Economic strategies and changing environmental systems in a Brazilian Amazon community

Material Information

Economic strategies and changing environmental systems in a Brazilian Amazon community
Biery-Hamilton, Gay Maurene, 1955- ( Dissertant )
Schmink, Marianne ( Thesis advisor )
Doughty, Paul ( Reviewer )
Margolis, Maxine ( Reviewer )
Oliver-Smith, Tony ( Reviewer )
Viessman, Warren ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
xvii, 538 leaves; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural land ( jstor )
Boats ( jstor )
Dams ( jstor )
Fish ( jstor )
Fishers ( jstor )
Fishing ( jstor )
Nuts ( jstor )
Rubber ( jstor )
Sawmills ( jstor )
Towns ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis, Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
City of Gainesville ( local )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Brazil -- Pará -- Itupiranga


This study concerns culture change in a small riverine town, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil. There are crosscultural similarities in the transition toward capitalism among world areas. A majority of people in these regions lose access to the means of production—land and resources—in similar and violent processes of primitive accumulation. Like other third world countries which were impacted by colonialism, Brazil's process remains inhibited because of its historical and structural position in the world economy; the extent, nature and role of government intervention in Brazil; the continued presence of non-capitalist forms of production in the Amazon; and the resistance efforts of some social groups. Since 1970, but especially during the 1980s, the people of Itupiranga have experienced major changes in their physical and social environments caused by development projects and policies encouraged by the Brazilian government. The Transamazon Highway, the Tucurui Hydroelectric Dam, colonization projects and the influx of migrants, changes in land use and tenure, increased logging and the commercialization of fishing have all had a major impact on the environment as well as traditional life in Itupiranga. Conceptually, this dissertation explores how these developments altered local livelihoods. I examine how the environmental and social impacts of Brazil's development projects and policies caused the demise of economies once based upon resource extraction. The new productive economy focuses more on non-renewable resources. Furthermore, the need to make a profit or to generate cash constrains the abilities of individuals as part of social groups to practice their economic activities in environmentally sound ways. The development model initiated by the Brazilian government implicitly assumes and explicitly advertises the benefits of development for people in the Amazon region, as measured by their increasing standard of living. Although a few social groups benefited from the regional developments, they were in the minority. In fact, the standard of living for a majority of people in Itupiranga did not improve. The development projects and resulting changes in the physical and social environments constrained peoples' abilities to fulfill their basic needs in a self-reliant manner, hence, their lives became more insecure and precarious. Different social groups used different strategies to cope with the extensive changes in their lives that caused the increasing insecurity and poverty.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 522-537).
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Gay Maurene Biery-Hamilton.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
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34698135 ( OCLC )
AKR6605 ( NOTIS )


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Copyright 1994


Gay M. Biery-Hamilton

This dissertation is dedicated to Simone and all of the

other individuals in Itupiranga who have lost their lives

because of inadequate transportation facilities.


There are many people and institutions that I would

like to thank for their influence and participation in this

project. I would like to thank the Fulbright Commission,

under P.L. 87-256, the Mutual Educational and Cultural

Exchange Act of 1961, for their financial support for the

year I spent in Brazil from October 1989 to October 1990.

I am especially grateful for the warm reception by the

individuals in the Fulbright office in Brasilia during my

visit there in December 1989 and for other assistance while

I was in Brazil. Information for this dissertation also

comes from fieldwork undertaken during June through August

1986, funded by the Amazon Research and Training Program

through the Center for Latin American Studies at the

University of Florida. I would like to thank the Center for

Latin American Studies, the Department of Anthropology, the

Department of Environmental Engineering and the Graduate

School for office space, employment and logistical support

during my years as a graduate student at UF. It would have

been vastly more difficult or even impossible for me to have

completed this project without their assistance and that of

the Graduate Assistants United, whose perseverance gained

tuition waivers for research and teaching assistants at the

University of Florida during rough economic times.

I am grateful for the kind and courteous assistance

from the following institutions in Brazil: the Museu Goeldi,

NAEA at the Universidade Federal do Para, IDESP, IBGE,

SUDAM, Cacex, the Secretaria de Fazenda, the Casa da Cultura

in Maraba and Itupiranga, ELETRONORTE, IBAMA, the Comissao

Pastoral de Terra, C.A.T., and SUCAM in Belem and Marabd,

INCRA, the Secretaria de Industria Commercio e Mineracao,

and the Federacqo dos Pescadores. In Itupiranga, I would

like to thank municipal officials, the President of the

Sindicato dos Trabahadores de Itupiranga, elected officials

of the Col6nia dos Pescadores de Itupiranga, Movimento de

Educaqgo de Base, SUCAM, Grupo Ecologico de Itupiranga,

IMATE, SAGRI, and the Catholic Church. Special thanks to

Lourdes G. Furtado at the Museu Goeldi, Edna Castro, Jean

Heb6tte, and Lacio Flavio Pinto at NAEA, and Wolf D.

Hartmann at IBAMA in Belem.

I wish to give special recognition to my chairperson,

Marianne Schmink, for her help throughout the years of my

research and writing. She has many special abilities that

aid students in learning to conduct fieldwork, to analyze

data, and to write it all up. She also has the unique

aptitude to carry all of this out so that students feel good

about themselves in the process of critique. I would also

like to thank Paul Doughty, Maxine Margolis, Tony Oliver-

Smith and Warren Viessman, other members of my doctoral

committee, for their intellectual input, time, attention and

kindness. Bill Marquardt also deserves my gratitude and

recognition for his contributions during the final stages of

this process. Another scholar who deserves recognition is

Robert Lawless, for his theoretical influence throughout

many years of my graduate education. I would also like to

thank Jim Parks at UF NERDC for his invaluable and time-

consuming help in enabling me set up and obtain access to my

data and John Dixon at UF CIRCA for his assistance in

unraveling a few mysteries of SPSS-X. Charles H. Wood and

Jirimutu also have my gratitude for their help with computer


Lastly, I would like to thank my family and many

friends who have helped me through some difficult times, and

have enlivened this process. My mother, Glee Dudgeon Biery

has provided love, invaluable assistance and support

throughout this lengthy endeavor. Other family members who

have provided their love, friendship and support include:

John and Karen Biery, Dorothy Biery, Fred and Mari Hamilton,

Elizabeth and Fred Hamilton. I would also like to remember

my father, John C. Biery, who encouraged me to pay attention

to detail and set achievable goals. Many thanks to the

dissertation reading group, Vance Geiger, Kathleen Gladden,

Avecita Chicch6n and Richard Piland, for their intellectual

discussions and comments on several chapters. Other friends

who have added enjoyment as well as intellectual and

creative food for thought include Mandy Chevalier, Diego

Hay, Jackie Jeffery, Connie Campbell, David Forrest, Karen

Kraft, Jane Hutchcroft, Pennie Magee, John Dane and Karen

Kainer, Paul Monahan and Joan Flocks, Tara Boonstra, Gary

Schaeff, Susannah Neal, Joyce Dreyfus, Susan Cliett. My

eternal gratitude to Mark Bryant and Peggy Lovell who

visited me in the field.

I would also like to express my appreciation to

colleagues in Brazil, Igor Mousasticoshvily, Marilia Brasil

and Domingos Machado, who were most generous with their

friendship, hospitality and assistance. Miguel Petrere,

Donald Sawyer, Madeleine Bedran, Adalberto Verissimo, Rui

Morrieta, Chris and Nancy Uhl, and Timmons Roberts were also

most helpful and kind. Most of all I would like to express

my appreciation to the many people in Itupiranga who so

enriched my fieldwork experience. They are too numerous to

name, individually, and must remain anonymous in keeping

with anthropological tradition. However, my field

assistant, Maria de Lourdes Gomes da Silva deserves special

recognition. I could not have carried out the community

survey without her wonderful sense of humor, loyalty,

friendship and knowledge of the community.



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

LIST OF TABLES . . . . . .. . . . . x

ABSTRACT . . . . . . ... . . . . xiii


CAPITALISM . . . . . ... . . . .. 1

Introduction . . . . . . ... . .. 1
Non-capitalist Qualities in Amazon . . . .. .12
Aspects of the Amazonian Transition . . . .. .15
Some Reasons for an Incomplete Transition ... .18
Findings and Overview of Dissertation . . .. .43
Methodology . . . . . . . . ... .56

2 HISTORY OF ITUPIRANGA, 1892-1970 . . . .. .61

Introduction . . . . . . . . . 61
1892: Founding . . . . .. . . . 63
Rubber Extraction . . . . . . ... 68
Extraction of Brazil Nuts . . . . ... 75
Diamond Mining . . . . . ... . . 83
Subsistence Activities .......... . 88
The Relationship Between Lago Vermelho and
Marab . . . . . . . . . . . 91
Social Organization . . . . . . . . 96
Women's Activities . . . . . . ... 97
Conclusion . . . . . ... . . . 100

SPONSORED PROJECTS, 1970 TO 1990 . . .. .106

Introduction . . . . . . . . . 106
History of Land Tenure in Para . . . .. .107
Itupiranga During the 1970s: The Transamazon
Highway Era . . . . . . . . . 116
Conclusion . . . . . .. . . 150



Introduction .. . . . . . . . 162
The Dam's Impact on Longterm Residents of
Itupiranga . . . . . . . . 171
Middle Class . . . . . . . . . 176
Lower Class . . ... . . . . .. . 178
Lower Class Continued: The Case of Santa Teresa
do Tauiry . . . .... . . . 180
The Case of Former Jacunda Residents Who
Moved to Itupiranga ..... . . . . 183
Migrants . . . . .. . . . . . 190
Conclusion . . ... . . . . . . 199

5 ECONOMIC STRATEGIES IN 1990 . . . ... 214

Introduction . . . . . . . . . 214
Standard of Living . . ... . . . . 216
Conclusion . . ... . . . . . . 247

6 THE CHANGES IN FISHING . . ... . . 264

Introduction . . ... . . . . . . 264
Methodology . . . .. . . . . . 266
Traditional Fishing .... . . . . . 267
Incipient Capitalization of Fishing During
the 1980s . . . . ... . . . . 270
Demographic Characteristics of Fisherpersons
in 1990 . . . ... . . . . . . 296
Marketing of Fish . . . . ... . . 312
Perceptions About Fishing Since the Dam ... .323
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . 327


Introduction . . .. . . . . . . 351
Methodology . . . .. . . . . . 352
Owning a Sawmill . . . ... . . . . 354
Operations . . .. . . . . . . 362
Labor . . . . .... . . . . 371
Conclusion . . . .. . . . . . . 388


Introduction . . .. . . . . . . 402
Political Expression Against the Tucurui Dam 404
An Environmental Movement in Itupiranga ... .430
Daily Class Resentments and Struggles . . .. .471
Conclusion . . . . .... . . . 491

9 CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . .. 505

Introduction . . . . . . . .. . 505
The Transition and Its Impacts . . . .. .507
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Changing
Situation . . . . . . . . .. 513

LIST OF REFERENCES ................ .522

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . .538


table page

2-1 Extractive Production in Maraba, Para, Brazil,
1954 . . . . . .... .. . . . . 105

3-1 Brazil Nut Production in Itupiranga, Para, 1975-
1989 . . . . .... .. . . . . 154

3-2 Brazil Nut Production in MarabA Microregion,
Para, 1973-1989 . . . .... .. . . . 155

3-3 Timber, Lumber and Charcoal Production in
Itupiranga, 1975-1989 . . . . . .. 156

3-4 Production of Timber, Lumber and Charcoal in
MarabA Microregion, 1973-1989 . . . ... 157

