Although the Rubber Boom had ended sixty years earlier, its glories and its downfall were still the subjects of obsessive discussions. A dominant theme in the urban Amazonian explanation for the Boom's failure was the alleged backwardness of the state and its rural populations who supposedly had been too primitive to create their own rubber plantations.
In 1965, my family moved to Belfim, at the mouth of the Amazon, and the indoctrination in the official Brazilian
ruling class view of Amazonia continued. Concern for the environment was an integral part of nature studies in school, and every year one week of activities centered around "Tree Day." We learned that Brazil had been blessed with forests of unparalleled richness, but that the nation had squandered much of this gift. Among the culprits were "an axe and a box of matches," the supposedly wasteful slash and burn activities of the rural peasantry. Caboclos, we were taught, were laying waste to Amazon forest, and millions of dollars in timber. The solution; educate the caboclos, correct their "backward" ways, and import progressive people like the Japanese and the more Europeanized South Brazilian farmers with modern farming techniques.
However, my missionary parents had taken me on frequent boat trips among caboclo populations, and I had grown up exposed to and respecting their culture, folklore, and fishing and farming techniques. Over the years I spent considerable periods with caboclos in widely scattered locations: the Salgado and Bragantina regions, the Tocantins estuary, Santar6m, the Purus, Amazon, and Solim6es River, and the upper Rio Negro. I also travelled extensively in the new settlements created by immigrants: Japanese families in the Salgado, the Bel~m-Brasilia highway, the TransAmazon highway, Rond6nia and Acre, Mato Grosso, and the "company towns" of projects such as Jari,
the old Ford plantations near Santar~m, and hydroelectric towns like Tucurui. This led to two convictions. Except for the Japanese, the efforts involving "modern" methods and people had generally led to considerable destruction of forest and aquatic resources and increased social stratification. And however "backward" the caboclos might be, their lifestyle and resource use were less deleterious to the environment, and more egalitarian.
Throughout Amazonia, one saw remarkable uniformity in caboclo culture and practices. Caboclos depended on manioc and fish as staples, cultivated a wide variety of trees and used the forests as sources of food, building materials, fibers, medicines, and income. At night they gathered and exchanged the same folk tales, often of mysterious beings who protected the forest. With occasional variations, the regional vocabulary and accents were consistent from Acre to Amapd. A fish, a tree, a geographical feature generally were described with a uniform Tupi-Guarani word. And yet, some communities were dynamic, while others, containing the same ethnic groups and occupying similar ecosystems, were stagnant or declining. There were families who fit the grammar school stereotypes perfectly, while others belied the image of the ax and matchbox wielding peasants.
For three years (January, 1985 to January, 1988) I
lived in the Amazonian town of Humaitd on the Madeira River, among both newcomers and caboclos. The new roads were the
domain of the new settlers from the South and Northeast, while the caboclos continued to rule the beiradgo, or riverbanks. My church-related duties naturally involved extensive travels, along the colonization roads with newcomers, and on rivers with caboclos.
The newcomers tended to disparage caboclos, considering them lazy, unambitious, the principal obstacle to progress. However, occasional visits along highway settlements revealed that the most successful immigrant family farmers were those who maintained a steady dialogue with the local populations, and learned their techniques, especially those related to tree cultivation.
From 1985 to 1988, the population along the rivers
declined, to the alarm of Humait 's leaders, since the citybound caboclos reduced food production for urban areas. But several river communities defied this trend. Most successful communities were located within a short distance of HumaitA, and their inhabitants were open to absorbing new information and introducing new crops. Although vegetables for the urban market in Humaitd supplied much of the cash income, all successful communities were also actively involved in planting and managing a wide variety of regional tree species. Successful communities also had a considerable degree of cohesiveness and community organization, although all experienced varying degrees of internal dissension.
In 1988 I returned to Bel~m. Because of its
accessibility, the Bragantina became the focus of weekend and vacation travels. In collaboration with Amazonian folklorist Arar& Bezerra I travelled to communities along the coast to collect unpublished folk tales. And I began regular visits to Santa Maria de Ubintuba, a community I had last seen in 1972. The Bragantina communities were at various stages of prosperity or decline. The ones which were at least holding their own had a high community cohesiveness, often centered around a church with strong lay leadership, either a Catholic "Base Community" or a Protestant church. Ubintuba was the strongest of the communities observed in its degree of cohesion and selfperception as a community with sound economic prospects.
Methods and Organization of the Study
In 1991, with funding from the Tinker Foundation, I spent June, July, and part of August in Bel~m and the Bragantina. Much of the time was spent at the Municipal Library of Bel6m, and libraries, archives, or collections of the Goeldi Museum (MPEG), the Conselho Estadual de Cultura, and the Ndcleo de Altos Estudos Amaz6nicos (NAEA) of the Federal University of Par&. I concentrated on the history of Bragantina colonization, beginning in 1875. I also spent time in rural communities, especially Ubintuba. In preparing this thesis, I opted for a modified multi-
disciplinary focus on community's organization and use of natural resources.
In May and June of 1992 I visited research institutions such as the Instituto de Desenvolvimento Econ~mico-Social (IDESP) and the Brazilian Agro-Livestock Research Company's Center for Agro-Livestock Research in the Humid Tropics (EMBRAPA/CPATU), both in Bel~m. Most of the time, however, was spent in Ubintuba collecting data from family farms. I employed techniques used in Farming Systems Research and Extension (Hildebrand, 1986), considerably modified (and distorted) by limitations in personnel. Forming an interdisciplinary team of agronomists, anthropologists, biologists and other specialists for the "sondeo" rapid interviews of farmers of both sexes.and all ages was not possible. Instead, I had to act alone, as a generalist collecting a broad range of information, but lacking many Of the tools necessary for a more extensive analysis.
I sought information on the following topics:
* Land tenure and availability
* Techniques for traditional swidden agriculture
* Strategies for production of cash crops
* Tree planting and management, and community attitudes
towards the environment and natural resource use
* Fishing and hunting
* Brick-making and related activities (obtention of
clay and firewood
* Division of activities by gender and age
Local perspectives on community history and
Daily procedure was to pattern my activities around the community's actions, rising shortly after 5:00 a.m. to accompany farmers on their early rounds and observe their activities. By 10:00 much of the morning's work would be done, and farmers would seek shady areas to repair equipment, process crops, or have a mid-morning swim, and discuss their activities.
Mid-morning was also a time for forest extraction,
cutting wood and collecting fruits. I would select a forest area and observe vegetation and wildlife while listening for the sounds of axes or chain-saws. Homing in on the noise, I would interview the wood-cutter, finding out the species selected, how old the trees were, and their intended use. Mid-morning was also the best time to talk to workers making bricks.
After lunch, farmers might retire to sheds for more
maintenance and processing, or rest. By 3:00 p.m. many were out in the fields again. At 5:30, many of us would repair to a nearby creek, although the older residents preferred indoor showers, an innovation from early in the decade.
Evenings were time for the longest and most farreaching conversations. Around the table after supper, families were most disposed to talk about history, local politics, folklore, plant remedies, and the future of the community.
Data collecting on production in Ubintuba proved
extremely difficult, since farmers did not keep records of sales. However I was able to obtain some statistics on the production of the Municipality of Santo Ant~nio do Tau&, where Ubintuba is located, as well as agricultural production for Par& state, which allows some conclusions related to the relative importance of regions such as the Bragantina. Some recent statistics on tropical fruits also allow one to establish certain regional trends in tree planting.
Historical and contemporary data on the formation of the Amazon caboclo culture are a vital component of this study. Caboclos have traditionally formed the rural majority population in Brazilian Amazonia. They have evolved considerable skills in natural resource management, but throughout Brazilian history, they have not reaped adequate benefits from their extractive and agricultural benefits. Instead, regional, national, and international elites have obtained their production at low prices, and either stimulated the depletion of the resource base, or dropped world demands for Amazonian products, through cheaper substitutes or synthesized products. The results have been periodic extractive "booms," whose benefits only partially reached the caboclos, followed by declines which deprived them of needed income.
Communities such as Ubintuba, however, reveal that in some regions, some caboclo communities have organized themselves, and developed sophisticated strategies for producing a variety of market crops, as well as providing for their own subsistence. Furthermore, an analysis of tree technology in these communities reveals indigenously developed strategies that may be widely employed in reforestation projects for degraded tropical lands. An appraisal of the sustainability of a wide range of economic activities in Ubintuba, as well as patterns of community dissensions may indicate obstacles that must be faced in attempts to replicate models derived from the Ubintuba experience in other communities.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMAZONIAN AGRICULTURAL AND EXTRACTIVE
ACTIVITIES AND EVOLUTION OF AMAZONIAN COMMUNITIES
Phase 1 Before the Europeans
For much of the twentieth century there has been a generalized assumption that Amazonia cannot have been a propitious region for advanced cultures. With its poor tropical soils and unfavorable climatic conditions Amazonia was simply not the sort of region which could sustain a'high enough population density to permit extensive cultural development (Megggers, 1971).
According to this view, lowland South American tribes were subject to limiting environmental factors such as soil exhaustion, which imposed frequent relocations and precluded community stability (Steward and Faron, 1959). At the most, pre-contact indigenous populations were simple horticultural societies incapable of rivalling the great Andean civilizations in cultural and technological sophistication (Steward, 1949). Accounts by early Portuguese and Spanish explorers that described highly organized Indian societies on the Amazon floodplains (Carvajal, 1947) were dismissed as fabrications or gross exaggerations.
As scholars from Brazil and around the world became
increasingly involved in Amazonian studies, their researches began uncovering evidence of higher populations and greater cultural development than what had been previously accepted (Roosevelt, 1991). Excavations in Bolivia's Llanos de Mojos and sites in Venezuela's Orinoco region have unearthed evidence of extensive agricultural activities capable of sustaining large populations. In particular, excavations on Maraj6 Island in the Amazon estuary indicate a population utilizing sophisticated agricultural and resource management techniques to sustain a higher population than previously supposed.
Research indicates that pre-Contact Indian cultures
colonized almost the entire Amazbn region. In almost every location, scientists have found thin lines of carbon in the soil profile, formed during periods of probable human settlement (Terbrough, 1992). It is likely that very few areas of Amazonia are "virgin forest," but instead contain ecosystems influenced by human activity over long periods. Areas particularly rich in certain species, as for example the supposedly "natural" concentrations of Brazil nut trees or babaqu palms, in fact result from centuries of enrichment practices by native peoples (Anderson et al, 1991).
