Community organization and natural resource use in a rural Amazonian community

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Community organization and natural resource use in a rural Amazonian community Ubintuba, coastal region of Pará State, Brazil
Moon, John William
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vi, 207 leaves : ill., photos ; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Community organization -- Brazil -- Santa Maria de Ubintuba ( lcsh )
Natural resources -- Brazil -- Santa Maria de Ubintuba ( lcsh )
Latin American Studies thesis M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- Latin American Studies -- UF
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 195-206).
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Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
Statement of Responsibility:
by John William Moon.

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Full Text

COMMUNITY: Ubintuba, Coastal
Region of Pari State, Brazil

John William Moon
I ,2

Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida

/ \

/r f / J


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

ClAudio Padua, 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 Arar& Bezerra

Machado and his family, for more than fifteen years of

initiation into Amazonian life and lore, and to A.G.


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.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.................................. ii
ABSTRACT ................ ........................... vi


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

Background............................ ... 8
Methods and Organization of the Study........12

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

ITS LESSONS. .................................47

Introduction .................................47
History, 1600-1908..............................50
The Salgado/Bragantina Since the
Rubber Boom, 1908 to the Present...............56

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


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

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
Brick Making and Tree Resources............ 166

Introduction ......... ... ....... ........ .... 174
Recommendation.... .......................... 179
Take into Consideration the Caboclos
and their Contributions to Sustainable
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...................................207

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




April, 1994

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 Para State, offer

opportunities for study of a variety of land and resource


uses during an extended period. Data on agricultural

production in Pars 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 worldwide 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: sugar-

cane, 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 (Serrio

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 Amazonia 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

Amuesha 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

Estrategias,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 riberedos, counterparts

to the Brazilian caboclos (Padoch and De Jong 1992). In the

Brazilian Amazon, studies of highly profitable extractive

activities on Combu Island near Belem 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 loris, 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 Portuguese-

speaking Amazonians can total well over 300 species (Cid,


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).

S 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 mid-

1960s 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 Pard,

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 Rubber 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 Belem, 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


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 Bel6m-Brasilia

highway, the TransAmazon highway, Rond6nia and Acre, Mato

Grosso, and the "company towns" of projects such as Jari,

the old Ford plantations near Santar6m, 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 beiradao, 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 HumaitA's leaders, since the city-

bound 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 Bel6m. 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 self-

perception 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 Bel6m 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 Econ8mico-Social

(IDESP) and the Brazilian Agro-Livestock Research Company's

Center for Agro-Livestock Research in the Humid Tropics

(EMBRAPA/CPATU), both in Bel6m. 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
contemporary affairs

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


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 far-

reaching conversations. Around the table after supper,

families were most disposed to talk about history, local

politics, folklore, plant remedies, and the future of the


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 Ant8nio 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


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.


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


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 babagu 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 cupuagu (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 Amazonia, however, their activities were to

differ from the plantation model. The Portuguese did

attempt sugar cane plantations with some localized successes

near Bel6m. 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

Amazonia 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

sertao (Moran, 1974). These were transported in large

canoes rowed by Indian slaves, to warehouses in Bel4m,

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 freshly-

laid 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


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 Sao 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


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 Park 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 1835-

1836. 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 Belem. 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-Para 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, Bel6m 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

nordestinos. 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 Bel6m 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 Amazonia 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 Bel6m 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


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 Beirao, 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 Belem, 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 Amazonia in the 1920s. The largest and most

successful colony was established in Tom6-Acu 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 Amazonian

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 Bel6m 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 Bel6m-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 "Greening" of Amazonia and the Search for
Sustainabilitv 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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Figure 2-1: The Brazilian Amazon and major

Rodovibrio Brasil 1991. Scale: 1:12,300,000
Rodovibrio Brasil 1991. Scale: 1:12,300,000

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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, IBAMA (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


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." (Coletanea de Legislac&o Ambiental, 1990).

Reserves have so far been established for sustained

production of rubber, Brazil nut, agal palm (Euterpe

oleracea), and babagu 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 non-

domesticated 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 capoeirao, 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 Sao 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 Tucurui 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, riberefo

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 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


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 Bel6m (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

Maranhao (Fearnside, 1985: p 409).