4-1 Place of Birth of Itupiranga Residents, 1990 207

4-2 Place Where Head of Household Was Born, Raised,
Lived the Longest and Lived Immediately Before
Moving to Itupiranga, 1990 . . . . .. 208

4-3 Place Where Spouse Was Born, Raised, Lived the
Longest and Lived Immediately Before Moving to
Itupiranga, 1990 . . . .. . . . . 209

4-4 Amount of Time Head of Household and Spouse
Lived in Itupiranga Municipality, 1990 ... .210

4-5 Motivations for Migration to Itupiranga .... .211

4-6 Prices for Food and Other Goods in One Store in
Itupiranga, Para, January to December, 1990 . 212

4-7 Minimum Requirements for One Worker per Month,
and Costs for Those Requirements in Itupiranga,
Para, Brazil, February 15, 1990 . . . ... .213

5-1 Standard of Living Indicators by Ownership of
Land in 1990, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . .. .252

5-2 Comparing Standard of Living Among Households of
Fishermen with Different Access to the Means of
Production in 1990, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil 253

5-3 Comparing Standard of Living Among Households
Which Include Different Types of Rural Workers
in 1990, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . ... 254

5-4 Standard of Living Among Households Which
Include Different Types of Urban Workers in
1990, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . . ... .256

5-5 Standard of Living Among Households with Zero to
Seven Urban Workers in 1990, Itupiranga, Para,
Brazil. . . . . . . . . . 258

5-6 Standard of Living Among Households with Zero to
Seven Qualified Urban Workers in 1990,
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . . . . 259

5-7 Standard of Living Among Households with Zero to
Seven Qualified Urban Wage Workers in 1990,
Itupiranga, Para . . . . . . ... 260

5-8 Standard of Living Among Households with Zero to
Twelve Rural Workers in 1990, Itupiranga, Para 261

5-9 Standard of Living Among Households According to
State of Birth of Household head in 1990,
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . . . ... .262

5-10 Standard of Living Among Households According to
Length of Residence of Household Head in 1990,
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . . . . . 263

6-1 Month and Year Fishermen Became Members of the
Colonia dos Pescadores de Itupiranga (Z-44), per
records in December, 1989 . . . . .. 331

6-2 Legal Mesh Sizes (in centimeters) and the Type
of Fish Caught in Each Size According to
Fishermen, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil, 1990 . . 332

6-3 Fishing Net Mesh Sizes by Depth of Placement in
the Tucurui Reservoir, Para, Brazil, 1990 . . 333

6-4 Number of Kilos of Fish Sold to the Itupiranga
Fish Market from 1988 to 1992 . . . . .. .334

6-5 Type of Remuneration by Division of Labor,
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil, 1990 . . . ... .335

6-6 Social Relations of Production in Commercial
Fishing, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil, 1990 ... 336

6-7 Location of Sale of Fish by Fishermen,
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil, 1990 . . . .. .337

6-8 List of Fish Marketed in Itupiranga, Part,
Brazil 1990, by Common Name and Species ... 338

6-9 Number of Times Fish from Itupiranga Went to
Destination Per Month, 1988 . . . . . 339

6-10 Number of Times Fish from Itupiranga Went to
Destination Per Month, 1989 . . . ... 340

6-11 Amount of Times Fish from Itupiranga Went to
Destination Per Month, 1990 . . . . ... 341

6-12 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish from Colonia
per Month, 1988 . . . .... .. . . . 342

6-13 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish from Colonia
per Month, 1989 . . . . . . . . 343

6-14 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish from Colonia
per Month, 1990 . . . . .. . . . 344

6-15 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish, By
Destination, 1988 . . . ... . . . 345

6-16 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish For
Destination, 1989 . . . ... . . . 346

6-17 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish For
Destination, 1990 . . . . . . .. 348

6-18 Number of Times Buyers Bought Fish For
Destination, 1990 . . . . . . .. 349

6-19 Buying and Selling Price for Fish at the Market
of the Col6nia dos Pescadores de Itupiranga-Z44
from Late November 1989, through 1990 .... .350

7-1 One Sawmill's (A) Buying and Selling Prices for
the Three Qualities of Lumber per M June 1990 393

7-2 Estimated Annual Production of Madeira Serrada
at one Sawmill (A) for One Year 1989-1990 in
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil . . . . . .. 394

7-3 Types and Prices of Wood Within Each Quality
Category in Mid-August at One Sawmill (B) in
Itupiranga, Para, Brazil, 1990 . . . .. .395

7-4 Estimated Total Prices for Madeira Tora and
Madeira Serrada, and Potential Profit for One
Year at One Sawmill (B) in Itupiranga, Para,
Brazil, 1990 . . . . . . . . . 396


7-5 Number of Minimum Wages Earned by Forest Crews
of Two Sawmills in Itupiranga, Para, 1990 . . 397

7-6 Number of Minimum Wages for Positions in Five
Sawmills in Itupiranga, Para, 1990 (According to
Sawmill Owners) . . . . .... . . 398

7-7 Average Sawmill Workers' Salaries per Position,
Among Sawmills in September 1990, Itupiranga,
Pard (According to Sawmill Workers) . . .. .399

7-8 Household Type of Sawmill Workers and Fishers
From 30-Household Surveys, Sawmill Workers and
Fishers. . . . . . ... .. . . . 400

7-9 Standard of Living Indicators for Households
with Sawmill Workers versus the Rest of the
Population in Itupiranga, Pard, Brazil, 1990 401

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



Gay Maurene Biery-Hamilton

April 1994

Chairperson: Marianne Schmink
Major Department: Anthropology

This study concerns culture change in a small riverine

town, Itupiranga, Para, Brazil. There are crosscultural

similarities in the transition toward capitalism among world

areas. A majority of people in these regions lose access to

the means of production--land and resources--in similar and

violent processes of primitive accumulation. Like other

third world countries which were impacted by colonialism,

Brazil's process remains inhibited because of its historical

and structural position in the world economy; the extent,

nature and role of government intervention in Brazil; the

continued presence of non-capitalist forms of production in

the Amazon; and the resistance efforts of some social


Since 1970, but especially during the 1980s, the people

of Itupiranga have experienced major changes in their

physical and social environments caused by development

projects and policies encouraged by the Brazilian

government. The Transamazon Highway, the Tucurui

Hydroelectric Dam, colonization projects and the influx of

migrants, changes in land use and tenure, increased logging

and the commercialization of fishing have all had a major

impact on the environment as well as traditional life in


Conceptually, this dissertation explores how these

developments altered local livelihoods. I examine how the

environmental and social impacts of Brazil's development

projects and policies caused the demise of economies once

based upon resource extraction. The new productive economy

focuses more on non-renewable resources. Furthermore, the

need to make a profit or to generate cash constrains the

abilities of individuals as part of social groups to

practice their economic activities in environmentally sound


The development model initiated by the Brazilian

government implicitly assumes and explicitly advertises the

benefits of development for people in the Amazon region, as

measured by their increasing standard of living. Although a

few social groups benefited from the regional developments,

they were in the minority. In fact, the standard of living

for a majority of people in Itupiranga did not improve. The

development projects and resulting changes in the physical

and social environments constrained peoples' abilities to

fulfill their basic needs in a self-reliant manner, hence,

their lives became more insecure and precarious. Different

social groups used different strategies to cope with the

extensive changes in their lives that caused the increasing

insecurity and poverty.




Itupiranga was a town with at least two faces. One

face revealed a calm, charming town resting above the banks

of the Tocantins River in the eastern Amazon region of

Brazil. The other face began to reveal itself slowly, as

rumors, stories and every day language hinted of threats and

events of violence in town and in the surrounding rural

areas. The contrast between the two faces indicated

underlying tension and overt conflict as people coped with

traditional versus changing lifeways and mores because of

profound alterations in their environment, economy,

political system, social structure and world view.

At night one could see the Milky Way, thick with stars,

stretching across the sky. Roosters began to crow before

dawn. By the time the first rosy rim of the sun was

reflected in the river and baby chicks started their

constant background peeping, people would open the doors of

their houses and sleepily look out on the new day, getting

ready to conduct business in the coolness of morning.

Before long the streets were full of people going to work.

As the day progressed, the intense heat of the tropical sun

laid itself thickly over the treeless, dusty streets of

Itupiranga, and people moved more slowly to and from their

destinations. During the middle of the day after lunch,

most people rested behind closed doors for two hours before

returning to work. Activities in the early evening were

dining, watching novelas (Brazilian soap-opera-type stories

shown nightly for eight or nine months) on television, and

sitting out in front of their homes watching and visiting

with other townspeople promenading up and down the streets.

Visitors would lean in peoples' windows or sit outside of

doorways facing the television to watch the novelas and the

news. Oldtimers, who were not interested in this new medium

which entered Itupiranga after the town received power from

the Tucurui Hydroelectric Dam in the mid-1980s, watched the

streets. People would discuss the events of their day or

those of the novelas during the two-to-three minute

intervals of silence when the television screen went dark

and a clock would count the minutes and seconds of dead time

when commercials were running in larger towns, but not in

small towns like Itupiranga.

During the week people went to bed fairly early. On

the back streets, many poor people retired as soon as it got

dark. On mainstreet, where more wealthy people lived,

things quieted down around ten o'clock. However, on the

weekends, particularly Saturday night, there was usually a

dance-party at one of several places in town. On those

nights and other holidays, the music would not stop until

about 3 o'clock in the morning, and party goers often would

be on the streets until dawn. Blessedly, for those of us

along the river there would be an hour respite between 3:00

and 4:00 a.m. until someone in a household/bar at the

riverfront would arise and begin the day playing Sertanejo

(a type of country music popular in Northeastern Brazil)

music as loud as the dance music had been. Sunday

afternoons were often spent catching up on sleep from

partying or struggling futilely to find a position under

one's pillow to block out the loud and distorted music from

the previous Saturday night's events.

The more violent face of Itupiranga began to reveal

itself to me slowly, from observations made on nights of the

parties and in gossipy conversations. I spent many evenings

with younger, unmarried middle- and upper-class locals, and

became involved in the unfolding drama of romantic liaisons

and breakups. Dances and parties presented an excellent

opportunity to observe the relationship between upper-class

locals and the wealthy outsiders. These social affairs

revealed the tensions and conflicts inherent in the rapidly

changing situation. Unwittingly, I was allowed a glimpse of

the larger conflicts played out at an interpersonal level in

the social events themselves and in the endless gossip,

discussion and analysis about those events and relationships

by the actors themselves, and other observers from


Rumors were told to me, too, about people being

murdered or threatened with assassination over land

conflicts, logging contracts, labor disputes, high prices

charged by local merchants and other business deals gone

sour. There were a surprising number of crimes of passion,

too. More striking still to someone unused to frontier

justice, was the brutality shown by local police toward poor

people. Shortly after Christmas in 1989 two teenage boys

were beaten to death in the local delagacia, ostensibly for

theft. They were killed by local officials before they even

saw a judge. Poor people and even middle-class locals were

afraid to protest against this type of violence and told me

that one should never, ever admit to any knowledge about a

crime to the police, even if officials could prove the

person was guilty. If you did, they would torture and kill

you for sure.

Before three months were out, it had crept into my

awareness that there was another darker, more violent face

beneath the sunlit town and friendly, hospitable people I

first encountered. Despite the appearance of a tranquil,

traditional riverside community, albeit one that was growing

rapidly, Itupiranga was also much like the more violent

roadside towns in the Amazon, caught up in a whirlwind of

rapid culture change.