The various nations of the Tupi-Guarani language group dominant along the Atlantic coast of Brazil cultivated food plants such as manioc (Manihot esculenta), maize, peanuts,
capsicum peppers, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and pineapples
(Bal6e, 1992). Indian groups throughout South America
domesticated a wide variety of fruit and medicinal trees in house gardens, as well as deliberately increasing the concentration of desirable trees and shrubs in diverse forest and savanna ecosystems (Anderson and Posey, 1985). When they abandoned an area, Tupi-Guarani speaking Indians called it a tapera (Sodr6, 1971).
Throughout lowland South America, diverse Indian cultures planted fruit trees in plots used for manioc cultivation; when the land was left fallow or abandoned as a tapera, the trees continued to provide food, as well as attracting game animals (Orejuela, 1992). Fruit trees that would later be cultivated by caboclos, such as cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and cupuaqu (Theobroma grandiflorum) were transported outside their native ranges by travelling Indians (Smith, 1992). Indians also identified and either planted or collected a vast array of medicinal trees, vines, and shrubs (Buchillet, 1991). When the Europeans arrived in the Neotropics, they and especially those of their descendants produced from unions with Indian women, would inherit much of this tree lore.
Phase 2 Contact and Colonization
Upon their arrival in Brazil, the Portuguese embarked upon a series of activities directed towards exploiting the
new colony's plant and animal resources. Three years after Pedro Alvares Cabral "discovered" Brazil in 1500, the King of Portugal granted Fern&o de Noronha lessee rights for harvesting Brazil-wood, a source of red dye. This first expression of extractivism in the Brazilian economy was to set a pattern for later extractive practices: intense exploitation, which led to depletion of the resource base. Brazil-wood was severely over-harvested in its native coastal Brazil, where it occurred from the Northeast to Rio de Janeiro. Eventually, Brazil-wood dye was replaced by synthetic aniline dyes (Homma, 1990).
Along the coast, the Portuguese began replacing
extractive practices with plantation agriculture, where the labor of African slaves produced sugar and other commodities for export. In Amnazonia, however, their activities were to differ from the plantation model. The Portuguese did attempt sugar cane plantations with some localized successes near Bel~m. And Amazonia was actually the proving grounds for certain tree crops such as cacao (Wood, 1988) and coffee (MagalhAes, 1980) which were later produced much more successfully in Bahia and S&o Paulo. But in general, the Portuguese continued to employ extractive practices in Amuazonia long after they had ceased relying on such activities in the rest of Brazil.
Employing Indians knowledgeable in regional plant lore, the Portuguese organized expeditions to collect medicinal
and aromatic plants such as cacao, vanilla and other spices, oily seeds, and other products, the so-called drogas do sert~o (Moran, 1974). These were transported in large canoes rowed by Indian slaves, to warehouses in Bel~m, sometimes partially processed, and exported to Portugal. The colonizers also heavily utilized certain animals such as fur-bearing animals, manatees, and especially turtles. The egg-laying migrations of the giant Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis expansa) furnished the basis of a thriving industry, as collectors depleted entire beaches of freshlylaid turtle eggs year after year. The eggs yielded an oil used for illumination in the region and abroad, but the over-exploitation of this resource sharply reduced turtle stocks.
Although their activities depleted and sometimes
extirpated valuable plants and animals in many regions of Amazonia, the Portuguese did not always operate so destructively. They arrived in the New World with their own tradition of cultivating fruit trees, and their years of trading in tropical regions in Asia and Africa had familiarized them with numerous Asiatic fruits, which peoples such as the Malay had cultivated for centuries in their backyard plots and small gardens (Chin and Yong, 1985). In colonial Brazil, within a few years of their arrival, the Portuguese were planting trees in backyard gardens called quintais. Early quintais typically contained
cashew, guava, (Psidium guajava) jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) and various species of citrus (Hasse, 1987).
Phase 3 Development of Traditional Caboclo Communities
One of the immediate consequences of the Portuguese invasion of Amazonia was the elimination of most of the Indian cultures along the floodplains of the Amazon River. Indians were quite densely settled in these areas, with populations of up to 14 persons per square kilometer. Additionally, they were easily accessible to the water-borne Europeans who were eager to enslave them. Portuguese colonization in the Amazon from the beginning was almost exclusively along the major rivers, although expeditions from Sdo Paulo and Minas Gerais did make their way north to the Madeira and other Amazonian rivers mostly over land trails through Central Brazil. As an added incentive, the floodplains Indians occupied the most productive ecosystems and strategically placed settlements. Through introduced diseases, warfare, and enslavement, Indian populations dropped dramatically, especially near major rivers.
Despite widespread disappearances as distinct nations, the descendants of many Indians survived in a new form, as a group initially called tapuios. Through settlement in Catholic missions and through enforced labor activities that brought them into contact with colonial settlements, Indians became a subordinate component of the new Brazilian society.
There were frequent intermarriages with Europeans and African slaves, producing the racially mixed tapuios who would constitute the rural majority. They generally lost the use of their ancestral languages, replaced by lingua geral, a form of Tupi-Guarani used by Jesuits and other missionaries in their dealings with Indian groups. During much of the Colonial period, this was the lingua franca of the Brazilian interior. Although the use of lingua geral was outlawed by the Marquis of Pombal in his orders expelling the Jesuits from Brazil in 1757, (Parker, 1985) it remained the dominant language in large areas of Amazonia for more than a century. The Englishmen Henry Bates and Alfred Wallace respectively found it in common use on their travels in the 1850s and as late as 1899 (Galv&o, 1979).
Tupi-Guarani provided place names for countless
Brazilian cities, rivers, and mountains, (Sampaio, 1987) as well as the nomenclature for most of the fauna and flora of Brazil, especially in the Amazon region. Fish such as piranha, piramboia, pirarucu, piramutaba, and piracanjuba all reveal Tupi-Guarani origins. They are composed of the prefix pirA (fish) with a descriptive suffix such as anha (tooth, piranha the "tooth fish") or m'boia (snake, thus "piramboia" the South American lungfish Lepidosiren, aptly called "snake fish") (Masucci, 1979). Some names indicate hybrid Portuguese/Tupi origins; the lim&orana and cedrorana trees, for example, combine the Portuguese words for lemon
and cedar with the Tupi-Guarani suffix rana, meaning "similar to."
Along with an extensive vocabulary describing their
natural and supernatural worlds, the tapuios, later called caboclos inherited a wealth of knowledge about use and management of animal and plant resources. They continued to use the primeval practices of swidden agriculture and manipulation of fallow plots. Like the Indians, they tended to migrate periodically along the rivers. On the Tocantins river in the mid-nineteenth century, caboclo families even followed the ancient custom of annual migrations along the river to strategic sites to allow harvesting of resources such as Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) and other fruits, and for access to spawning fish (Bates, 1962).
The caboclos were not simply deculturateded Indians
with some Portuguese and African ancestry, however. Besides Catholicism, they also inherited from the Portuguese the system of ritual relationships known as compadrio. In this practice:
parents of a child invite a man and a woman to serve as sponsors at their child's baptism. The sponsors become godfather and godmother to the child, and the same rite
establishes a strong relationship not only between the godchild (afilhado) and its godparents (padrinhos) but
also between the parents of the child and the
godparents, who become comadres (co-mothers) and
compadres (co-fathers) to each other. This three-way
relationship-between godparents with their godchild,
between parents with their child, and between parents
with their godparents-is one of considerable importance
in most of Latin America.... Godparents accept
responsibility for the child materially and
spiritually.... The parents and their co-fathers and
co-mothers have, ideally, a relationship of mutual respect, of mutual aid, and of intimate friendship.
They help one another and lend financial and moral aid
to one another. (Wagley, 1964: 151)
The caboclo rural majority was involved in the regional economy, as collectors of river and forest products. They provided the labor for obtaining turtle eggs, animal skins and tropical forest products (drogas do sertAo), which they sold or bartered to traders, who in turn transported the products to urban centers. In return they obtained manufactured products such as textiles and metal implements.
When Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822, the Amazon region did not immediately adhere to the new nation. Ties to Portugal were close among the urban elite, but the Amazon was to a large degree-isolated from the rest of Brazil. The Province of GrAo Par&, which then included Par& and Amazonas, did not officially vote to incorporate itself into the Empire of Brazil until 11 months after independence (Muniz, 1973). The caboclos had little voice in this decision, but events would prove that they were far from passive spectators. After more than a decade of putative independence, resentment against continued Portuguese dominance in the economic and political life of Par& erupted into the revolt called the Cabanagem of 18351836. Although many of the leaders were of the urban elite, caboclos, blacks, and some Indian tribes from the lower Amazon and estuary provided the military force for the cabano rebels. Additionally, the Vinagre brothers, leaders
in the movement, were of a caboclo family from the Capim river near Belfm. Fransisco Vinagre in fact became Provincial President during the period of cabano control (Di Paolo, 1986). The Cabanagem devastated the Amazon region; estimates of fatalities have reached as high as 40,000 (Goodland and Irwin, 1975), although a figure of 30,000 out of a GrAo-Par& population of 130,000 (white, mixed, and African) is probably more accurate (Anderson, 1985).
Recovery from such losses to life and property was
slow, and the Amazon region underwent almost two decades of retrenchment. During this time, although Amazonian exports continued to reach world markets and the region imported manufactured goods, urban and rural populations relied on regionally obtained materials for many household and urban activities that would later depend on industrialized imports. From 1854 until 1864, for example, during a period of economic recovery, Bel~m utilized oil from the seeds of the andiroba tree (Carapa guianensis) to illuminate the city (Ximenes, 1992).
Phase 4 The Rubber Boom, and its Effects on Caboclos
The post-Cabanagem period of isolation and relative self-sufficiency ended during the second half of the nineteenth century. The Rubber Boom brought profound changes to Amazonia, and altered the lifestyle of the caboclos. When rubber prices and production increased
dramatically, the Amazon region, which still had not recovered from the loss of almost a quarter of its population, faced yet another severe labor shortage. Not only was the caboclo population insufficient in numbers, but a life dominated by rubber collecting and processing did not appeal to all of them. Many realized that devotion to rubber production would eliminate their self-sufficiency, by denying them the time and labor necessary for farming, fishing, and other subsistence activities (Castro, 1967).