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Figure 3-1: The Coastal Region, State of Pard

Source: Mapa Rodovidrio Pard 1986. Departamento Nacional
de Estradas de Rodagem

Scale: 1:2,250,000

-- '?"'

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 Maranh&o

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 Bel6m

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 Belem through the largely storm-proof waters of the


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 pr&tico, an experienced pilot who would take the

ship through the maze into Belem 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


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


Since the Bragantina could not be colonized and made

viable by the use of the traditional river transportation,

the government of Pars would bring the province into the

modern age by building a railroad from Bel6m to Braganga.

The Bragantina would become "the pantry of Bel6m." 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 Pard. 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 Constituiqco, 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 Constituicao,

February 7, 1883).

Construction of the railroad began in 1883 (Figure 3-

2). 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 Belem were noting that the rapidly growing city's

o0 5 30 45 60
Km JB75

1io d~ Bene8- (IBT7)



Benfi~co~ OColnia do Aped (i683


NJdeo Morop (18 95eo -Bn
L()CoAlo do Costobhol 1893) 1894)
ConiAr (188)

Ndkleo Nucleo Jambu-Acu 0895) roagonq
Sto Ro sa

Ndeto lonetoma (1899)

Nucleo onwgapi (1898)

2 Frniro Pne (t9W 4 Sa NRiW de Codm waS)
Niclo Morcad 1901-194
Igmop-Acu c nem BSmng;o
3 Nmdeo
AnhAnaw Aornndizodo Coponem
tLobb 0 a 9ricola

I MH'cIe AWnWAoO 2 dti o A v~f 3 Nro Ato S&o Lui

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 Pars (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 Belem, 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 Bel6m. 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-Agu where they

introduced black pepper and intensive cultivation of

vegetables (Barros, 1990: p. 50). The Archbishop of Bel6m,

Dom Ant6nio de Almeida Lustosa visited the Japanese

colonists in 1933, and was impressed by the quantities of

vegetables shipped weekly to Belem (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


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 Bel6m-Brasilia and Transamazon Highways,

the Bragantina still exercises a vital role in the life of

Table 3-1:

Agricultural Products Transported to Bel6m 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 Bel6m from
the Interior of Par&, 1912-1914, 1917 (Excluding
Bragantina Region)

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 Pars 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. Problems de Coloniza&co e de Uso
da Terra na Regiao BraQantina do Estado do Park, 1967.

Table 3-4:

Production of Fruits and Cash Crops in the
Bragantina in 1949 and Percentage of Total
State Production

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. Problems de Colonizacao e de Uso
da Terra na Recqio 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
Dend3 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&: Anuario 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 Econ6mico-Social do
Para: Anuario Estatistico do Estado do Par&,
Volume 11, Tomo 2, 1990


Location and Description

The community of Santa Maria de Ubintuba is located

roughly 50 kilometers northeast of Bel6m, in the

Municipality of Santo Ant6nio 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

igaraphs (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.
(Not drawn to scale)



.~ *~ Piquiat4ua
'16 ~ Arm~
~ <~-

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lio do Bituba
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Figure 4-2: The Community of Ubintuba and Component

Source: Ministry of the Army, 1984. (Adapted)
Scale: 1:100,000

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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 igarap6s (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 Antfnio,

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

ComunitArio, 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 Isabel-

Vigia 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 (Magalhaes, 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 Sao 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

df 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), Marupa, (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


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 Amaro-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 Amaro 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

e ~i; ~

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


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 Macap&.


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 Bel6m. Other agricultural

and minor forest products were also exported by the same


During the 1950s and 1960s the State of Para 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


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 Challenges

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 Estancia 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, Estancia 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, Estancia 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, Estancia, 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 Bel6m'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

posit ..- 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
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& AnuArio 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

Ubintuba'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 ,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 EMATER 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 self-

perception that "now we are a serious community," with

television and even modern photovoltaic streetlights on

concrete poles along the main road. Agriculture and brick-

making 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)


ire 4-: Te A i in r

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 area-

born residents of the Arauba forest, Est&ncia, Santa Maria,

and Santo Amaro:

"When I came 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 amarelo, 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