This dissertation is a study about rapid social change

in a community in the Brazilian Amazon. The focus is a town

called Itupiranga, which is located along the Tocantins

River/Tucurui Reservoir approximately 50 kilometers north of

Maraba, Para, Brazil, just off the Transamazon Highway

(Figures 1-1 and 1-2). The municipality (county) of

Itupiranga was created by Law Number 62 of December 31,

1947. The municipality is adjacent to the municipalities of

Jacunda and Portel to the north, Maraba to the south, to Sao

Domingos da Capim to the east and Senador Jos& Porfirio to

the west. The municipal seat, also called Itupiranga (South

Latitude 050 11' 00'"; Longitude 490 16' 53"; Altitude 90

meters), is located approximately 420 kilometers south from

Beldm, the capital of Para as the crow flies, and 556

kilometers by boat on the Tocantins River. The area of the

muncipality is 15,890 square kilometers, with an estimated

population of 27,210 inhabitants in 1989. That same year

the population density was 1.72 habitants per square

kilometer. At that time, a major portion of the population

was employed in agriculture, cattle raising, natural

resource extraction and fishing (Secretaria da Fazenda


The inhabitants of the town as well as the region of

Southern Para experienced marked and rapid social upheaval

as a result of major environmental, economic, political and

social changes that began in the 1970s. These changes

accelerated during the 1980s with the closing of the

floodgates of the Tucurui Hydroelectric Dam in 1984, and

other developments which included gold mining, colonization

projects, the influx of thousands of migrants, changes in

land use and land tenure, logging and the commercialization

of fishing.

Sao Luis

Grande do
- Norte


Santo Catorina

0 400 800


Figure 1-1. Map of Brazil



Breu I
Branco .

Novo Puc

\ 'e~ arli- Remansmnho,', .
Repartiment entral Joariznho
Rela a
\Remamnao Nova
.Da Ber
Do eenv '

Boca Do
Praia Ali

Santa Tereza


Agrova Iupiranga
Castolho Branc \ -





Figure 1-2. Tucurui Hydroelectric Dam Area of Impoundment.
Modified Map (Original in Mougeot 1986).

The collective impacts of these development policies

and projects separated many people from the natural

resources upon which they depended and disrupted the

interdependent relationships they needed to make a living,

making their conditions of survival more insecure and

precarious. The consequences of the development process

were increasing population density, and changes in land

tenure, land use, economic activities, and resources. As a

result, peoples' ecological, economic and political

landscapes were altered, forcing them to adopt new

strategies for dealing with a transformed environment, as

well as new economic forces and relations of production.

I will examine the structural opportunities and

constraints that life-long residents of the riverine

community of Itupiranga experienced as a result of a

development process that began with the construction of the

Transamazon Highway and colonization projects in 1970. Many

people lost access to the resources they needed to make a

living, which resulted in their loss of autonomy and

increasing dependence upon cash. The development process

also caused an increase in social stratification and

economic disparity among social groups in Itupiranga. There

is also a link between the continuation of these social

consequences and the unfolding degradation of the local and

regional environment. It would appear that the insecurity

and precariousness of many people in Itupiranga, and in the

region as a whole, may increase over time because of the

environmental degradation that is occurring from population

pressure, deforestation, and threatened aquatic resources.

I will also discuss the strategies that people used to

cope with the dramatic changes that have taken place in

their lives during such a short period of time. These

coping strategies differed among social groups who were

differentially affected by the ecological, economic and

social changes.

One example is the former direct producers, who had

lived along the Tocantins River for years. They organized

and protested the resettlement process that forced their

removal from riverine homes and disrupted their social ties

and economic strategies. Their sustained efforts, which

were assisted by opposition political parties and the

Catholic Church during the redemocratization process in

Brazil in the early and mid-1980s, gained them some

concessions from the power company, ELETRONORTE, which built

the dam and implemented the resettlement scheme.

Secondly, another group formed in the later 1980s,

calling itself the Grupo Ecologico de Itupiranga. The

members of this group were mostly teenagers from long-term

elite Itupirangan families who had lost status and economic

security during the changes that occurred in the 1980s.

Although the members of the group derived from contemporary

local middle class families, and thus, were wealthier than

the resettled direct producers and most migrants, their

movement also was an attempt to cope with the altered

physical and social environments in which they found

themselves. Although their activities included modern

environmental education and other conservation practices,

their goals harkened back to a remembered former golden age

when the forest and river gave abundant food and materials

by which to live, and their community was intact with its

own Amazonian and Itupirangan culture. In essence, their

latent agenda was a conservative attempt to mitigate the

destructive changes that they perceived were caused by both

wealthy and poor migrants from other regions of Brazil who

had destroyed the former environment, economy, social

relationships and culture of Itupiranga.

A third social group consisted of poorer migrants who

faced insecurity every day from poverty. They were more

vulnerable than other social groups to economic deprivation,

landlessness, forced removal from their land/homes,

unemployment and underemployment, hazardous working

conditions, low pay and long working hours, high prices and

unfair marketing practices by local merchants, inflation,

injustices in the distribution of charity, poor health,

malnutrition, high infant mortality, uncertain social ties,

verbal abuse by wealthier people, and the fear of physical

abuse by the police. Yet, most of the time people lived

under these conditions without taking action to rectify the

abuses about which they complained. Possible reasons for

why people endured such living conditions and often did not

make a choice to seek redress to improve their situation

included fear of retaliation by police and also daily

interaction with members of other social groups which

softened peoples' perceptions of their oppression.

As these examples show, perceptions and collective

action varied among the different social groups in

Itupiranga as they attempted to negotiate a secure place for

themselves in a rapidly changing situation. During this

economic and social transition, Itupiranga had qualities

both of a tranquil, traditional riverside Amazonian

community and also of a dusty, frontier highway town replete

with all of the accompanying interstices of high drama.

This transition from one type of economy to another is

uneven and conflictual. Different social groups vie for an

advantage in a confusing and sometimes violent setting.

Mostly, more powerful social groups gained the advantage in

these confrontations because they had the wealth and power

to use force, government policy and ideology to ensure gains

in their favor. However, less powerful social groups did

attain some concessions when they organized, created

linkages with more powerful groups and made sustained

efforts that addressed their needs. Mostly, however, life

unfolded every day as people worked, played with their

children, visited with their neighbors, negotiated romantic

interludes, argued about politics and watched other people

as they sat by their front doors under the blazing,

afternoon sun and, again, later in the cooler evenings,

typical of Amazonia.

This unfolding of local history took place in an arena

of structural constraints and opportunities at the local,

regional, state, national and international levels that were

also subject to evolving and sometimes more abrupt and

unforseen changes. I will begin by defining and explaining

the conceptual framework and methodology I will use to

examine the transition that tore through the fabric of a

traditional Amazonian riverside community and created a more

heterogenous and rambunctious frontier town within a decade.

Non-capitalist Qualities in Amazonia

The Amazon is perhaps the final frontier in Brazil,

which has already experienced other phases of frontier

expansion since World War II (cf. Foweraker 1981; Katzman

1977; Margolis 1973 & 1979; Martins 1975; Sawyer 1979 &

1984). This dissertation is a case study of the

environmental and socioeconomic effects of development in a

traditional Amazonian community, and the responses by

different social groups to the changes. This development

process in the Brazilian Amazon has some commonalities with

the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Western

Europe, beginning in the Fourteenth Century, and in other

world areas that have experienced the impacts of colonialism

since that time.

In general, feudalism in Western Europe was based upon

a relationship between lords and vassals, which was

expressed by an oath of fealty. Feudal production was

characterized by the division of land into feudal estates,

whereby a class of peasants or serfs produced for family

subsistence and also had to produce a surplus for a lordly

class, who owned the land. The ruling class appropriated

this surplus from the producer class by using extra-economic

coercion to force serfs to pay rent, in kind or with money,

or donate labor service to the manorial land and serve in

his army. Under the lord-vassal relationship, peasants had

access to the means of production in the form of tools and

use rights on the lords' lands. In early feudal times,

ninth through tenth centuries, production was mainly limited

to the manor, but during what Little (1978) calls the Second

Feudal Age, at the end of the thirteenth and beginning in

the fourteenth centuries, production for the market


Amazonia had features similar to feudalism. Under the

aviamento system in Amazonia, the social relations of

production were patron clientism whereby patrons controlled

the exchange of certain natural resources and trade goods in

a chain of credit extending from local direct producers, who

gathered the extractive products, to the foreign export

houses in Belfm and Manaus (Wagley 1974 & 1976; Weinstein

1983). Direct producers, or those who harvested forest

products, produced for family subsistence and also for their

patrons who used extra-economic forms of coercion to

appropriate surplus from their clients. Instead of using

rents or labor service, patrons in the Amazon extended

credit to their clients to ensure their indebtedness, so the

former could maintain a labor force for the next season's

harvest of natural resources. Further, clients always lived

under a threat of violence if they did not fulfill their

debt obligations to their patrons by running away, or by

working for some other patron. Hence, under the aviamento

system the upper classes' control over direct producers was

political in nature at the level of exchange, and not

economic, as under capitalism.

Direct producers in Amazonia had access to the means of

production because the land tenure was based upon usufruct

rights, whereby the upper class patrons controlled specific

resources, rubber and Brazil nuts, on the land, but did not

own the land itself. Amazonian peasants had the right to

use those lands for other extractive and productive

activities, seasonally. There was also a local common

property arrangement in Itupiranga, whereby the community

controlled access to specific resources-- Brazil nuts during

the rainy season--and land upon which to farm. In Amazonia,

the system of production was based upon use in some economic

activities--hunting, gardening and fishing--and on exchange

in others--gathering rubber and Brazil nuts, mining for

diamonds and hunting for animal skins--in a market network.

Thus, in Amazonia, peasants were not proprietors of land,

but had effective possession of their small landed

resources. As such, peasants had access to the means of

production, and hence control over their productive



The extra-economic control over labor was felt to be a

problem that negatively affected Amazonian development

(Weinstein 1983). Surplus in the Amazon was only obtained

via the market, and not from the labor process. It was

partly the scarcity of labor that influenced the particular

relations of production and exchange in the Amazon, whereby

the focus of exploitation was on the trade relationships and

not on production. Peasants had easy access to vast land

areas, which inhibited the patrons from controlling more

closely the productive activities of the people who worked

for them. The trade relationships, coupled with

environmental and geographic factors, allowed room for

primary producers to refuse to get involved in a wage labor

relationship, since if they could get out of debt, they

could subsist from surrounding forest and riverine

resources. Thus, the labor supply in the Amazon was

unreliable. Weinstein argues that the unreliable labor

supply inhibited capitalist development in the Amazon.

After the Asian rubber plantations became viable in 1910,

the economy in the Amazon suffered a severe blow because

Brazilian exporters, constrained by the labor-extensive

system of gathering under the aviamento system, could not

sell rubber as cheaply as capitalist Asian plantation owners

(Weinstein 1983).

Aspects of the Amazonian Transition

Many features of the aviamento system were greatly

undermined by later capitalist expansion in some areas of

Brazilian Amazonia, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. This

process included the privatization of land and other

resources, which ignored communal relationships to land.

Hence, many people lost access to necessary resources and

came to need cash to buy formerly free resources. The only

way to obtain cash was by selling their produce or finding

jobs that paid wages. In this process: (1) the State

assisted, via legal and extra-legal channels, in the

expropriation of the means of production from many people;

(2) conditions existed whereby wealth was transferred from

the peasant sector to the capitalist sector; (3) there were

violent conflicts over land; (4) there was increasing

socio-economic differentiation; and (5) land was

concentrated into the hands of fewer numbers of people (Wood

and Schmink 1978; Martins 1980 & 1984; Foweraker 1981; Davis

1977; Branford and Glock 1985). Instead of encouraging

development, these processes contributed to increasing

impoverishment of many groups of people in the Brazilian

Amazon, since they could no longer fulfill their subsistence

requirements in a self-reliant manner (Waldram's 1983

definition of development).