The solution adopted by business leaders was to import workers from the impoverished Northeast region of Brazil. This process received an impetus from a series of devastating droughts that plagued the Northeast from 1877 until well into the 1880s. Recruiters passed through the region, promising abundant wealth along the rubber trails and respite from drought, and recruiting thousands of norcdestinos. The number of Northeasterners who were attracted to Amazonia is extremely difficult to calculate, but was considerable; in many areas, by the turn of the century they constituted an overwhelming majority of the population in some areas of the region (Weinstein, 1983).
The newcomers were required to live quite different lives from the caboclos. Taken to Bel~m or Manaus, they were then shipped to the rubber tapping areas, and placed in a seringal, or rubber-tapping estate. They began their lives in Amlazonia indebted to the seringal bosses for the
price of their passage. The business of collecting latex from scattered trees and smoking rubber consumed their time and energy, and as a result, most depended upon the bosses for food and supplies as well. The caboclo had proved inconveniently free; the newcomers were bound in the debt peonage system known as aviamento (Wagley, 1964: 93).
Some Northeasterners were reluctant to adapt to caboclo ways. A series of interviews with Northeastern immigrants brought to Amazonia to tap rubber during the Second World War, indicated that many of the newcomers felt imprisoned by the forests and rivers, and were appalled at having to travel by canoes instead of galloping around on horseback as in their native Northeast. Many abandoned the seringais and moved to cities like Manaus and Bel6m, where they rapidly constituted a significant segment of the population (Bechimol, 1977). Many others, however, adapted with greater alacrity to the new lifestyle of river cycles and transportation, learning fishing and hunting techniques as well as the uses of Amazonian plants and trees.
The Rubber Boom itself was ephemeral; the newcomers were to change Amazonia in permanent ways, although many returned to the Northeast, or died, without leaving issue. Few rubber tappers were allowed to bring their families, a situation that led to considerable masculine majorities in areas such as Acre, where in 1920 the ratio was 171 men to 100 women (Smith, 1946). As a result, many took cabocla
women as companions. The Rubber Boom and the Northeaster immigrants increased the economic and cultural "Brazilianization" of Amazonia. The influx of non-Tupi speakers helped displace the Tupi-based lingua geral as the common language of the interior. Northeastern influences also strengthened customs such as the system of extended families and alliances.
Phase 5 The End of the Rubber Boom and the Search for Substitutes
When rubber from British estates began to replace Amazonian wild rubber around 1910, the Amazon region received a severe impact. It is not accurate to state that after the Rubber Boom Amazonia went into a complete decline and suffered from a complete lack of attention until the military takeover of 1964. There were attempts to stimulate rubber cultivation by government agencies and by the Ford Motor Company, but the South American Leaf Blight Disease stymied plantation rubber in Amazonia (Dean, 1987). Meanwhile, regional industry and commerce coped as it could. While some entrepreneurs sought the key product which would produce the next boom, others derived their income from a succession or variety of products.
The collapse did not affect all segments of the
population equally. Although the large trading houses were devastated, some industrial activities prospered. During the Rubber Boom, several factories in Bel~m that utilized
regional food and fiber resources had been able to occupy niches that imported products could not fill. After the crash, the modest industrial sector in Par& actually expanded somewhat during the 1920s, producing articles such as cigarettes, hats, rope, ceramics and so on (Weinstein, 1983: 241). There is evidence that caboclo families with diversified economic activities suffered less than did inhabitants of the rubber-tapping seringais. And owners of large estates continued to derive a reduced income from rubber, supplemented by increased activities in extracting other forest products. Some seringais with low output of rubber because of exhausted or genetically poor trees actually prospered.
Throughout Amazonia, business leaders, traders, government officials, and scientists searched for replacements for rubber. When a new forest product was found, caboclo families set out to collect and sometimes process it. The result was sometimes a series of "boomlets" for particular products. The activities of a large seringal on the Jari River in the 1920s and 1930s offer examples of diversified resource use by Amazon rural peoples during the period (Lins, 1991: 67-71).
On this large property, Brazil nuts became the largest source of income. Management of castanhais (areas of a high density of Brazil nut trees) intensified, and involved controlled burns of understory vegetation. This lessened
the ravages of insect pests, especially grasshoppers, and increased visibility of the fallen nut pods. Rubber was still the second most important source of revenue. Besides the Hevea trees, latex of an inferior quality was also obtained from the magaranduba tree, (Manilkara huberi) although this involved cutting down the tree to extract the latex.
Other forest products made their way to Bel6m, mostly for local use in medicines and perfumes. The copalba tree (Copaifera guianensis) was tapped twice yearly for a medicinal oil by perforating the trunk. Andiroba seeds yielded medicinal oil, which could be extracted in the seringal to add value to the product. The casca preciosa tree (Aniba canellila), a relative of the rosewood tree, yielded a medicinal extract as well. The various medicinal oils were shipped to Bel6m, where they were usually sold to pharmacies such as the Farm&cia Beir&o, a firm which still utilizes traditional Amazonian products to manufacture a variety of medicines.
The Peruvian Amazon offers parallel evidence of a series of small cycles of forest products following the collapse of the Rubber Boom (Padoch et al, 1987: pp. 76-77). One of the first products was "vegetable ivory," carved from the seeds of the tagua palm (Phytelephos macrocarpa), and widely used for shirt buttons and ornaments. Synthetic substitutes led to a sharp decline in vegetable ivory after
1925. Various gums, such as balata (Manilkara bidentata) and leche caspi (Couma macrocarpa) were exported, but demand fell when estate planters in Asia found cheaper substitutes. The fish poison vine, barbasco (Lonchocarpus spp.), could be used to make a potent insecticide, and an American factory was established in Iquitos to process the extract. However, the development of DDT brought the Barbasco Boom to a close.
Padoch concludes that these cycles did not take root for the following basic reasons. First, the products were exported in large quantities and in unprocessed form, which left little wealth in the region. Second, availability of the raw material was not guaranteed. Third, cheaper substitutes (synthetic or plantation) were also found. And fourth, export and such manufacturing as did occur, were generally dominated by foreign interests, who departed when the activity was no longer profitable, leaving little expertise behind. An additional reason, the depletion of the animal or plant resource, has been noted as early as the Brazil wood cycle, as well as in activities making use of animal products.
The use of regional products in regional industry to develop regional Amazonian markets, as exemplified by pharmaceutical production in Belfm, indicates that in the Brazilian Amazon at least, some growth could be generated by the demand of the region's urban population for Amazonian medicines, perfumes, and foods. However, the search for
substitutes for an export-driven Empire of Rubber failed to bring sustained development, and often depleted the region's natural resources.
A new human component entered the Amazon region after the Rubber Boom, which was to have a significance disproportionate to its numbers. Japanese immigrants began arriving in Amnazonia in the 1920s. The largest and most successful colony was established in Tom6-Aqu near enough to Bel6m to make marketing viable (Subler and Uhl, 1990). The Japanese experience in Amazonia combined exchanges in information and technology with the caboclos. From them, Japanese farmers learned techniques for subsistence agriculture, and importantly, uses and methods for Amnazonian tree species. In turn, the Japanese introduced a wide variety of crops to the region, including vegetables such as cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, and large quantities of tomatoes for an urban market in Bel~m which was initially unaccustomed to consuming these products in such quantities. The Japanese also were responsible for intensified cultivation of cash crops such as black pepper.
More than products they have introduced or increased, two characteristics of Japanese colonists have proved especially instructive for those interested in studying the agricultural history of Amazonia with a view to refining and implementing programs. The first is their adaptability. The Japanese and their descendants have shown flexible
responses to constantly changing conditions in Amazonia, from the abrupt impact of diseases, such as fungal infestations of black pepper, to the unforeseen market demand for a particular product, such as certain tropical fruits (Barros, 1989). The other major contribution has been the innovative agroforestry practices in places like Tom6-Aqu, which hold considerable potential for Amazonia as a whole.
Phase 6 From Highways to the "Decade of Destruction"
Various government projects to integrate the Amazon region were launched after the Rubber Boom. President Getdlio Vargas (1930-1946, 1950-1954) attempted to stimulate development in the region. But the events that were to alter radically the lives of Amazonians began with the construction of the Bel~m-Brasilia Highway, and accelerated with the development activities stimulated by the military, after the coup in 1964.
Riding a wave of national self-confidence stimulated by the "Brazilian Miracle" of economic expansion, and armed with sweeping decree powers, Brazil's military governments began ambitious programs to open the Amazon for colonization. An additional motivation was to use the region for settling impoverished Northeasterners victimized by another series of droughts in 1970, and as an escape valve to alleviate land tensions all over a country with an
extremely concentrated landholding structure. Rather than follow through on early promises to promote significant land reform throughout Brazil, the government advertised Amazonia as "a land without men for men without land." Early warnings (Camargo, 1948) about the need to concentrate crop production along floodplain (v&rzea) areas, while utilizing nutrient-poor upland terra firme soils for multiple use tree plantations instead of swidden or other forms of annual agriculture were not sufficiently heeded.
Highway projects such as the Transamazon and the BR-364 which pushed to the western borders (Figure 2-1) opened up large areas for colonization projects whose agricultural production fell below expectations. And despite initial attempts to settle the landless in the Amazon, government policies after the disappointing results of the Transamazon, gave preferential incentives for ranchers and other large landowners to invest in the region. The result was the replication in Amazonia of the highly distorted landholding system prevalent in other parts of Brazil, especially the Northeast (Wood, 1983).
By 1975, only 0.8% of Amazonia's rural establishments extended over more than 1000 hectares, but these properties accounted for 43% of privately owned land in Amazonia, while the 52% of rural properties with under 10 hectares in area held only 3% of the region's lands. The Gini coefficient for land concentration, which measures social inequalities,
rose from 0.842 from 1950-60, to 0.844 in 1970, and reached
0.855 by 1975. Pioneer areas of the Amazon shared the highest indices of land inequality with the Northeast (Fearnside, 1985). In the 1980s, with the "Brazilian Miracle" ended, the government under increasing pressure to return power to civilians, and worldwide publicity hammering Brazil to alter its destructive environmental policies, a sobered nation was reconsidering its priorities for Amazonia, and increasingly debating the need to balance development with preservation of natural resources.
Phase 7 The "Greeningi" of-Amazonia and the Search for
Sustainability 1980s to Present
It is extremely difficult to determine at what point environmental concerns became consequential in Brazil's thinking about its vast Amazonian holdings.