In the transition toward capitalism the struggle over

land was paramount in the case of European feudalism and the

aviamento system in Amazonia. In the Amazon all of the

projects and policies were carried out on lands that were

already occupied for the most part. Thus, the process of

the closing frontier in the Amazon, like the enclosure act


in Western Europe, was inherently violent, since it required

the removal of people who were in the way of such schemes.

They were often forced to migrate further into the frontier

in search of land in order to survive.

The occupation of land in frontier areas in Amazonia by

small peasants is the first stage in capital accumulation

(Foweraker 1981; see also Hay 1988). This transfer of value

took place during numerous land conflicts in the region,

which were partly due to the historical confusion over land

titling and the transition from a land tenure system based

upon usufruct rights to a scheme of private property. Many

small-scale producers obtained rights to land simply by

occupying and "improving" it, which meant clearing it for

agriculture and constructing buildings on it. However, they

were vulnerable to more wealthy claimants who could afford

to buy titles or used other coercive measures to remove them

from it. Surplus was transferred to the capitalist

enterprises at the moment of dispossession when the peasant

was either poorly paid or not given compensation for the

value of labor he expended in clearing and making other

improvements. Wood (1983) maintains that this process can

be rightly called "primitive accumulation" because peasants

become divorced from the means of production, even though it

does not necessarily imply a complete conversion from

peasant to proletariat (as in the feudal transition in

Western Europe) because there remained expansive lands on

the frontier, which absorbed part of this dispossessed


population. When people migrated, their flight contributed

to a recurring cycle of primitive accumulation in which many

direct producers were actually divorced from ownership or

possession of the means of production.

This process, and the violent nature of it intensified

during the during the 1970s and 1980s with the changing land

tenure regime in which more land became subject to private

property controls. With this intensification came

increasing conflicts over land. Foweraker (1981) observes

that the contemporary violent nature of the frontier is a

class struggle waged over the appropriation of value created

in a process of economic expansion, and over peasants' right

to survive. As the frontier was linked to wider markets,

land became more valuable and increasingly vulnerable to

expropriation, which continued to take place via legal and

extra-legal channels, including non-economic coercion and

violence (Wood 1983 and Foweraker 1981). By taking over

lands that had already been cleared by peasants, larger

enterprises extracted the value of both the land they

expropriated and that created by the peasant labor in the

process of occupation. This surplus was transferred from

the frontier to southern Brazil, the industrial and

financial center, where policy and laws were made (Bunker


Some Reasons for an Incomplete Transition

The extent to which the Brazilian state became involved

in the transition toward capitalism, including the struggles

over land, was much greater in Amazonia than in Europe.

However, despite government intervention, the efforts of

peasants to hold onto their land in the contemporary

situation in Amazonia--1960 to 1990--inhibited the

expansion of capital (Pompermayer 1984). There were also

other factors that inhibited the development of capitalism

in Amazonia, including Brazil's position in the world

economy, historically and structurally, and the continued

presence of non-capitalist forms of production there.

Outside Influences: The Impacts of Governmental and
International Intervention

In the ensuing debates over land as outlined above, the

state became the focal point for the competing

socio-economic groups to protect their interests (Schmink

and Wood 1992). The Brazilian government mediated in the

struggles between peasants and large businesses for land;

indigenous groups and mining interests over land use and

land rights; small producers and the electric power company

over compensation; and national and international

environmental and human rights groups and loggers, ranchers,

miners and large companies over humans rights issues and

sustainable methods of production (cf. Schmink and Wood


In Amazonia, government bureaucracy and law were the

main mediators of the economic forces driving frontier

expansion (Foweraker 1981). Since 1964, when the Brazilian

State became more centralized, it has increasingly acted as

an entrepreneur and a generator of economic enterprises, and

played a major role in the appropriation of land in the

Amazon via legal and policy channels (Foweraker 1981).

Despite its periodic enactments of legislation designed to

benefit smaller, less powerful groups, in the long run, the

state ultimately maintained an environment that has assisted

more powerful groups in the process of primitive

accumulation. Furthermore, the state acted in various

capacities to promote the acceleration of accumulation,

including ignoring or assisting in the violence that has

been an integral part of frontier expansion in Amazonia (cf.

Foweraker 1981; Branford and Glock 1985). The state

effectively preserved capitalist production via its policies

and also limited the degree of conflict by using such

measures as militarizing the agency responsible for land

titling and colonization. These agencies repressed any

objections by less powerful groups, while at the same time,

protected the interests of the state-run enterprises. Thus,

the state assumed a role which contributed to unequal

development within the region, as well as between social

groups (Cardoso and Muller 1977). The rapid capital

accumulation fostered by the Brazilian State inhibited the

development of all social groups in the Amazon; encouraged

increasing economic disparity between them; and exacerbated

the extreme exploitation of poorer, less-powerful social

groups by employing various means that disrupted their more

autonomous means of making a living (Cardoso and Muller


However, the state provided an arena in which less

powerful social groups sometimes contested successfully

against more powerful social groups (Schmink and Wood 1992).

The redemocratization of Brazil, which began in the early

1980s, provided an opening for Amazonian peasants, rubber

tappers, indigenous groups, itinerant miners, small farmers

and others to protest their grievances (cf. Biery-Hamilton

1987; Schmink and Wood 1992). These groups were sometimes

aided by more powerful entities, at both national and

international levels, that for various reasons opposed

prevailing Brazilian policies in the Amazon, whether

economic, political, social and/or environmental. This

national and international intervention in the transition

process in Brazilian Amazonia was not a feature in the

history of Western Europe.

The Amazon's Inability to Develop as Did Western Europe

The transition toward capitalism in the Brazilian

Amazon took place at a different moment in history from that

of Western Europe. Brazil, like most third-world countries,

had trouble developing both agrarian and industrial sectors

simultaneously. The difference has enormous implications

for a full transition to capitalism for any underdeveloped

country in the world, including Brazil. This point is

important not only for the moment in history aspect, but

also structurally, since the world has changed dramatically

since the inception of capitalism, primarily because of

widespread impacts of colonialism (cf. Wolf 1982).

The birth of capitalism took place in Western Europe,

utilizing Eastern Europe as its first periphery, and later

colonizing other parts of the world for its labor and

resources (see Mintz 1985 for the example of sugar). Due to

its historical and structural development, Western Europe,

particularly England, was able to exploit other world

regions to fuel the necessary requirements of capitalism.

Although there are arguments over whether non-capitalist

modes of production in the transition were more necessary

for markets (Luxemberg 1968) or for cheap labor to increase

profits to reinsert back into production (Wolf 1982; Bradby

1980), it is difficult for countries, contemporarily, given

the current world economic system to develop fully,

especially since they themselves are often the peripheries

for cheap labor and resources for more developed countries.

The Amazon is not only a periphery in the world context, but

also within Brazil itself (Bunker 1985). As such, it has

had a difficult history of attempting autonomous

development, with many subsequent failures. However, if we

take the view, as advocated by de Janvry (1981), that

peripheral capitalism is only a phase in the process of

development, is there yet a possibility that the sequence of

events in the Brazilian Amazon will allow for a more

complete transition toward capitalism?

The Retention of Other Forms of Production in the Amazon

Non-capitalist forms of production frequently persist

in the periphery, and are thought to inhibit the transition

process. According to Bottomore, "Capitalism, in Marxist

terms, is not possible until the shape of society and

economy is largely determined by the exploitation by owners

of capital of a class of propertyless wage workers" (1983).

In many parts of the world, including Latin America, the

capitalist sector has been unable to absorb a significant

amount of labor, and so it is argued that the transition

remains incomplete for this reason (Portes 1985). Mahar

(1979), whose analysis is not marxist, notes that this

situation exists in the Amazon and is a symptom of its

failure to develop. Activities such as cattle ranching and

mining do not employ great numbers of the local population.

Large sectors of the Amazonian population are employed in

non-capitalist forms of production. Thus, it could be

argued that a complete transition to capitalism has not

taken place in the Amazon because other forms of production

still exist and support capitalist expansion.

One problem that scholars have in determining the

extent to which the transition to capitalism is complete is

defining the degree of proletarianization, i.e., the

absorption of the labor force into the marketplace.

However, it cannot be assumed that once capitalism

penetrates into a region, it becomes the only mode of

production, and that complete proletarianization will occur.

Very often, other modes of production articulate within the

capitalist system, and in fact, support it (Roseberry 1976;

Meillassoux 1981; Bundy 1979). Many social scientists now


use the term 'non-capitalist,' instead of 'pre-capitalist,'

to imply that a complete transition may never occur. An

examination of this difference is important because, as

Bradby notes, in order to fully understand transition or a

lack thereof, one must also take into account the dynamics

of the non-capitalist modes of production (1980).

Non-capitalist societies are no longer seen as passive

agents undergoing change totally manipulated by market

forces, but rather as actively articulating within the

constraints set by the capitalist mode of production and

even altering the path, at times, that capital takes.

Further, the concept 'mode of production' often

obfuscates the dynamics of different types of economies at

local levels. This term is problematic because it tends to

relegate vastly different forms of production and their

articulation with the capitalist one, into a catchall

category, which then may negate their analysis (Wood 1983).

Each discrete form of production and how it interacts with

and influences the capitalist mode must be analyzed. There

are relations of production other than capitalist, that

exist side-by-side with capitalist ones throughout the

Amazon. In other areas of the world, Taussig (1978),

Meillassoux (1981), Roseberry (1976) and Bundy (1979) have

shown that other modes of production articulate with the

capitalist mode of production, and moreover, underwrite its

maintenance and expansion.

However, at the same time that these non-capitalist

forms of production assist the maintenance and expansion of

capitalism, they are being destroyed "by being so used even

though the time span over which they remain in existence may

be considerable" (de Janvry 1981:22). Because these non-

capitalist forms--e.g., peasants and artisans--are

constrained by their lower-class position in the peripheral

process, they will undergo stagnation and impoverishment,

and ultimately be destroyed over time by capitalist

production (de Janvry 1981).

Coping with Change

During changes brought about by capitalism and

colonialism, people struggle with changing occurrences and

perceptions of those occurrences in a similar manner (cf.

Taussig 1980). For example, in many non-capitalist systems

including the aviamento system, land has use value. People

are forced to cope with changing regulations when land

becomes a commodity, common property rights are no longer

respected and they lose access to land and resources. In

Europe, the fact that legislative bodies enacted more

capital punishments for crimes against property reveals the

struggle people had with the transition to private property

(Thompson 1966:60). Many scholars have examined more recent

instances of resistance to the impacts of colonialism (cf.

Wolf 1969; Hobsbawm 1959; Scott 1976). Further, some

studies reveal that the struggle by social groups against

those governments or enterprises that disrupt their


livelihoods also may have an inhibiting effect on capitalist

development (cf. Guha 1989; Nader 1990; Schmink and Wood

1992; Scott 1985 & 1990).

The violence over land in the Amazon also indicates a

similar struggle to be examined in more detail later (see

also Schmink and Wood 1992). Further, the ideological

struggle manifested itself in the term jogo de terra ('land

game'), which refers to the use of land as an investment.

This term had negative connotations and was mainly used in

reference to poor people who acquired land, especially in

the resettlement process in the Tucurui region, and then

sold rather than farmed it. There was a strong implication

that they were furthering their own poverty by selling the

land rather than using it, which was perceived as shameful.

Poor people were blamed by locals and government officials

for their poverty in this manner. The reasons for which

people sold land were not examined even though having land

did not mean a poor family was able to maintain itself.

Furthermore, many poor families did not have access to land

and had never participated in the jogo de terra.

Another example was the introduction of money and the

ensuing moral conflicts surrounding the transformation of

items having use values into items for profit. Several

authors note that during the transition from a moral economy

to a profit economy, money is perceived as sterile and evil

(cf. Little 1978 for a discussion of the feudal transition;

Taussig 1980 for Colombia, South America during the middle

twentieth century; Scott 1976). In Europe, money lenders,

many of whom were Jews, received the brunt of peoples' anger

as the sin of avarice in the practice of usury became

perceived more seriously over time, toward the end of the

thirteenth century and beginning of the fourteenth century

(Little 1978). Little suggests that the pogroms against

Jews were initiated out of guilt, as non-Jews struggled with

their own new practices of transferring treasure to money

when they sold sacred vessels to merchants for cash.

Similarly, local Itupirangans who now owned land, who

perhaps participated in land speculation, and, moreover, who

utilized resources in new ways that destroyed them (like

cutting down Brazil nut trees for a profit), tended to

transfer their guilt to poor migrants by blaming them for

all of the problems that resulted from the land transition

from use values to exchange values. In another example,

since the Amazon had a system of credit, there does not

appear to be a strong theme of the evils of avarice in the

debt/credit relationship, at least in Itupiranga. However,

patrons were supposed to be generous, and people who

accumulated wealth during the transition without sharing

were seen as "ambitious" (there was a strong negative

connotation to this word). If a person was too ambitious

and gained wealth at the expense of others, he or she was

the target of vicious gossip and might be the victim of

sorcery, and die as a result.

In Europe there was much anger against merchants who

were perceived as overpricing their merchandise in order to

profit at the expense of their customers. Little states

that during the Second Feudal Age that began at the end of

the thirteenth century, merchants were considered sinners

(1978). During later periods, the incidence of bread riots,

which sometimes turned violent, indicates the difficulty

people had with the changing role of money, and their need

for money when faced with the loss of access to the means of

production. The riots were based upon "the assumptions of

an older moral economy, which taught the immorality of any

unfair method of forcing up the price of provisions by

profiteering upon the necessities of the people" (Thompson

1966:63). Faced with the impersonal nature of a free-market

economy, people made desperate efforts to reimpose the older

moral economy, especially toward the end of the eighteenth

century. However, peoples' anger tended to manifest itself

more at the level of exchange than at production. Thompson

states that "consumer consciousness preceded other forms of

political or industrial antagonism. Not wages, but the cost

of bread, was the most sensitive indicator of popular

discontent" (1966:63). However, there are indications that

people protested vigorously against the implementation of

new technologies that took away jobs at fabric mills in

England in the early Nineteenth Century. Charlotte Bronte's

novel Shirley describes the violent turmoil in rural England

between mill owners, who tried to introduce new, more


efficient machinery, and mill workers (Bronte 1981; original

in 1849).

Likewise, in Itupiranga, many poor people grumbled

about how local merchants were overpricing necessary

consumer items at poor peoples' expense. There were

periodic organized protests against merchants, which were

immediately quelled by local police. Attempts to protest

against local employers, for example at sawmills, on the

other hand, were the acts of only a few individuals, since

most people were afraid to be fired and lose their income.

Also, in most cases, some form of a patron/client

relationship existed between employers and employees, even

in the most capitalist local activity, logging and the

operation of sawmills. This patron/client relationship may

have softened some harsh feelings that overworked and

underpaid employees felt against their employers. Overall,

there seemed to be less tendency to complain about wages and

dangerous working conditions than about prices at local

stores, or ungenerous municipal officials.

Environmental Destruction Noted in Late 20th Century:
Neglect of the Environment in Orthodox Literature

Much attention has been drawn to environmental impacts

of capitalist development during the past 30 years or so

because of growing environmental concerns, worldwide.

Barkin discusses the conflict between productive and

environmental imperatives in Mexico, stating that the

country's inability to confront ecological imbalances

correlates with other contradictions in the national


development model. He states that "these contradictions are

the result of a long history of competing demands on limited

government financial resources to finance the development of

private investment opportunities" (1986:3). The pressures

in the development model "overwhelm popular demands for

improvements in the quality of their material conditions.

Profit-making activities have traditionally taken precedence

over programs to enhance the natural environment or reduce

inequalities in the social structure" (1986:3).

Like Mexico, Brazil focuses on export oriented

development, especially regarding the Amazon where resources

and infrastructural improvements are mostly located in areas

where activities geared to the extraction of products taken

out of the region, e.g., cattle, mining and timber.

Government programs have directed resources and subsidies

for these activities and to a much lesser degree toward

agriculture and fishing. The initiation of these activities

in the past 20 years in the Amazon Region has come at the

expense of more environmentally benevolent extractive

strategies which mainly focused on the gathering of forest

products--rubber, Brazil nuts, palm oils, spices--while

leaving the rainforest intact. It is also questionable

whether or not these development activities have improved

the standard of living of a majority of people in the


In the Amazon, and elsewhere, the rampant destruction

of vast areas of tropical forest, fears of global warming,

and mercury pollution in rivers have broadened the debate

over capitalist development. The importance of environment

is not addressed in classical theories of the transition

toward capitalism. However, recently scholars have

struggled to understand the links between ecology and

economy, and conservation and development, to rectify what

they consider to be missing elements in orthodox Marxist

thinking. They argue that the problem of environmental

degradation has existed for a long time, having intensified

especially with the expansion of capitalism. Until

recently, Marxists have been reluctant to incorporate

environmental and demographic factors into their framework,

principally because of their concerns over the policy

implications of Malthusian-influenced paradigms. However,

it has become increasingly obvious that a consideration of

the environment and demographic factors must be included in

political economic examinations of societies in the modern

world (Redclift 1987).

In anthropology, the fields of economic and ecological

anthropology became distinct beginning with Steward (1955 &

1977) and White (1949 & 1959), and often focused on

different aspects of human society. White, in particular,

focused on energy and the laws of thermodynamics, rather

than economic factors to explain culture change. Ecological

anthropology broke into two main strands: evolutionary and

systems approach. Numerous anthropologists have used

systems models derived from the discipline of ecology to


examine human societies (cf. Harris 1974; Piddocke 1965 and

Rappaport 1967). Harris, and Sahlins and Service, attempted

to integrate Stewards' and White's analyses into one

coherent framework to examine the process of human evolution

(Sahlins and Service 1960; Harris 1968 & 1979). Demography

came into the equation when Harner explicated the impacts of

population pressure on natural resources (1970 & 1975; also

see Cohen 1975 and Harris 1979). Lawless extended Harner's

theory, to include the investigation of both synchronic and

diachronic population pressure (1977 & 1979). Lawless was

one of the first anthropologists to apply a modified model

of population pressure theory in a field situation and among

a group of foragers, the Kalinga in the Philippines. He

examined both ecological and economic factors at the micro

level, by focusing on scarcity and the factors of

production, land, labor and capital. By utilizing aspects

from political economy to examine how the scarcest factor of

production "is obtained, who gets it, what is done with it,

and what the societal consequences are," he found that the

Kalinga had begun to practice more intensive agriculture

because of population pressure (1977:5). Citing Cook

(1973), Lawless argues that economic questions are

intrinsically tied to the ecology.

Until 1973, the focus of economic anthropology remained

at the level of exchange, throughout the period of the

formalist and substantivist debates. Finally, in a seminal

article published in 1973, Scott Cook attempted to unite the

positive elements of both economic and ecological

anthropology. He proposed that in order to examine the

relationship between peoples' economies and the natural

environment, the focus must be on production processes (Cook

1973). He argued that a focus on production provides a

specific, discrete, empirically distinguishable field of

inquiry. He redefined "economy" as "a culturally mediated

field of a human population's activity in which its members

interact with their physical and social environments in the

calculated attempt to acquire, directly or indirectly, a

living" (1973). Cook asserted that more attention must be

paid to production because it is the important integrative

link with ecological and social systems. According to Cook,

a focus on production: (1) can integrate ecological and

economic approaches in anthropology by revealing the links

between the economic field and the natural environment; (2)

can show the link between work organization and ideology;

and (3) can show how linking human relations to product

determines their relationship to each other and to their

share of the product. Extending this discussion, Orlove

argued that production "is prior to distribution and

exchange [because] it constrains activity more strongly"

(1977:97). Harris (1979), stressing the causal nature of

the environmental, demographic, technological and economic

conditions of social life upon other sociocultural

phenomena, developed a research strategy, called cultural

materialism, that incorporates some elements of Marxism,

evolutionary theory, systems ecology and population pressure


A developing approach for examining how human beings

interact with their environment is called "political

ecology" (cf. Schmink and Wood 1987; Sheridan 1988).

Advocates of this approach call for a careful examination of

"distinct production systems and class structures within

which they unfold" in order to examine what happens to the

environment, economy and social relations of production when

a population experiences a radical transformation of forms

of production (Collins 1992:185).

Political ecology weds the "approaches of political

economy, which focus upon a society's place in a region,

nation, or "world system," with those of cultural ecology,

which examine adaptations to local environmental and

demographic factors" (Sheridan 1988:xvi). Small peasant

communities are both constrained and given opportunities by

the local environment and by demographic factors, as well as

internal and external political economic forces. Sheridan

states that "[t]he ecology of any human community is

political in the sense that it is shaped and constrained by

other human groups" (1988:xvii).

Furthermore, Sheridan shows how the approach is useful

for examining the intersecting forms of production in any

one community. Using the household as the unit of

investigation, Sheridan argues that one can examine local

conflicts and control over resources, which allows us to

elicit the diversity in community structure and function,

and the limitations on community power (1988). Secondly,

not only can we uncover the class differences between

peasants and elites, but we can also analyze the class

differences within the peasant community itself. Thirdly,

we can examine specific social and cultural manifestations

of communal or "corporate" tenure, and distinguish local

particulars from overarching conceptions of peasant

"corporateness" (see Wolf 1955 & 1957). This feature is

important, according to Sheridan, because peasants may have

communal arrangements for land and water without developing

civil-religious hierarchies or closing their communities to

outsiders. Starting with the household, we can determine

whether the corporate control over scarce resources is more

or less fundamental and seek the "ideological expressions of

social cohesion that may or may not exist in any given

corporate community itself" (1988:xxiii). The application

of a political ecological approach is not confined to an

examination of capitalist relations of production, as

revealed by Lawless in his study of the Kalinga, a group of

foragers in the Philippines (1977).

In the Amazonian literature the debate over problems

with development has focused on whether the unit of analysis

is at the level of production or exchange. Bunker (1984 &

1985) argues that extractive economies, as in Amazonia, have

different demographic, ecological and infrastructural

effects than productive economies. His main premise is that

"economic models of industrial production neglect the

physical dependence of industrial production on resource

extraction" (1984:1017). Whereas Neo-Classical economics

uses prices and Marxist development models assume the labor

theory of value, Bunker, in contrast, uses energy in his

scheme as the measure to analyze unequal exchange in the

world economic system. In other words, resources have an

inherent value in and of themselves, without labor input, an

assumption theoretically opposed to Marxist doctrine. The

extraction of resources from a locale such as the Amazon

results in a loss of value in that area because production

requires the transformation of matter and energy, which

capital and labor cannot create, that is then exported

elsewhere, accruing a loss to the region of origin. Thus,

like White, Bunker's scheme is informed more "by the laws of

thermodynamics than by theories of politically enforced

unequal exchange" (1985:12).