Certainly expressions of legislative concern for
environmental protection reflected in protective laws were not new. Decrees of the Portuguese Crown sought to preserve threatened areas such as Brazilian mangrove forests as early as 1760 (Brandao, 1988). In this century the Vargas dictatorship issued a Forest Code (Decree Number 23793 of January 23, 1934). 'The military government installed in 1964 amended this Code in 1965, and enacted sweeping bans against hunting with Law Number 5197 in 1967. Civilian governments have been even more active, and Article 225 of the civilian Federal Constitution of October 1988, spells
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out the right of the citizenry to a healthy environment, as well as declaring the Amazon Forest and other regions to be part of the National Heritage (IUCN: Protected Areas of the World, Volume 4, 1992).
Despite advanced legislation to protect the
environment, Brazil historically has not acted efficiently to enforce its environmental laws. And in 1992, IBAKA (The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, the federal environmental agency created in 1989) employed a mere 548 people to administer and manage 158,000 square kilometers of protected areas (which corresponded to one person per 29,000 hectares). Additionally many parks existed only on paper, and only 20% of the territory included in the protected areas was under some form of management (IUCN: p. 199).
Notwithstanding this weak official record, there are numerous hopeful signs that Brazilian society itself is rapidly growing much more environmentally conscious.
-Newspapers and magazines have regular environmental columns, and television networks schedule weekly environmental programs. More than 1,000 local environmental groups have arisen in the last decade. concerning this grassroots movement, Thomas E. Lovejoy of the Smithsonian Institute recently stated:
these environmental groups are a relatively new
phenomenon in a country that is still getting used to democracy. What is impressive is that there has been an explosion of new environmental groups and it keeps
going. There are 100 groups alone in the Brazilian
Amazon. Obviously, some of these groups are small and
very specialized, but the mere fact that they exist
says something about the change in Brazilian society.
(New York Times, June 2, 1992).
With environmental consciousness has come increased debate and numerous proposals for utilizing Amazonian resources sustainably. There have been repeated suggestions to intensify production in the floodplain vArzeas areas of the Amazon River. VArzea soils, enriched with organic material by annual flooding, could provide 1.5 million hectares of land suitable for rice cultivation (Pandolfo, 1992). The Amazon region is in some respects analogous to the Nile Valley, where a thin ribbon of rich land runs through a region otherwise inhospitable for agriculture. However, the very richness of the vArzea and its ecosystems is also vital for the environmental health of the region. Most of the region's fish species spend at least part of the rainy season in inundated areas, and many depend on and disperse seeds of a multitude of trees and plants (Goulding, 1980). An estimated 90% of the fish sold in the Manaus markets depend upon inundated areas (Vieira, 1993).
Given the region's agricultural limitations, many proposals exist for use of tree resources. Plantation forestry has strong financial support. Stands of cacao, rubber, palms, timber and fuelwood trees are defended as the most efficient means of supplying tropical wood and other needs (Spears, 1984), and there have been numerous large-
scale forestry projects in the region. However these plantations demand a degree of capitalization beyond the means of most rural Amazonian producers (Anderson et al, 1991). As a result, most forestry projects have been initiatives of large firms from outside Amazonia, a circumstance hardly likely to reduce the distortions in land concentration.
One program both fashionable and hotly debated is the
concept of extractive reserves. The expression (without any definition) appeared in Federal Law 6.938, of August 31, 1981. However, enabling legislation was only approved (after prolonged pressure by rubber tapper unions and international organizations) on January 30, 1990, with Decree 98.897, which defined extractive reserves as "territorial spaces destined for self-sustainable exploitation and conservation of renewable natural resources." (Colet&nea de Legislaq~o Ambiental, 1990). Reserves have so far been established for sustained production of rubber, Brazil nut, agal palm (Euterpe oleracea), and babaqu palm (Orbignya phalerata) (Anderson et al., 1991: 177).
Some proponents of extractive activities argue that harvesting latex and edible fruits can be much more lucrative than logging (Peters et al., 1989). Others counter, "Were this but true! Logging is and will continue to be profitable long after markets are saturated with
little-known fruits and hats made from bark." (Putz, 1992). Besides the difficulties in marketing obscure products, there are critical obstacles to achieving the volume of well-known products demanded by world markets from nondomesticated plants in their natural surroundings. One example--seed output among wild trees--varies strongly among and between years (Janzen and Vazquez-Yanes, 1991), and often among trees of the same species in the same tract of forest. Because of low production volume from rainforest trees for example, the M&M Mars candy company, would utilize the entire annual production of the Brazil nut shelling plant in Xapuri, Acre, in a single eight-hour shift (Global Biodiversity Strategy, 1992).
Ironically, the removal of original rainforest cover in certain areas of Amazonia may provide the land and even the trees required for sustainable resource management, if adequate techniques can be found to utilize the varying stages of secondary growth that return after deforestation. Brazilians use the Tupi-Guarani term capoeira to designate this secondary growth, and distinguish the stages in which it returns: capoeira rala, "thin" vegetation composed of shrubs and small trees, capoeira grossa, which contains sizable trees, and capoeir&o, old and dense secondary growth, often very similar in appearance to the original forest (Moreira, 1992). The rate of secondary growth return and species composition of the stages of capoeira
will depend upon numerous factors, among them use and length of the cleared land. Often the same area of secondary growth will exhibit different phases of regrowth, where scattered or clumped older and more fire-resistant trees tower over the newer vegetation (Figures 2.2 and 2.3).
Secondary forests hold enormous potential. Their sheer area merits attention; secondary forests worldwide in the tropics cover nine million square kilometers, almost double the size of the Amazon basin (Wadsworth, 1984). Compared to "virgin" rainforest (much of which is in fact, centuries old secondary growth), secondary forests are more accessible, more easily managed, and more resilient (Gliessman et al., 1981). They are actively exploited by rural peoples in the tropics for home and market uses.(Altieri, 1983).
The percentage of useful plant species may be higher in secondary forests than in primary cover (JaCobs, 1988). A survey of medicinal plants in an Indian village in the Madeira river valley showed that many of the medicines used came from plants, shrubs, and small trees of the type occurring in secondary growth (Di Stasi et al., 1989). Of folk remedies used by colonists on the Transamazon, forest trees and vines provided 18% of the medicines, while 15% came from secondary growth (Smith, 1982).
Caboclos and the Intensive Colonization Movements
The caboclos had not greatly benefitted from events
such as the Rubber Boom, but it can be argued in some cases they had suffered less from the failure than had the urban elites. They had proved far more resilient to regional changes than had their Indian predecessors.
But colonization in the 1970s and 80s brought dizzying changes: roads threatening to replace rivers, landscape alterations--with forest yielding to pasture--and the resulting loss of the trees that had sustained traditional extractivism, and increased pressures on fisheries, their chief source of animal protein. In some communities, especially those near the new roads, the sheer volume of immigrants from outside was overwhelming. In the ParA community of Sdo Felix do Xingu, in 1978, 68.8% of the inhabitants were born in Amazonia; by 1984, the number had fallen to 43.6% (Schmink and Wood, 1992).
Caboclos were often invisible to planners, and to
international environmental activists. When the Brazilian government began building the Tucurul Dam on the Tocantins River in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was an international outcry because certain Indian areas were to be flooded. However, considerably less attention was paid to a much larger population, the thousands of caboclos living on islands and riverbanks downstream, although the environmental effects of the dam devastated their fishing,
Figure 2.2. Capoeira landscape in Ubintuba. This area of secondary growth is 5-8 years old, but the taller trees in the background survived fires from previous stages.
Figure 2-3. Area of 15-20 year old secondary growth along one of the Ubintuba feeder roads. A plot next to the road has been slashed and is drying before being burned and cleared to plant manioc (Manihot esculenta).
their agriculture and silviculture, and even their health (Magee, 1990).
The life and death of Chico Mendes made people aware that there were other traditional dwellers of the forest besides Indians. But not all caboclos are rubber tappers, nor are they all "Peoples of the Forest." Many rural farmers benefitted from government extension agency programs and produced vegetables for the expanding urban markets of the region, although the programs worked best for farmers living near cities and near agency posts (Fearnside, 1985: p. 405). Despite the difficulties in obtaining statistics, studies indicate that many communities were also prospering by producing regional fruits for market. In the Peruvian community of Tamshiyacu, near Iquitos, ribereho families derived an estimated 63% of their income from sales of fruit (Padoch et al., 1987: p. 91). Many caboclos were in fact, "Peoples of the Capoeira," and were utilizing tree products and other resources obtained from secondary growth in varied and creative ways.
THE BRAGANTINA COLONIZATION "FAILURE" AND ITS LESSONS
The Brazilian and international academic communities largely have bypassed the coastal zone of Par& (Hebette, 1992). Composed of the Salgado and the adjacent Bragantina regions (considered in this text as one region, due to a shared history and culture), its dimensions are modest by Amazonian standards, 3.23% of the land area of the state of Par& (ParA Desenvolvimento: Amaz8nia Eco-Vis6es, 1992). And the effects of land clearing and displacement of native peoples are now well in the past. Instead, academic research has tended to follow the more spectacular developments of the last twenty or thirty years in the newer frontiers opened by highways in southern Par&, Acre, and similar places. When the Salgado/Bragantina does receive mention it is often dismissed as a failure of conventional Western agriculture which devastated thousands of acres of rainforest to little purpose (Sterling, 1973). Books advocating activist measures to preserve rainforests may occasionally mention the Bragantina, usually in terms such as these:
In the early 1900s, Brazil built a railroad into a
portion of its vast forest in an effort to encourage 47
settlement there. More than 11,000 square miles of
Amazonia were stripped of forest in an effort to grow crops. The experiment didn't work, and today the area
remains a desolate scrubland (Caplan, 1990).
The classic study on the colonization process and its effects on vegetation and soils was produced by Penteado (1967). Studies of communities in the region (Figure 3-1) often focus on coastal fishing communities. This is geographically logical; after all, the name "Salgado" refers to the reach of salt water tides in the coastal estuaries and rivers of Par&, and the Salgado/Bragantina provides most of the fish catch for the capital city of Bel~m (AnuArio Estatistico do Estado do Par&, 1990 Volume 11, Tomo 2). Loureiro (1982) observed the social and working relations of fishing families in the town of Vigia. Furtado (1987) looked at the activities of net and trap fishers in MarudA.
Much less work has been done on the more recent history of the region's agricultural communities and production, although it is in this sphere that the Bragantina deserves special attention. In sharp contrast with other regions of Amazonia, and much of Brazil itself, with their highly distorted land ownership patterns, the Bragantina has a much more peaceful tradition of small rural properties. Its Gini coefficient for land tenure concentration (0.28) differs markedly from the high levels (0.86) in nearby Tocantins and Maranhio (Fearnside, 1985: p 409).
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History, 1600 1908
Some of the communities in the Salgado and Bragantina have an ancient history in terms of European settlement. There was an early Portuguese settlement in Vigia in 1613, and the town of Braganga can trace its roots back to 1622 (Muniz, 1973, p. 427). Settlements along this coastal region began as forts, in the successful Portuguese attempt to keep the English, Dutch, and French from gaining a toehold on the coast. There are records of attempts by Catholic missionary orders to preserve Indians from slave traders by bringing them into protected villages along the coast (Furtado, 1987: p. 59). Records on Indian populations are scant, but indicate a predominance of chieftainships of the Tupi-Guarani language group (Loureiro, 1985: p. 33).
As was usually the case, these Indian groups were more or less constantly in conflict with one another. The French, Dutch, English, and Portuguese took advantage of this fragmentation. In a system of shifting alliances, Indians led by Portuguese officers and some soldiers, warred against Indians led by other Europeans. The battle for Amazonian supremacy saw the Portuguese expelling all their European competitors in a series of wars fought along the Bragantina coast and the Amazon estuary. The first of these confrontations, against the French and their Indian allies, involved expelling them from the coastal region of Maranhdo which adjoined the Bragantina. The process lasted only four
years, (1614-1618), but devastated the indigenous population. Campaigns in the coastal region against the coastal Tupinamb~s destroyed some 30,000 Indians living between Sao Luis and Bel6m (Gomes, 1988).
Despite its history of early coastal colonies, at the middle of the 19th century the inland regions between Bel~m and Braganga were "completely unpopulated" (Penteado, 1967: p. 106). The Indians were gone; the land lay open, but colonists were few. This contrasts with the history of colonization in the rest of Brazil, where until the twentieth century, almost all major cities were coastal. The reasons for this were largely geographical, related to the region's "extremely indented coastline, with over 35 major inlets and estuaries" (Scott and Carbonell, 1986) and the hydrology of the area's small rivers.
These rivers, though often impressively wide in their lower reaches, (the Zona do Salgado, or region of tidal influence) were short and shallow. Almost all flowed in the wrong direction, into the Atlantic instead of into the Amazon system. Thus the Portuguese, who followed the ancient Indian practice of using the rivers as vehicles for communication and transport could not use the Salgado rivers to connect with'the larger Amazon system. The best they could manage was a route that took them up the Guam& river from Bel6m, and then overland over a badly maintained trail to Maranhao (da Silva, 1981).
The town of Vigia had some advantage over other Salgado communities since it lay at the mouth of a river which connected it to the Atlantic, but also through an inland furo, a protected channel between the mainland and a nearby river island, to the Bay of Maraj6. This same furo connects with the Bituba River near the community of Ubintuba. One of the earliest schools in Par& was founded in Vigia in 1730 (Di Paolo, 1986: p. 31) and the town enjoyed some prosperity as a center for ocean fisheries which could transport their catch to Belfm through the largely storm-proof waters of the channel.
Ships that did wish to navigate the other Salgado rivers and channels had to face the formidable Salgado coast. Besides the highly indented coastline, the waters of the entire coastal area are extremely shallow; at low tide in most places one can walk out on the uncovered beaches for distances of one to several kilometers. At high tide constantly shifting sandbars abound. Therefore, most navigation gave the Salgado coast a wide berth, and such ships as did venture near the coast at Salinas did so to pick up a prhtico, an experienced pilot who would take the ship through the maze into Beldm harbor. The ship bringing Walter Bates to Amazonia in 1848 stopped at Salinas, giving the British naturalist his first glimpse of the Amazon rainforest, a Salgado rainforest, rising intact behind a thin belt of coastal vegetation. Bates never went ashore
there, because the coastal waters were so shallow at Salinas, that the ship could get no nearer than six miles to land (Bates, 1962: p. 6). Three and a half centuries of European intervention in South America had, after devastating the Bragantina's Indian population, left the lands inland of this coastal area almost entirely untouched.
The Rubber Boom brought settlement and growth to the
Salgado/Bragantina but in an entirely different manner from what occurred in the rest of Amazonia. As rubber exports increased in volume and value, leaders of the Province of Par& began to complain that the rush of workers to the seringais, the rubber-tapping areas, was stripping the province's agricultural-'work force. As a result leaders feared that the state would enter into an intolerable position of dependency on other regions of Brazil, and other countries (Anderson, 1976). Various proposals were put forth, most centering around utilizing the empty lands of the coast for agriculture. Apparently there was never any thought of utilizing the coastal lands for rubber tapping operations. Although rubber trees were and are found in the region, transportation was too difficult to allow competition with other seringais situated along the main rivers.
Until 1850, land ownership in Brazil had been
restricted to large, mostly hereditary proprietors. In an attempt to modernize the country's agricultural system, the
Empire of Brazil passed the 1850 "Law of the Land," which made it easier for smallholders to acquire land title (Hebette, 1992, p. 119). With this legislation, the government was able to attract European colonists to Southern Brazil. The Bragantina was the first region in Amazonian to benefit from the new system.
Timid attempts were made in 1858 to create agricultural colonies in the Bragantina area nearest Bel6m, using overland trails and the few Salgado rivers that flowed into the Amazon estuary as means of transportation (Penteado, 1967: p. 107) These half-hearted efforts failed and in 1879 the province embarked upon an ambitious colonization project.
Since the Bragantina could not be colonized and made viable by the use of the traditional river transportation, the government of Par& would bring the province into the modern age by building a railroad from Bel~m to Braganga. The Bragantina would become "the pantry of Bel~m." It should be noted that this was a provincial initiative; The Imperial, and later Republican central governments never had authority over any phase of the Bragantina project. And the enterprise was enmeshed in political controversy from the beginning. It began under the auspices of the Liberal Party then in power in Par&. The newspaper "A Constituig&o," of the opposition Conservative party gave only a lukewarm endorsement to a very popular project. "The projected
railroad will bring great advantages, if it represents the real costs, as it must represent them," the paper editorialized (A Constituig;o, January 29, 1883). A week later, the paper again raised suspicion of Liberal mismanagement, noting that "The company responsible for the project dozed for more than three years" (A Constituig;o, February 7, 1883).
Construction of the railroad began in 1883 (Figure 32). As it proceeded the state cut feeder roads into the jungle for colonies and towns which would have access by horse and wagon to the railroad. Since this was a "modern" project, colonization would need to be done by "modern" peoples. The government began a campaign to attract immigrants from Southern Europe and farther afield: France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Azores, and even China (Loureiro, 1992). Construction proceeded at varying paces, according to the priorities of successive provincial governments. The strategy of using European colonists was a failure early on. Most foreign immigrants were quickly disenchanted with their land plots and living conditions, and frequent attacks of smallpox and yellow fever (Penteado, 1967: p. 117). The government then turned to immigrants from the Brazilian Northeast, which at the time was suffering successive catastrophic droughts, and already supplying most of the labor for the Rubber Boom. The railroad reached Braganga in 1908, which indicates that
construction (under Liberal, Conservative, and later Republican state governments) had not gone at exactly a blazing speed. By then many of the Northeastern colonists had also given up. Thousands of hectares of tropical rainforest had been cut and mostly burnt. Erosion was becoming a problem, crop yields were falling, and much of the Bragantina had become dominated by varying stages of secondary growth. Even a colony of Japanese immigrants established by the "Nipponic Plantation Company of Brazil" in Castanhal was unsuccessful (Penteado, 1967: p. 18). The Bragantina project, according to many writers, should have given early warning that "Western" agriculture could not work in Amazonian soils. According to this view, the first "modern Western" colonization project in the Brazilian Amazon had ended in failure.
Or had it? That depends on how one defines failure or success. Certainly the natural system had suffered grievously from the removal of forest cover. The state had spent a fortune on the railroad project, and been rewarded with crop yields generally below expectations as well as numerous abandoned farms.
But if success meant making one area of the state serve as Pard's "pantry," allowing the rest of the state to be used mostly for extractive activities, the Bragantina met that objective. By the early 1900s state leaders and the press in Belfm were noting that the rapidly growing city's
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Figure 3-2: Colonization in the Bragantina, 1875-1914
Source: Penteado, A. R. Problems de Colonizagao e de Uso da Terra na Regido Bragantina do Estado do Par&
food supplies had been alleviated by production from the coastal area (Weinstein, 1983: p. 124). Figures from 1914 to 1918 indicate that the Bragantina was shipping more staple foods (more beans, corn, and rice, and roughly equal quantities of manioc flour) to Bel6m than the rest of the State of Par& (Tables 3-1 and 3-2).
As to the question of the success or failure of
"Western" agriculture in Amazonian soils, the Bragantina can offer little fuel for the debate. The European colonists, who it was hoped would bring new crops and teach new methods in the region, did not in fact employ more modern agricultural techniques for crop production. Instead they simply employed caboclo slash and burn practices, albeit in larger areas, to produce the traditional rice, corn, and manioc (Anderson, 1976: p. 81 ). Manioc, always a dependable staple for Indians and caboclos, was to be the most reliable crop for the newcomers as well. Besides commanding a guaranteed market in Belfm, it was less susceptible to pests in the field than rice or corn, as well as less vulnerable when stored for long periods as manioc flour (Egler, 1961).
Some writers blame failures on administrative problems in the state government and the administration of the railroad (Falesi, 1980). The various stages of colonization fell prey to the shifting strategies and priorities of successive state administrations, so that incoming governors
often refused to make good the previous administration's commitments to the colonists. Colonists also complained about the slow pace of railroad construction and the excessive tariffs charged for transporting produce (Anderson, 1976: p. 89). Soil erosion and exhaustion certainly contributed to problems with colonization in the Bragantina, but it should be remembered that due to political intrigues and delays, the railroad was not finished until just before the collapse of the Rubber Boom.