Bunker advocates using time-lagged models to measure

the cumulative effects of different "modes of extraction"

and modes of production, which are organized in response to

world demand. A mode of extraction is dynamically different

from a mode of production (a unit of analysis that connects

social, legal, political, productive and commercial

activities into one unified framework) in that unequal

exchange is created not only in terms of the "labor value

incorporated into products but also through the direct

appropriation of rapidly depleted or nonrenewable resources"

(1985:22). Bunker demonstrates his point by reviewing the

history of the Amazon from the time of first contact through

the early 1980s. He begins by proposing that different

levels of regional development result from the interaction

between changing world demand for specific commodities and

the local reorganization of modes of production and

extraction in response to new or changing market

opportunities and pressures" (1984:1019). A focus on the

demographic, ecological, and infrastructural consequences of

each mode of production and extraction will reveal the

developmental effects of this interaction over time. And

the consequences of these factors "establish key parameters

for subsequent modes organized in response to world market

demand" as well as "the limits and potential for the

productive capacities and the living standards of regional

populations" (1984:1019).

The significant point is that each boom-bust cycle, in

which resources are extracted and humans destroy resources

of the Amazon beyond regeneration, puts limits on what

people can do in that region in the future. With those

resources gone, people must look to new extractive and/or

productive activities in order to maintain themselves. The

loss of energy during each one of these phases decreases

peoples' autonomy in their relationships with each other and

with resources. Thus, people in the Amazon become more

dependent upon necessary products, including foodstuffs,

from other places, which they have to buy with cash.

In contrast to Bunker, Wood accepts Marx's concept of

the labor theory of value (Wood 1983). Thus, the stress in

Wood's argument is on class struggle within the region due

to his emphasis on the level of production, whereas the

issue to Bunker is unequal exchange between world periphery

and core, as argued by advocates of dependency theory. Wood

explicitly accepts the Marxist model for examining the

changes in the Amazon, and thus, the focus is on the

similarities of certain aspects of the transition from

feudalism to capitalism in Western Europe.

Like Bunker, Wood is skeptical about the future

prospects in the Amazon, considering the problem from an

environmental prospective. However, Wood argues that it is

not only extractive economies that are environmentally

destructive, as Bunker argues, but under capitalism, both

extractive and productive economies are destructive to the

environment. The most basic premise is that capitalism, the

dominant mode of production in the world economy, is an

inherently expanding system. The following basic idea from

Marxist theory is intrinsic to a political ecological


The engine of this continual expansion is the market
competition between producers who privately own the
means of production. When one producer adopts a new
technology, others are forced to follow suit if they
are to survive in the marketplace. In this way there
is built into the system a constant need for individual
firms to advance technology and productivity,
tendencies which, in a competitive market environment,
necessarily spread throughout the economy. (Schmink
and Wood 1987:42-43)

Because of the inherent contradictions of capitalism,

Schmink and Wood argue that the goals of environmental

policy (conservation and long-term sustainability) are

"fundamentally at odds with the goals of expanded production

and short-term accumulation" (1987:38). In this case,

Brazil's focus on a development model that seeks to maximize

annual aggregate real output or GNP (gross national

product), based upon Keynesian and Rostowian economics,

makes "environmental degradation an eminently rational

process, at least insofar as the short-term needs of capital

are concerned" (1987:43).

Brazil has always articulated with the world capitalist

economy as an export nation, marketing primarily

agricultural products and raw resources. Most of the value

of resources is imputed via labor in the receiving countries

that manufacture goods from the raw products. Hence, the

exporting country, in this case Brazil, loses real value in

terms of capital and labor in the process (Bunker 1984).

The flows between the nation that exports raw materials to

the nation that later manufactures them into commodities

result in an unequal exchange in labor and prices. These

extractive systems are inherently unstable, with boom-bust

periods that react to world demands for certain products

(Bunker 1985). Often, per unit costs rise as the scale of

extraction increases, since commodities must be obtained

from more distant and difficult locations. These rising

costs mean that sources elsewhere are substituted, leading

to economic decline in the original export region. For

example, as discussed earlier, this process occurred in the

Amazon in the early twentieth century with rubber. The

region experienced rising costs of obtaining labor during

the Rubber Boom, which made the prices for rubber latex high

on the world market. Later when the Asian rubber

plantations (planted with seeds from the Brazilian Amazon)

began producing rubber more cheaply, the Amazon region went

into decline (Dean 1987).

Under unequal terms of trade, countries such as Brazil

are forced to exploit their frontier regions for raw

resources, or to reap short-term profits from unsustainable

agricultural strategies. These conditions have become

exponentially worse in recent years. Burdened with a huge

international debt in the 1980s, Brazil's economic policy

must concentrate on short-term export possibilities rather

than on a more sustainable long-term strategy. With the

severe constraints of the budget and rampant inflation,

Brazil has little choice but to exploit the Amazon region

for lumber, gold, iron ore and other minerals, energy, and

agricultural production. Thus, Brazil, as a dependent

nation-state in the world economic system, is constrained by

factors outside its borders which make it imperative for

government officials to make decisions that run counter to

policies that encourage sustainable environmental uses and

reduce deforestation rates.

Within Brazil itself, the conflicts between social

groups over resources contribute to environmental

degradation. For example, on the Amazon frontier,

small-farmer migrants, traditional Amazonian peasants, and

Indian groups are frequently removed from their landholdings

by larger land speculators. This conflict over land and

resources consequently exacerbates deforestation rates as

these less powerful social groups desperately attempt to

survive in a situation where all of the odds are stacked

against them. Extractive economies impoverish the

environment on which local populations depend, both for

their own reproduction and for the extraction of commodities

for export (Bunker 1984). Once caught up in producing for

the market, indigenous groups begin to lose their

subsistence orientation and to overexploit their forest

resources (Redford 1992). Amazonian peasants also begin to

exploit their environment due to the conflicts over land,

and increasing population density into the Amazon Basin.

All groups--large-scale entrepreneurs and the less

powerful peasants and Indians--clear forest areas as a first

step in establishing land rights, since "improving" the land

in this manner is a rational strategy for obtaining title to

land in the Amazon. Furthermore, the state often operates

in behalf of large entrepreneurs by enacting polices that

enable them to concentrate their landholdings and enhance

private accumulation. A political ecological approach

explicitly argues that the state is an institution that is

not a neutral arbiter of competing interests. Rather, the

competing agencies within the state ultimately serve to

ensure the reproduction of the status quo, in which more

wealthy and powerful groups benefit from policy decisions

that they themselves had a large hand in promoting, due to

their hegemony over access to necessary resources--the means

of production (land, labor and tools), credit and financial

institutions, and the ideological tools that sway public

opinion in favor of their interests. Despite improvements

in technology and scientific information about sustainable

land use patterns in the Amazon, the Brazilian State

continues to maintain and create environmentally destructive

policies which favor the more wealthy and powerful groups.

At the same time, however, policies are created that

encourage sound environmental practices. During the 1980s,

growing popular concern stimulated the beginnings of a

conservation movement, in which Special Environmental

Secretariat was passed in 1981, and a number of parks and

reserves were established. Yet, in practice, the state

often backs those policies and projects that are more

destructive. Schmink and Wood state that,

However well-conceived a project may be on technical
grounds, its success is contingent on a receptive
political environment. (1987:49)

In order to formulate sound policies and projects that

will actually be successful in reducing environmental

destruction, such as deforestation, the method must include

an assessment of "a society's prevailing form of economic

production and class structure, and the manner in which

diverse economic groups battle for ideological and policy

advantage within the state apparatus" (Schmink and Wood


Environmental policies and resource management projects
that seek to protect the long-term sustainability of
the biophysical system often run counter to the logic
of private accumulation and, as a consequence,to the
interests of powerful social actors. (Schmink and Wood

These social forces operate, not only at the national

and regional levels, but even within small communities, such

as Itupiranga. Struggles ensue between more powerful

actors, such as loggers, ranchers and politicians who

support the changing regime, versus less powerful groups,

because the newcomers obtain their wealth by using resources

in a manner that destroys the former economic activities,

upon which those locals once depended.

Findings and Overview of Dissertation

Societies that develop a market economy undergo

profound social and environmental impacts. For one thing,

local relative autonomy diminishes. Although people in the

Amazon were dependent upon the marketing of extractive

resources before for part of their sustenance, they are now

even more so because of the loss of local resources and the

necessity to buy their replacements. The community

experienced social stratification and class differentiation,

in which some people became wealthy at the expense of most

other people and environmental sustainability.

On the other hand, we need not assume that peoples'

lives will become worse because of capitalist development.

In order to better assess the impact of development upon

peoples we must compare their former way of life with the

changed one. These populations often lose important aspects

of their cultures, especially those which make them

autonomous and able to provide for themselves. Hence, the

focus of research should begin by examining these

populations' former and new economies, since peoples'

welfare is directly related to how they make a living and

whether or not what they do is sufficient to sustain

themselves and their families. Economic strategies are

intrinsically tied to the physical environment, and often

people encounter new rules that make them unable to obtain

the resources that they easily acquired under the old

regime. They may be introduced to new economic activities

that require different interactions with the environment,

and which may permanently alter it. Often, development

means a change from non-capitalist forms of production to

capitalist, and in this process, most people may lose access

to the means of production. This process has a profound

impact upon peoples' economic strategies and thus, standard

of living.

Thus, we must ask the question of how this transition

toward capitalism, whether incomplete or complete, affects

human beings in the region given the social and

environmental problems that seem to be created in the

process. What are the ramifications of changing forms of

production on the environment, on the economy and on the

social relations of production? What consequences do the

changes have for the people at the time they experience them

and in the future?

It is often assumed by governments and international

lending institutions that capitalist development will be a

positive experience for "traditional" peoples living in

non-capitalist societies. There is an implicit assumption

that peoples' lives will improve if they adopt Western

technology, marketing and political systems, and values.

Many evaluators of resettlement use Western definitions of

development and categories of measurement to assess standard

of living (cf. Cernea 1987, 1988, 1990). Thus, attention is

paid to what people gain that can be measured by Western

concepts and methodologies. We measure infrastructural

gains made by recipients of development that can be counted

such as roads, electricity, buildings, educational and

medical facilities, credit, agricultural technologies,

national, regional and household income, and demographics,

including fertility, mortality and morbidity indices. The

point is that we can measure what Western development

creates for people, but it is difficult to measure

adequately what they lose in the process.

There is an incongruence in measuring "traditional"

lifeways by "modern" methods and standards. For example,

until recently natural resources were not considered

valuable in economic terms until they were processed or were

profitable on the market for the businesses that produce and

sell them. For example, once Brazil nut trees are cut, made

into lumber and sold, their value is measured by Western

standards (although much of the profits are never known

since the process is clandestine because it is illegal to

cut Brazil nut trees in the Amazon). However, those profits

only go to a few entrepreneurs compared with the number of

people who utilized the resources of those Brazil nut trees

before. If we do think to examine the value of how Brazil

nut trees were utilized in Pard in the past, we can measure

the profits to marketers of Brazil nuts. What remains

difficult to measure is how Brazil nuts and derived products

were consumed by people living in the region before, and

further, how the marketing part of that activity sustained,

in part, the local economy. We can only approximate the

loss of those resources to the people in the region who

formerly used them by examining how those resources were

once used.