The Salgado/BraQantina since the Rubber Boom, 1908 to the Present
Evaluation of the success or failure of
Salgado/Bragantina project and its after effects does have one major advantage over attempts to gauge the results of activities elsewhere in Amazonia; the time frame is more than a century, rather than twenty or thirty years. The end of the Rubber Boom after 1912 led to further reductions in investments on the railroad but the region continued to be the pantry for Bel~m. It also began to diversify. Colonists began growing "malva," (Urena lobata) a fiber-bearing plant that produces well in poor soils (Penteado, 1967: p.170). Japanese immigrants, despite the early failure in Castanhal, settled in inland areas of the Bragantina and adjoining regions such as Tom6-Aqu where they introduced black pepper and intensive cultivation of vegetables (Barros, 1990: p. 50). The Archbishop of Bel~m,
Dom Ant~nio de Almeida Lustosa visited the Japanese colonists in 1933, and was impressed by the quantities of vegetables shipped weekly to Belfm (Lustosa, 1973).
Construction of feeder roads continued after completion of the railroad. Archbishop Lustosa travelled on the road cut from Santa Isabel to Vigia in 1928 in a perpendicular direction from the railroad (Lustosa, 1973: p. 69). This system of feeder roads from the main route would later be used in the vicinal system of the TransAmazon. Lustosa also noted the large number of sawmills throughout the Salgado/Bragantina and repeatedly lamented the predatory pace of extraction. He predicted, with complete accuracy, that valuable hardwood species would largely be extirpated in the region if no efforts were made at preservation and replanting.
In the late 1950s and early 60s the state of Par& began another phase of opening feeder roads throughout the Bragantina region. This would hardly have been undertaken in an area that was a failure in terms of agriculture. In fact, at mid-century, the Bragantina was still the state's most vital agricultural region, in the production of food, fruit, and cash crops (Tables 3-3 and 3-4).
Today, even with colonization efforts occurring in
other areas of Par&, notably in the southern and central regions along the Bel~m-Brasilia and Transamazon Highways, the Bragantina still exercises a vital role in the life of
Table 3-1: Agricultural Products Transported to Bel~m on
the Bel6m-Bragantina Railroad, 1914-1916,
1918 in Kilograms
PRODUCT 1914 1915 1916 1918
Beans 318,951 204,770 322,818 812,633
Corn 1,823,283 3,609,353 5,226,544 6,356,941
Manioc 8,248,177 11,328,504 15,438,271 13,922,522
Rice 413,540 1,032,804 1,085,117 2,191,197
Fruits 598,948 519,350 408,097 310,934
Source: Weinstein, B. The Amazon Rubber Boom: 1850-1920
Table 3-2: Agricultural Products Shipped to Belfm from the Interior of Par&, 1912-1914, 1917 (Excluding
PRODUCT 1912 1913 1914 1917
Beans 14,520 117,480 65,922 504,423
Corn 43,625 166,386 132,064 1,009,946
Manioc 3,365,304 4,873,524 11,250,915 16,124,904
Rice 510 3,760 53,314 761,399
Source: Weinstein, B. The Amazon Rubber Boom: 1850-1920
the state. With 3% of the state's land surface, it contained 15% of its population, and produced almost 25% of its manioc and beans in 1988, according to statistics of the Institute for Social and Economic Progress of Par&, IDESP. The region is highly diversified as well, and a major source of vegetables, fruits, and poultry, although a minor ranching region, probably due to the prevalence of small properties (Tables 3-5 and 3-6). Thus, despite all the population movements and transformations of the 1970s and the 1980s, Par& continues to depend heavily on the small Bragantina region.
Percentages of State of Pard Agricultural
Production Originating in the Bragantina, 1949
Table 3-3: Food Production in the Bragantina in 1949,
and Percentage of Total State Production
CROP Production (metric tons) % of State
Rice 17,603 41.2
Manioc 162,369 47.4
Corn 16,298 44.5
Source: Penteado, A.R. Problemas de Coloniza9&o e de Uso da Terra na Regilo Bragantina do Estado do Par&, 1967.
Table 3-4: Production of Fruits and Cash Crops in the
Bragantina in 1949 and Percentage of Total
PRODUCT Production % of State
Fruits (in hundreds)
Coconut 16,397 35.6
Oranges 131,846 24.2
Avocado 7,572 30.4
Guava 10,274 20.0
Cash Crops (in metric tons) Sugar Cane 2,596 30.1
Tobacco 3,888 76.0
Cotton 601 50.0
Source: Penteado, A.R. Problemas de Colonizaqdo e de Uso da Terra na Reci&o Braaantina do Estado do Par&, 1967.
Current Production Figures for the Bragantina
Table 3-5: Food Production (Staple Crops and Selected
Vegetables and Fruits) in the Bragantina in
1988, and Percentage of Total State
CROP Production (metric tons) %
Beans 5,627 24.2
Manioc 457,740 23.9
Corn 13,124 4.3
Rice 12,971 6.6
CROP Production %
Avocado 3,880 (thousand fruits) 28.3
Dend& Palm 41,074 (metric tons) 33.3
Papaya 55,732 (metric tons) 78.1
*Lettuce 169,610 (kilograms) 82.2
*Bel6m market only
Source: Instituto do Desenvolvimento Econ6mico-Social do
Par&: Anutrio Estatistico do Estado do Par&,
Volume 11, Tomo 2, 1990
Table 3-6: Chicken and Cattle Production in the
Bragantina in 1988, and Percentage of Total State Production
ANIMAL Number %
Chickens 1,468,694 27.8
Cattle 1,487 (slaughtered) 2.2
Source: Instituto do Desenvolvimento Econ8mico-Social do
Par6: Anubrio Estatistico do Estado do Par&,
Volume 11, Tomo 2, 1990
UBINTUBA: THE EVOLUTION OF A COMMUNITY AND ITS RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Location and Description
The community of Santa Maria de Ubintuba is located roughly 50 kilometers northeast of Belfm, in the Municipality of Santo Ant~nio do Tau& (Figures 4-1 and 4-2). Ubintuba belongs to the Salgado region, both officially, as a Municipality classified in that micro-region, and in the popular geographical definition of the term, as a region where the tidal rivers can be discerned as salty or brackish at least during the dry season.
Soils in the region can be generally classed as Yellow Latosols, with some areas of Concretionary and Podsols (Par& Desenvolvimento, 1992: p. 76), though very little soil testing has been done in most of the Salgado. The only remnants of the original forest cover lie along the area's igarap~s (creeks) and rivers. The least disturbed ecosystems are the mangrove swamps and vArzea forests, although residents have utilized resources from these ecosystems from their earliest arrival. (In the Salgado region, "vArzea" does not mean seasonally inundated
Figure 4-1: Ubintuba and the Coast of Pard
Source: Moon, J. Searching for Sustainability: Community
organization and Resource Use in Ubintuba,
Brazilian Amazon. Slide Curriculum Unit No. 1,
Spring, 1993. Outreach Program, Center for Latin
American Studies, University of Florida.
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Figure 4-2: The Community of Ubintuba and Component
I Source: Ministry of the Army, 1984. (Adapted)
floodplain areas but refers to the tidally flooded forests along rivers and the lower stretches of creeks.) The remaining lands are occupied by varying stages of capoeira. Older stretches of secondary forest, called capoeirAo are increasingly rare, since most land is slashed and burned for agriculture in cycles of five to twelve years.
There are three important water courses in the area.
The Arauba and Jipuuba igarap~s (creeks) flow roughly north, becoming more tidal as they near and eventually enter the Bituba River. The Arauba and Jipuuba respectively provide recreational use and water for irrigation. The Bituba is typical of Salgado and Bragantina rivers; it is short, no more than 8 kilometers in length, although wide (30-60 meters) for its length, and markedly tidal. However, the Bituba does not enter the Atlantic, but instead empties into the Laura, which then leads to the estuarine Bay of Maraj6. Before the arrival of roads in Ubintuba, the Bituba provided the main route of transportation for the community. It is also the major source of fish and crustaceans for Ubintuba and other communities.
Three of the boundaries of this community and its
Resident's Association (the community organization which holds title to most land within the boundaries) are marked by these water courses. To the East the Arauba igarap6 separates the community from a large property owned by "the Japanese," and from Arauba, formerly a significant povoado
(village) of about 10-20 houses some 15 years ago, and now reduced to two families living in one of the larger areas of capoeirAo. To the West, the Jipuuba igarap6 marks the beginning of secondary growth used by the village of Trombetas. To the North lies the Bituba River, although residents actually living along its banks are usually not members of the association. The boundary to the south is the least defined, and the source of two land conflicts in recent years. According to land title documents, the association's jurisdiction extends to an area marked off by a straight line between the headwaters of the Arauba and Jipuuba, but this area has yet to be demarcated.
Ubintuba is actually made up of two povoados, or small villages; Santa Maria, with 53 houses, and EstAncia, with 50. There are another 15 houses set apart from or between the two villages. Exact population figures have been impossible to find, although residents estimate that there are some 800 inhabitants living within the 118 houses in the jurisdiction of the Residents' Association of Santa Maria de Ubintuba. Neither of the villages appears on maps of the area, nor does the word "Ubintuba," which is Tupi-Guarani for "place of abundant ubim palms," (probably Geonoma maxima) according to residents. Despite the lack of cartographical recognition, Ubintuba is recognized as a distinct community in the Municipality of Santo Ant~nio, although most people also distinguish between the villages.
All inhabitants are involved in agriculture. All
families produce manioc and some corn, all have a mix of fruit tree species around their houses, and most are involved to some extent in growing vegetables for the urban market in Bel6m. Commercial activity is limited to a few families in Est&ncia and Santa Maria who have small one-room stores in their houses, (Plano de Desenvolvimento Integrado Comunit~rio, 1990) though this is a sideline activity. Brick-making has been practiced as an important part-time source of income for over thirty years, and there are now three olarias, or brick-kilns in the community. In 1972 when I first visited the community, the area now occupied by the village of Est&ncia was then almost entirely covered by old secondary growth (capoeirao); and Santa Maria was nearer to the Bituba River. Since then the transformation of an old overland trail linking Ubintuba to the Santa IsabelVigia highway into a feeder road has attracted population towards the road. This led to the latest wave of deforestation, which turned capoeirAo into capoeira rala, thin secondary growth. When I returned in 1988, houses with their surrounding groves and some permanent cultivation had appeared along the feeder road.
In 1992 I interviewed older residents at Santa Maria, the remaining houses at the site of old Santa Maria, EstAncia, remaining houses in Arauba forest, and Santo Amaro on the Bituba River. From these interviews I assembled an
oral history which provides information on the various stages of land use the community has undergone since the turn of the century. Archbishop Lustosa's account mentions several trips made along the Bituba in the 1930s, and these provide corroboration for the oral history.
The community's history can be roughly divided into the following phases:
Phase 1 (Before 1900): The Earliest Settlers
No inhabitant of Ubintuba has any recollection of
Indians living in the area or encountered by their parents or grandparents. The Tupi-Guarani origin of the place name does not necessarily indicate Indian origin, since caboclos often remember some Tupi words and apply them to place names. Throughout the Bragantina one frequently encounters communities founded in this century with names ending in "tuba," "deua," or "teua." These Tupi words for abundance are still applied to new settlements.
There is written evidence to indicate a settlement on the Bituba in the early 18th Century. Fransisco Palheta, the Brazilian military officer and adventurer credited with smuggling coffee seeds out of French Guiana, established what has traditionally been considered Brazil's first coffee plantation on the Bituba in 1727 (Wrigley, 1988). Palheta received a sesmaria, or land grant for a property on what was then called the Ubituba river in 1709, and had the grant
confirmed in 1712 (Magalh~es, 1980, pp. 44-48). By 1733 besides the coffee, he had 3000 cacao trees planted. Palheta's main problem, as usual in the Amazon, was a shortage of manpower; he complained to the King of Portugal of a "great lack of servants," i.e. slaves. He had a few captive Indians, taken in expeditions in Western Amazonia, and requested permission to embark on another raid.
Because this information about Palheta was obtained in Gainesville after my last visit to Ubintuba, I have not yet had an opportunity to collect more information from archives in Brazil. The exact site of this historic but forgotten plantation may be recorded on the land grant documents or old maps. One may assume that Palheta settled on the left bank of the river nearer Bel6m, where settlement has always been more intense, and where the population remains concentrated today. Palheta's labor shortage and request for another slave raid seem to confirm that the Indian population had already been extirpated from the region.
A legend of buried treasure suggests that there was also population in the area during the first half of the 19th Century. Ubintuba residents tell of riches buried near the Bituba by the cabanos (in the nativist revolt of the 1830s), the location of which their ghosts occasionally reveal to people in dreams (while digging at the site, the searchers invariably become greedy and see the loot disappear before their eyes). Informants refer to the
cabanos as "a type of slave who rebelled long ago." Stories of buried cabano treasure are common in the older municipalities of Par&, and one of the more violent attacks of the Cabanagem revolt occurred in Vigia near Ubintuba (Anderson, 1985).
The Bituba connects with a channel leading to Vigia,
and some of the early inhabitants may have come from there. But for two reasons, it is more probable that the current residents of Ubintuba came mostly from downriver and the estuary region to the east. First, Ubintuba residents tend to enumerate their outside relatives as being from communities closer to the estuary than near Vigia. Additionally, a very significant number of them have the surname "Borralhos," "de Borralhos," or even "Borralhos de Borralhos." This ties them to the community of Sdo Raimundo de Borralhos downriver, whose inhabitants also commonly have that name. Informants in Santa Maria where the Borralhos name predominates state that it was the name of an important local family, often given to the numerous godchildren of this clan, as well as to the not infrequent children of doubtful parentage. The name indicates a long established social order and a process of settlement beginning from the estuary and moving upriver from the Bay of Maraj6 into the Laura and upriver to the Bituba. This river-based movement probably indicates that settlement along the Bituba did not come directly from the Bragantina colonization movements,
since these largely followed the overland routes of the railroad and feeder roads.
Phase 2 (1900-1942): Timber Boom on the Bituba
In June of 1992, I came across some riverside ruins at Santo Amaro that showed very solid masonry, with longer bricks than the ones used today. This indicated construction at an earlier period, probably during the Rubber Boom. Informants confirmed this, indicating that the ruins were those of a sawmill which had commenced operation in 1907, at which time there were already people living in the area. Since Santo Amaro is one of the few riverside sites where mangrove swamps do not impede access to terra firme, it would have been a logical place for colonization. One Santo Amaro resident, Totonho, the father-in-law of one 6f my chief Santa Maria informants, was the son of the sawmill foreman and Totonho himself had worked in various phases of the mill's operation.
He stated that the sawmill originally began by working with valuable hardwoods located near the river. The Portuguese owner of the operation discouraged settlement and farming by outsiders in the area, so that colonization proceeded at a slow pace, largely from people already living in the region. Boats took lumber to Vigia, and much more often to Bel6m. Rates of extraction near the river quickly outran the reproductive rate of the valuable species.
Archbishop Lustosa travelled the Laura furo and the Bituba in 1935, stopping at every community with a chapel (Lustosa, 1973: pp. 64-85). His accounts are the only published record located of the Bituba area in the twentieth century. He noted that a high proportion of the population was suffering from malaria. He also specifically mentioned the sawmill in Borralhos, today the only one remaining in the area, and the Santo Amaro operation now in ruins. The Archbishop recorded his persistent warning that hardwoods (madeira de lei, or madeira nobre) in the area had become extremely scarce, and that the Santo Amaro sawmill had been reduced to working with madeiras brancas, or "white woods" (Lustosa, 1973: p. 66). These softer woods are employed for box-making, coffins and some construction uses. Lustosa specifically mentioned that the Ubintuba sawmill was relying heavily on the following white wood species: Parapar& (Jacaranda copaia), Maruph, (Simaruba amara), and Morotot6 (Didymopanax morototoni). Ubintuba farmers still sell timber rights to stands of Marup& in secondary forest containing 15-25 year old specimens of this fast-growing tree.
Phase 3 (1942-1958): Forced Diversification
Totonho and other informants state that the sawmill
owner and sons expanded operations into the inland forests beginning in 1942 or 1943. They had timber roads cut into
the forest with the major route becoming what is today the Santo Ainaro-Santa Maria trail. This expansion may have coincided with World War II and the resulting difficulties in receiving tropical timbers from Southeast Asia. Despite these roads, population pressure moving inland continued to come primarily from inhabitants of the Bituba riverbank, especially since the Santo Ainaro area had now been stripped of most of its forest cover. Santo Amaro became regionally known for its manioc flour and charcoal.
By this time, the swidden agriculture/charcoal
production pattern which is still vital today was long entrenched. In this system of production the person slashing and burning a site has the right to all wood found on it. During the process of manioc planting and cultivation most farmers excavate trenches next to the planted field and fill them with dried or partially burnt wood. The trench is then covered with a clay shell containing two or more holes which can be stoppered or opened according to the phase of the combustion process (Figure 4-3). Charcoal made at agricultural sites is of course easier to transport than heavier green or dried wood. During the 1942-1958 phase and for some time afterwards, charcoal and manioc were mostly destined for Vigia by river.
Residents also recall that during this period there was a trade in minor forest products. To cite one product mentioned in interview, and whose uses will be noted for the
Figure 4-3: Charcoal production at swidden agriculture site, with wood derived from the site
remaining phases of land use, the area had a considerable number of "Jutai" trees, (genus Hymenea, probably Hymenea courbaril), which yields an aromatic resin then highly valued as a ceramic glaze. Called "jutaicica," the hard, fragrant amber-colored resin accumulates in large chunks on tree trunks and under the trees, as a result of the action of certain insects. This resin had various medicinal properties but was mostly used to fireproof ceramic cooking ware. It commanded a high price among potters in Vigia. The secondary and remaining primary forests yielded many other products used for medicinal, cosmetic and industrial purposes.
The houses at Santa Maria were in existence by this
period. However, the location of Santa Maria's houses and abandoned taperas indicates that another colonization movement coming through the mangrove swamps by a tidal creek upriver from the sawmill had already settled slightly west of the sawmill. The origins of the other habitation, EstAncia are more obscure. "Estancia" means "lumber yard" in the region, and older residents clearly remember the site as a place for loading timber for the sawmill. But almost all the houses seem to have originated in the 1970s.
Phase 4 (1958-1975): The End of the Sawmill and the Rise of the Dias Family
Totonho and other informants state that the sawmill
closed in 1958 and the owners moved its equipment to Macapd.
Most residents say that the reason was exhaustion of timber resources, although Totonho stated that administrative incompetence by the owner's family was another reason. The departure of the area's largest private landowner opened up new lands. However most colonization during this period again seems to have been motivated by the burgeoning population of the Ubintuba area itself. Outsiders arrived periodically it is true, mostly from other areas in the Salgado. A frequent pattern was for men from other areas to arrive, settle and marry into local families, a process which oral interviews show to have been happening constantly at least since the 1930s.
The departure of the sawmill did not mean a respite for the forest, for the sawmill downriver at Borralhos was still in business and logs merely had to be floated down the Bituba. But the economy moved further away from dependence on income generated by the shrinking supplies of timber. One result of the sawmill's departure was the rapid rise to prominence of the Dias family of Santa Maria, who had been in the area since around 1914. The Dias family built a large brick-making operation, (olaria), on the banks of the little tidal creek which seems to have been the earlier point of entry to Santa Maria (my first trip to Ubintuba was from Vigia, into the creek leading to this brick kiln). At high tide, boat loads of bricks were taken out to the Bituba and to Vigia, and sometimes to Bel~m. Other agricultural
and minor forest products were also exported by the same route.
During the 1950s and 1960s the State of Par& greatly expanded the network of feeder roads in the Salgado and Bragantina (Penteado, 1967: p. 161). This did not immediately have a direct impact on Ubintuba, which was not connected with the network, and continued to depend economically on water routes, especially to Vigia. But the economic and cultural changes in the Bragantina had a ripple effect. One result of improved transportation was an influx of industrially produced goods which supplanted certain products previously obtained locally. A case in point is the replacement of glazed ceramic cooking ware from Vigia by aluminum pots and pans. This not only led to the closing of some pottery works in Vigia, but also caused the devaluation bf the jutai resin used in the glazing process. Industrialized cooking oils, fibers, cosmetics and medicines replaced products derived locally from minor forest products.