This dissertation attempts to address these issues and

problems in four parts. Part One is an examination of the

impact of capitalist development in the Amazon, and includes

chapters 1, 2 and 3. Chapter 1 presents a theoretical

overview for the rest of the dissertation. Chapter 2 is a

examination of the history of Itupiranga from its founding

in 1892 to 1970. I describe the local manifestation of the

aviamento system in Itupiranga, including the former social

relations of production, control over resources, ideology

regarding resource community use, social structure, and the

division of labor by gender in past economic activities.

Before 1970 and all of the changes in Itupiranga as well as

the region at large, (1) workers were autonomous at the

level of production, (2) but were controlled at the level of

exchange by their patrons who used extraeconomic means of

coercion to gain a surplus from the labor of their clients.

(3) Everyone had access to necessary resources, (4) and

shared the same standard of living at the local level.

Chapter 3 continues the historical account of

Itupiranga between 1970 and 1990 by examining the nature of

the changes, locally, initiated by the implementation of

government projects and policies, including the Transamazon

Highway, colonization programs, migration to the area,

mining for gold at Serra Pelada, the Tucurui Dam and

resettlement, elimination of diamond mining, changing land

tenure, decline of Brazil nut trade, and introduction of

logging and commercial fishing. This historical description

provides a context by which to understand the impacts of the

changes that accompanied the transition from the aviamento

system toward capitalism in Itupiranga, which are examined

in the rest of the dissertation.

In general the rest of the dissertation is an

examination of the environmental, economic and social

impacts of the transition toward capitalism in Itupiranga

and peoples' strategies to cope with those impacts. The

transition in Itupiranga included the privatization of

property, a loss of communal access to resources, and a

diminishing of the patron/client relationships. First,

beginning in the 1970s powerful external elites in the

Brazilian Amazon created large-scale projects and enacted

sweeping policies in the region. The area was no longer a

marginal region, but was rapidly becoming incorporated into

the larger economy. Second, the local populations were

overwhelmed by outsiders, both rich and poor, who migrated

to the region, especially during the 1980s. The policy of

privatization of land was accompanied by a readily available

outsider population who swarmed in throughout the region and

took control of land lots backed by changing land policies

and by the force of their very overwhelming numbers, as well

as other more coercive means. The land that locals once

used was lotted up, and given away, sold or expropriated by

landowners. Locals could no longer trespass over these

private lands to maintain their standard of living. Many

people lost access to land and to many of the resources they

had before.

Third, the migrants who had different perceptions of

resource use in the Amazon came to utilize the forest and

waters differently from traditional local economic

activities. The new productive activities in the Amazon,

which included large-scale ranching, more intensive and

extensive agriculture, logging, mining and commercial

fishing, required the clearance of vast areas of tropical

forest, which had been the source of the former extractive

activities. With the increasing degradation of resources

for extraction, traditional markets and social relations of

production began to break down. Furthermore, the emphasis

was on the newer activities, which were so much more

profitable than the former ones for the newcomers and since

richer migrants, who were aided by the agenda, policies and

forces of social control of the state, took control of local

politics. It is probably easier for people in a community

to maintain themselves and even find strategies to

circumvent or that are beneficial in the face of such policy

changes, especially with regard to land tenure, if the

community does not undergo such a drastic change in economic

activities. With the devastation of the former extractive

economic activities in Itupiranga, the locals had to find

new ones over time.

Fourth, because of the overwhelming numbers of

outsiders, and the fact that wealthier ones took control of

the local reigns of power, locals had no effective means of

organizing to oppose such sweeping changes. The only really

successful strategy for locals was to go along with the

changes and cooperate with outsiders. Certain local

individuals and families did just this, although their

participation in the new scheme was divisive for the former

community. Different local households had varying rates of

success under the new regime. However, the community of

Itupiranga in 1990 was not what it was in 1970. Although

the community was always linked to the outside market, and

there were local class divisions, locals had more autonomy,

security and choices for making a living before all of the


The privatization of land had devastating consequences

for locals. They lost community control of a large amount

of land, and within a period of less than ten years during

the 1980s community sanctions no longer functioned to

regulate peoples' behavior regarding the use of land and

other natural resources. The changes led to an economy

based upon money instead of credit. Increasingly, people

needed money to survive, even if they had access to the

means of production. Making money required the sale of

one's produce or finding employment for wages.

Part Two focuses on the transformation of the social

structure in Itupiranga. Chapter 4 examines this transition

process by focusing on the Tucurul Dam and how the dam and

other changes affected former traders and direct producers,

including those who had to relocate to Itupiranga. The

impacts affected the various social groups in Itupiranga

differently. Although some social groups benefited from the

changes, many groups lost economic security and became

impoverished in the process. The chapter emphasizes what it

means to lose access to the means of production, especially

for former direct producers. They experienced decreasing

autonomy in the production process, changes in consumption

and distribution, an increasing need for cash which

necessitated waged labor employment, a loss of variety and

quantity in their diet, and a declining standard of living.

Throughout most of this dissertation I use the term "social

group" instead of social class because the latter term is

problematic in the Amazon. Access to the means of

production--land--does not guarantee wealth and power among

small-scale landowners. Hence I will use Schmink and Wood's

definition of social group: "collectivities of people

defined by common forms of access to productive resources

and by their participation in similar social relations in

the process of making a living" (1992:13).

Chapter 5 compares the standard of living among groups

utilizing different economic activities to tease out

contemporary social groups in Itupiranga in 1990 and to

elicit information as to whether there was an economic

disparity between these social groups. The findings reveal

an absolute need for cash in contemporary Itupiranga. One

would expect, using a Neo-marxist framework, that access to

land would be a significant predictor of standard of living.

But in fact, people who had a secure position in town that

provided a regular and higher salary than one minimum wage

were significantly better off than the rest of the

population. Those households employed in rural activities

who had access to the means of production--farming and

boats--did not enjoy a higher standard of living than the

rest of the population. The avenues toward success appeared

to be white collar employment and education. However,

access to these paths to success was restricted, and they

were new arenas of conflict among urban social groups. More

wealthy and powerful groups, who were supported by state and

local government policies, prevented poorer and less

powerful social groups from gaining access to scarce

contemporary resources--education and white collar jobs--

that could provide them with an avenue to a higher standard

of living. Despite the fact that elder migrants preferred

to farm because they enjoyed the autonomy and variety of

food that farming brought, they often sacrificed to provide

an education for their children so that they could one day

obtain urban employment. They struggled with the

realization that they needed cash, and that their children

would remain in the bottom rungs of society unless they

obtained an education.

Although the social structure changed profoundly in

Itupiranga, there were remnants of the former patron/client

relations of production. For example, in many cases, people

found jobs in the tertiary sector based on who they knew and

to whom they had vertical or horizontal ties, rather than

with any job skills. Landless agricultural workers referred

to the people they worked for in rural areas as their

patrons. Despite the changes in fishing and the capitalist

relations of production in logging, there appeared to be

strong patron/client bonds between employers and employees.

In all activities, patrons appeared not to have such a heavy

responsibility of providing for their clients, as they did

in the past, but in many cases provided some aid--money,

food, transportation and medical care--in times of disaster.

Part Three is an examination of the transformation of

traditional activities and the impact of new economic

activities on the environment. I present two case studies

to show how the whole extractive economy was transformed. I

focus on fishing, Chapter 6, in order to reveal what occurs

when a former subsistence activity that focuses on

consumption becomes a commercial enterprise. There were

marked changes in fishing because of the installation of the

Tucurui Reservoir, population growth and increasing market

for fish in southern Para. I describe former subsistence

and contemporary commercial fishing in terms of technology,

social relations of production, consumption and

distribution. The change to commercial fishing caused: (1)

people to lose access to the means of production, (2)

increasing stratification in the activity, and (3)

increasing conflicts. The profit-making directives of

commercial fishing and peoples' need for cash led to the

overuse of resources despite government attempts to create

policies designed to protect those same resources.

Chapter 7 focuses on a new land-use strategy, logging,

that began, locally, in the mid-to-late 1970s. I examine

the social relations of production in the logging industry

because it was the most capitalized economic activity in

Itupiranga. The findings revealed a distinction between

sawmill owners and their low-paid workers that was the

widest economic disparity in the community. Qualitative

evidence reveals that sawmill owners were the richest social

group in Itupiranga, and enjoyed a comparably higher

standard of living than sawmill workers, one of the poorest

social groups in Itupiranga, as indicated by quantitative

data from the community survey.

In this chapter I also begin to explore resentments

between sawmill owners (as both new elites and outsiders)

and lower class groups and insider locals. Like fishing,

logging is an activity that directly affects the natural

environment. Logging was one of the most devastating

activities that caused the decline of a former economic

activity--Brazil nut extraction. Despite the lucrative

nature of logging, the activity appeared to have short-term

prospects, locally, which (1) will set parameters of future

activities by eliminating resources and (2) will negatively

affect the local economy once the sawmills leave.

Part 4 focuses on peoples' strategies to cope with the

dramatic changes they experienced, and struggles among

different social groups in town. The first section of

Chapter 8 describes the movement of direct producers, the

former lowest social group in the region, against the

company that built the dam and carried out the resettlement

scheme. These people, who were relocated because of the

dam, expressed their grievances in a sustained rebellion for

several years. They gained some of their demands because

they were aided by other more powerful social groups during

a period of redemocratization in Brazil. However, they

could never recover the lifestyle they lost by the

development of the region. Over time, their movement was

coopted by the creation of a new structure for addressing

grievances created by ELETRONORTE.

The second part of Chapter 8 examines the activities

and motives of the Grupo Ecol6gico de Itupiranga, a movement

initiated by the children of formerly elite/contemporarily

middle class families who lost status and power during the

1980s because of the changing economy. Their families lost

economic security, status, and access to resources during

the changes in Itupiranga. I propose that the motivations

behind their movement were conservative although their

activities appeared to be contemporary with national and

international environmental interests, with whom they had

links and support. Despite these links, the group's goals

for stemming the tide of development in Itupiranga,

especially in terms of environmental destruction caused by

logging, ranching, agriculture and over fishing, were not

possible in the face of local, regional and national

political economic interests.

The third part of Chapter 8 focuses on the silent class

struggle between the poorest social groups in Itupiranga and

more powerful groups, who controlled resources, employment,

markets and the means of maintaining order. I examine why

these oppressed groups did not organize against more

powerful groups and seemed to acquiesce to daily


deprivation, starvation and abuse from merchants, employers,

civil servants and the police. I propose that fear,

acceptance of the social order, and daily contact with

patrons were reasons for their silent endurance of these

repressions (cf. Scott 1985). Despite their grumbling and

infrequent protest activities against wealthier social

groups, their aspirations were reformist in that their

expressed desires tended to be to become viable members of

the contemporary system.


I used multiple strategies to gather data for this

dissertation. First and foremost, I spent one year living

in Itupiranga as a participant observer, from October 1989

to October 1990, funded by a Fulbright grant for research.

Much of what I learned was obtained from casual

conversations with people when I was "on" and working, and

also when I was "off" and playing. I believe that the real

jewels of information come about when people are relaxed and

consider the anthropologist a friend. Serendipity plays a

significant role in obtaining information in the field.

Interestingly enough, however, some excellent bits of

information come about when people are defensive and trying

to justify their activities. For example, I got an insight

into the perceptions of loggers and ranchers, who approached

me on the defensive, because I was an American, which meant

to them, that I was an "ecologist." These conversations

usually took place over a beer or while traveling. The

loggers were especially reacting to the media-driven

impression that Americans are ecologists who want to save

the Amazon from deforestation caused by their logging

activities. Some sawmill owners eloquently tried to defend

their way of making a living, after being initially somewhat

defensive, yet always polite. Any hostility gradually

disappeared as they realized I was not critical of them.