The 1960s also brought a religious change to Ubintuba. Early in the decade, travelling Baptist evangelists from Vigia brought the new faith to Ubintuba. The Dias family discussed the new religion and most family members decided to adopt it. Within a few months of their conversion Manoel Dias, the current leader of the clan, and his wife were leaders of the local Baptist mission. This established a
pattern of local responsibility for church services and administration. There has never been a resident Baptist minister for any significant period; Ubintuba church members were accustomed from the beginning to administering their congregational affairs with little outside help. Expertise gained in organizational skills later made the Dias family and other Baptists the leading force in establishing and directing the community's cooperative activities. Phase 5 (1975-Present): From Rivers to Roads-Organization,
Prosperity, and Challenaes
Around 1975, the state finally widened and expanded the intermittent overland trail to Tracuateua da Ponta, creating a year-round road to the municipal seat of Santo Ant6nio do Tau& on the Santa Izabel-Vigia road (this road does not appear on the map in Figure 4-2, nor in more recent maps, which show roads going only as far as Tracuateua da Ponte.) The result was an immediate spurt of colonization along the new road. Since Est~ncia was nearer to Santo Ant6nio than Santa Maria, the new community boomed.
Expansion along the road led to the removal of many of the last remaining major stands of tall trees on terra firme, as colonists sold timber rights to the Borralhos sawmill then cleared the land for agriculture and residences. By the mid-1980s, Est~ncia and Santa Maria were almost mirror images of each other. Each consisted of houses mostly next to the road (Figure 4.4), each had a few
Figure 4-4: Houses in Estancia
small stores, and each had its own school and soccer field. A degree of underlying tension existed between the two villages, caused in part by longstanding misunderstandings between several families and an ancient and continuing suspicion that new projects might benefit one village more than the other. In spite of this tension, Est~ncia and Santa Maria developed a history of working together for common goals.
The Dias families continued their upward trajectory. The brick-making operation consistently generated profits and the families diversified their farming activities. They also spread out, so that there were family members in Santa Maria, Est~ncia, and halfway between the two where Manoel Dias built a large house in mid-1980s. The Baptist Church also left its original site at Santa Maria near the Dias brick kiln and moved to this strategic middle ground. The Dias were slow to use the new road for most of their transportation. This was not backwardness on their part, but convenience since they had boats and could ship their products to Vigia instead of paying freight costs on hired trucks. As late as 1989 they and many other Ubintuba residents continued to depend on river traffic to market most production. In the 1980s agents of EMATER, the Agricultural Extension agency of the Federal Government, began programs of regular visits to Ubintuba. They encouraged farmers to plant vegetables for the Bel6m market,
and found a ready audience with considerable knowledge of vegetable growing techniques. Many Ubintuba residents had worked on farms of the descendants of Japanese colonists scattered throughout the Bragantina. In fact, some still periodically aid the japoneses in various stages of their gardening activities.
EMATER agents also encouraged the use of pesticides and fertilizers. A significant source of cheap fertilizer appeared in the 1970s, when the neighboring municipality of Santa Izabel experienced a dramatic expansion in chicken production, with a proliferation of specialized farms. Chicken manure, mixed with wood shavings from regional sawmills was cheap and convenient.
The municipalities of Santa Izabel and Santo Ant8nio do Tau& became major suppliers of vegetables, certain fruits, and of course, chickens and eggs for Bel~m's markets (Table 4-1). However, in Ubintuba at least, EMATER tree planting proposals favored planting single-species groves with regular applications of chemicals and fertilizers, techniques considerably at variance with traditional caboclo practices, and hence not often adopted.
In 1987, Ubintuba embarked on another phase of
community life, when residents organized the AssociagAo de Moradores do Povoado de Santa Maria de Ubintuba, their residents' association. In this process, the Baptist Church played a decisive role, especially considering that less
than 10% of the community were members of the church. Manoel Dias was elected founding president of the association, and other church members held vital posts. The Baptists were the only organization in the area who were accustomed to carrying out regular activities throughout the year. Years of organizing impressive church anniversaries and Christmas pageants for which they invited, housed and fed people from the entire surrounding municipality had given them considerable logistical expertise. And years of administering their own affairs, with occasional workshops by visiting denominational workers had taught them how to write statutes, keep minutes and balance financial records. So important is this church's presence that association meetings are held on the fourth Sunday of every month in the Santa Maria school across the street from the church. On these days church leaders who also hold association posi+ appear briefly at the church service, then attend
the m, -ing across the street. Information passes between the two buildings and should a particularly interesting topic arise, members cut services short or cancel them to attend the contested meeting.
Ubintuba was not alone in organizing a residents' association during this period, nor were its statutes uniquely creative and efficacious. According to the EMATER delegate for the region, 12 of the 40 communities in the Santo Ant6nio do Tau& municipality organized similar
Table 4-1: Production of Selected Vegetables and Fruits
in the Municipalities of Santa Izabel and Santo
Ant6nio do Taud, and Share of Bel6m Market
(excluding imports from other states)
CROP Production (kilograms)
Cucumbers 235,881 59.9
Lettuce 169,359 82.3
Spinach 1,822 92.9
Cabbages 2,780 97.3
Turnips 355 100.0
Coconuts 14,590 7.5
Melons 55,045 26.9
Tangerines 33,614 64.9
Source: Instituto do Desenvolvimento Econ8mico-Social do
Par& Anudrio Estatistico do Estado do Par&,
Volume 11, Tomo 2
associations with very comparable statutes in the same year. However, five years after these associations appeared, only tUbintuba's continues to function year-round; the others meet sporadically to petition municipal or state authorities with specific requests, or to mobilize the vote for a political patron during the elections.
In contrast with this pattern of erratic activity by
most associations, Ubintuba consistently drove forward with its projects. The association was able to obtain title to most of the land that it claims. Through a series of intricate shifting alliances it supported left-wing legislators who repaid the favor with legal support in titling lands, and legislation favoring rural workers and associations. For governor and mayor however, the tendency has been to support p arty bosses of the more traditional class, who are considered to have more clout at delivering services such as electricity, school buildings and facilities for processing agricultural production.
The association's high water mark so far came in 1990, when with help from EHATER it obtained loans from the Bank of Brazil for three projects. The association bought the large Dias brick-making operation and purchased equipment to allow a considerable expansion in brick-making (Figure 4-6). Another loan purchased gardening equipment and a diesel pump installed on the Jipuuba to irrigate a community vegetable garden. The most important loan allowed the community to
purchase a truck (Figure 4-7). With their own transportation, members no longer depended on the marreteiros, the middlemen, who still dominate much of the commerce in agricultural and extractive products in Amazonia. It became possible to sell produce directly to markets in Bel6m, at higher prices than those obtained in Vigia. Proximity to a large urban center also provided markets for some forest products, such as the jutaicica resin, which was in demand for medicinal purposes and for Bel6m's growing ornamental ceramic industry.
Another landmark occasion for the community was the
arrival of electricity in May of 1991, four months after the inauguration of a governor for whom the community had voted overwhelmingly. Electricity meant more than the selfperception that "now we are a serious community," with television and even modern photovoltaic streetlights on concrete poles along the main road. Agriculture and brickmaking also benefitted, as residents used electricity to power small pumps for irrigation, and used electricity (not always hooked to the system in the most approved fashion) to power their clay presses.
With their own transportation and electricity, Ubintuba projected an upbeat atmosphere in 1991, at a time when agriculture in Amazonia presented a frequently bleak picture. Residents saw themselves as a fortunate exception to the prevailing economic malaise in Brazil. Despite some
Figure 4-5: The Association Olaria (Kiln)
Figure 4-6: The Association Truck
complaints about the administrative styles of association leaders, association members were optimistic about the continued success of the community.
An Ubintuba View of History
Residents of the area who are over 40 enjoy relating tales of the community. When they talk of how things have changed, accounts almost always conform to a set pattern. The following is a synthesis of accounts taken from areaborn residents of the Arauba forest, Est&ncia, Santa Maria, and Santo Amaro:
"When I -ame to understand myself as being a person, (Quando me entendi por gente, i.e. when I was 8-12 years old) there were few of us here, and all around us was mato (jungle). There was such a silence at night. It was lonesome and scary. And transportation was very difficult. You could only go by boat to most places, and almost everyone only had canoes with no motors. Some places you could go by horse or cart, but it was very dangerous. However you went, it might take days to reach Bel6m or even Vigia. There wasn't much you could work with in those days; only roqa (swidden agriculture) and fishing, and some people worked with timber. So people had no money.
"All around us was forest and enormous stretches of capoeirAo. It was sad sometimes, being alone. And when people became sick, they either got better here with the
medicines we had or died, because you could not get them out to a doctor."
At his point, informants jump thirty to forty years and reach the present:
"Now things have really changed. Now we have the
roads, and electricity, and we can get to town. You can leave for Bel6m on the 5:30 a.m. bus, do your shopping, and be back before dark. We can watch television in our houses. There are more people, so things aren't as lonely, and there are more ways to make money. And we have the truck, not only for our production, but it serves as an ambulance, so that when someone has a serious problem, we can take them to the hospital in Santa Izabel or even to Bel6m.
Having mentioned greater access to medical care, the informant almost invariably changes his or her tone and returns to the past:
"But you know, now there are more diseases that can kill you, like all these kinds of cancer. Back then, besides dying in accidents, there were only four diseases that could kill you: tuberculosis, strokes, leprosy, and pneumonia. Today there are many more, and when you do go to a hospital, it is often just to die.
"And you know, back then nobody stole things, like they do now. Back then people didn't steal your chickens, your canoes, rob things from your house when you were out in the fields. Now it's almost as dangerous here as in the city.
And people weren't as wicked back then as they are today. There was not all this fooling around, girls getting pregnant at 14 and 15, young men walking around without shirts, just wearing shorts and sandals. Back then, there was more respect."
The conversation then generally turns to changes in the area's environment and vegetation cover:
"Yes, back then there were some really beautiful
forests, mostly some very old capoeir6es. There were all kinds of trees then that are gone now or very rare: rosewood, acapu, pau amnarelo, many others. It was not as hot then as it is now, because the forest kept the air cooler. And there was much game back then, tapir, deer, peccaries, lots of monkeys. We had howler monkeys in the area until about 10-15 years ago."
These conversations reveal a consensus of opinion among the older residents concerning changes in the last three or four decades. They are glad of changes which brought improved transportation and economic opportunities, and which relieved them of the perceived boredom and loneliness of the older days. However, they bemoan the loss of days of safety, honesty, and community values. They are happy to have access to modern medical care, but consider that modern life has introduced a vast array of new diseases.
While glad to be free of the isolation and loneliness imposed by the forest, Ubintuba residents miss the old