They argued to me that their activities were developing the

Amazon and Brazil, and even saving local lives by supplying


Whether or not these assertions are true, as I was

befriended by two logging families, especially, I began to

struggle with the dilemma of my own biases against logging

and loggers in the Amazon. At first, I worried about

befriending the "enemy." Later, as the friendships

deepened, I grieved over how I could write honestly about

them and their activities, and at the same time call myself

a friend, since some of what I would write would be

critical. For I realized during this endeavor in the field

that I could not judge or help anyone or the general

situation in the Amazon; I could only be a friend to the

people who had opened their lives to me, and shared their

insights as well as their hearts. Being a human being with

my own biases, I shared myself with them, too, and lost my

heart, both to some logger families and to some local

ecologists. My friendships with two such disparate groups

(and others) were tricky at times, and I often found myself

walking a fine line of diplomacy between the individuals

holding such opposing and polarized world views. Yet, I do

believe that I can "see" both positions differently than

those actors, and by comparing the two, can add something to

both the humanistic and more "objective" scientific field of


The anthropologist, who is not an unbiased or neutral

instrument of research, influences her research informants

because of her gender, nationality, social class, age,

appearance and personality. People respond to her according

to these attributes as well as their own world view which is

influenced by their gender, class, culture and personality.

In another case, while I was formally interviewing a woman,

I was privy to a rather heated discussion between her and

another woman of a lower socioeconomic status about what it

meant to be poor (see Chapter 8). Although I felt relegated

to the position of being a fly on the wall at times during

that debate, I realized that they were carrying it out, in

part, for my benefit. I obtained an important insight that

day because of that incident, although my presence

influenced what those women said, including the fact that

the debate took place at all. It follows that although

anthropologists are indeed part of the field picture, they

can still obtain important insights into other cultures by

using the method of participant observation.

However, I also wished that my data be representative

of the whole community in order to draw more solid

conclusions about my hypotheses. With this in mind, I drew

a random sample of 150 households after mapping the town of

1,851 houses. I then surveyed those households using a 21-

page questionnaire. The general sets of questions were

designed to obtain both individual-level and household-level

information. I obtained the following information about

each individual within the household: relationship to head

of household, economic contribution to household (i.e.,

whether a person brought in an income or not) sex, age,

birthplace, education, and detailed employment histories.

The second part of the questionnaire was designed to obtain

information about the household, and included the following:

migration history of the head of household and the spouse;

past and present relationship to land and housing;

agricultural, logging, fishing and commercial business

activities; standard of living; religion and perceived

problems in Itupiranga.

I conducted three other questionnaires. Using a

snowball sample, I carried out interviews with fishermen and

sawmill workers from 30 households, each. These

questionnaires were designed to obtain standard of living

data as well as more detailed information about the

activities of fishing and working in sawmills. A third

questionnaire was conducted with five sawmill owners (which

included six of the eight sawmills in or near town), to

round out the analysis of logging and sawmill operations, as

well as get the owners' side of the story. I talked

casually over a few beers with another sawmill owner, who

refused to be interviewed formally. The other town-based

sawmill owner put me off seven times before I finally

realized that, despite his pleasant demeanor and seeming

hospitality, he was not going to let me interview him.

Because of my novice status in talking about fishing and

logging, I used a tape recorder for many of these

interviews, especially with fishermen and sawmill owners to

get the details down so that I could better understand what

they were talking about, later (com calma).

Other information was obtained from archives in Bel6m

at both the campus and downtown Museu Goeldi, NAEA at the

Universidade Federal do Para, IDESP, IBGE, SUDAM, Cacex,

Secretaria de Fazenda. I carried out other archival

research at the Casa da Cultura in Maraba and Itupiranga. I

conducted interviews with key informants from IBAMA and the

Comiss&o Pastoral de Terra, C.A.T., and SUCAM in Belem and

Maraba. In Bel6m, I visited INCRA, the Secretaria de

Industria Commercio e Mineracgo, Cacex, SUDAM, Secretaria de

Fazenda, and the Federagao dos Pescadores. I talked to an

evaluator for the Legiao Brasileira de Assist&ncia, who was

visiting from Maraba. In Itupiranga, I talked with

municipal officials, the president of the Sindicato dos

Trabahadores de Itupiranga, elected officials of the Col6nia

dos Pescadores de Itupiranga, visiting researchers and

officials from ELETRONORTE, Movimento de Educacao de Base,

SUCAM, Grupo Ecol6gico de Itupiranga, EMATER, SAGRI, and the

Catholic Church.



This chapter is a brief history of Itupiranga, Pard

since its founding in 1892 until 1970. An account of the

area's history is important in order to compare and contrast

the former lifeways of its inhabitants to those since rapid

changes began in the early 1970s and have accelerated since

1980. This is not to say that culture change did not occur

in Itupiranga from 1892 until 1970. However, events since

1980 dramatically increased this rate of change and almost

completely transformed the economic landscape. Because of

this transformation, the Itupiranga of today has little in

common with the area as little as 20 years ago, even though

historical vestiges remain among the town's original

inhabitants in their memories, and thus, in how they cope

with the stresses that the changes have brought. In order

to analyze the scope and impact of culture change in

Itupiranga in later chapters, this historical account will

emphasize the former political economic system,

specifically: how people depended upon resources and which

resources were important, their social relations of

production and distribution, the land tenure system, and

sociopolitical arrangements of extraction.




S' Rondon do Par

Itupiranga oc iy O

Sao loaa do Araguaia
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Carajas 5
SSao Geraldo do Araguaia

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Sao Felix Ourilan ia ,
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S C" ca P 2-

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TER A .Conce q.o
do Araguaia

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Highways Towns
Rivers Dam

SOUTHERN PARA ) Indian Reserves Gold Mining
0 150 300

Figure 2-1. Map of Southern Pard

Source: Schmink and Wood (1992)

1892: Founding

Itupiranga is a small town that was founded in 1892 by

people migrating from the municipality of Boa Vista (today

Tocantin6polis), Goias. These founders were fleeing from

violence and confusion in Boa Vista, Goids as was happening

in other places in Goids, Maranhao and Pard. These

"levantes armados" ('armed uprisings') were conflicts

between local political chiefs ('coron6is chefes politicos')

and state officials and created turmoil for citizens who

were sometimes arrested, persecuted and imprisoned (Chaves

1990:1). The conflicts also damaged local agriculture,

cattle production, commerce and general activities. During

these violent uprisings in the early 1890s many people

abandoned or sold their land to search for a place where

they could live and work peacefully. They sometimes had to

leave their homes in Goids, for example, under cover of

night so their flight would remain undetected (Chaves 1990).

One group, led by a small-scale farmer who was originally

from Riachao, Maranhao, travelled down the Tocantins River

and into the state of Pard, and finally decided to settle in

what is today known as Itupiranga.

The late 1800s were a turbulent period in Brazil due to

the abolition of slavery in 1888 and struggles over land,

labor and power between land-holding elites themselves and

also with the lower classes, which manifested themselves in

religious and political struggles at the local, regional and

national levels. The "guerra da Boa Vista" (war of Boa

Vista) involved a conflict between several coroneis

(colonels or political chiefs) in 1892 of different

political parties and levels of government. At one point in

the conflict, many adherents of one party, the florianistas,

left the state of Goias in droves and migrated north into

Pard. One leader, Colonel Carlos Gomes Leitdo, landed in a

place near present-day MarabA and tried to start an

agricultural colony called the Burgo de Itacayuna (Velho

1972, cited in Emmi 1985). This colony existed in 1896,

with a population of 222 inhabitants comprising 55

agricultural families according to historical accounts. The

families depended upon growing manioc, raising cattle for

consumption and extracting Brazil nuts, also purely for

consumption. While looking for pasture in which to graze

their cattle, the residents discovered caucho (rubber) trees

(Moura 1910, cited in Emmi 1985). The discovery triggered

more migration to the area, since rubber had become a

primary extractive resource in the Amazon region by the late

1800s. Shortly after the discovery of rubber, locally, the

colony of Burgo de Itacayuna was largely abandoned in favor

of the commercial center of Maraba, which sprang up because

of its advantageous location at the confluence of the

Itacayuna and Tocantins rivers, and coincided with the

rapidly growing trade of rubber in the area. Instead of a

community based upon agricultural production, as was

intended for the Burgo de Itacayuna, Maraba was a commercial

town, which depended from its inception upon the trade of

extractive resources.

The founding of the Burgo de Itacayuna and Itupiranga

do not appear to be related except that the founders came

from Boa Vista, Goias. Leitao was said to have brought

with him from Goids, many of his peons who carried out

agricultural and small commercial activities in the

agricultural colony. Later, they extracted rubber for a

living instead of remaining farmers. Leit&o also had the

help of the governor of Pard, Lauro Sodr4, a fellow party

member, in founding and executing the plans for his

agricultural colony. The historical records show that

Leitao's colony of Burgo de Itacayuna was registered in

1894, and inspected by the governor, Laudro Sodre, in 1896.

However, Emmi (1985) does not mention when Leitao and

company were thought to have migrated, nor does she refer at

any time to Itupiranga.

On the other hand, Chaves (1990) does not mention the

Colonel Leitao at all in his book on the founding of

Itupiranga, and the account implies that the first founders

were small farmers, who migrated independently of any more

powerful leader. The first founder of Itupiranga was a

farmer named Lucio Antonio dos Santos, a farmer who was

originally from Riachao, Maranhao but subsequently lived in

Boa Vista, Goids before traveling up the Tocantins and

settling in Lago Vermelho. It is possible that LGcio

Antonio dos Santos was one of Leitao's peons who kept on

going further upriver, where he and the few families with

him decided to camp and begin to farm. However, it is also

possible that although Santos was most likely a florianista

fleeing from the conflicts at home in GoiAs, he and his

friends may have migrated earlier than Leitao, and were,

thus, independent from the colonel. It would also explain

the existence of different chiefs in and around Itupiranga,

who controlled the rubber trails.

Itupiranga has always been dependent upon MarabA

because of that town's advantageous trading position. Yet,

at the same time, one senses from the historical account,

that Itupiranga has always maintained some independence from

Marab&, even when the smaller community was under MarabA's

jurisdiction. The roots of this independence may be found

in Itupiranga's independent founding, as well as the fact

that the town had chefes (people who controlled the rights

to rubber tree and Brazil nut tree tracts) from areas other

than only MarabA.

After exploring the area, the founders of Itupiranga

decided to remain, because they perceived that the land was

good for agriculture. They gave their new settlement the

name "Lago Vermelho," ('Red Lake') after the nearby creek.

Immediately they began to clear some land for farming and to

build houses, most likely between May and June in 1892

(Chaves 1990:3).

These first settlers collected rubber in addition to

farming. This period was the height of the rubber boom


(1890-1910), and these and subsequent migrants came to this

area seeking their fortune in rubber. By 1896, Lago

Vermelho had 60 inhabitants (Chaves 1990). Attracted by the

availability of rubber, many more migrants continued to

arrive from Goiis, Maranhao, Bahia, and other states. By

this time Lago Vermelho already had a private school and

several small commercial houses that carried necessary items

for the local population. Chaves recounts that Lago

Vermelho society was acephalous, whereby every individual

behaved according to his or her own standards. However,

some people felt that Lago Vermelho should have an

administrative system, and approached the regional trader

who was established in Arumateua, a small town near Alcobaga

(present-day Tucurui). They asked him to intercede in their

behalf about this matter to the government in Baido, since

Lago Vermelho fell under its jurisdiction. The residents of

Lago Vermelho wanted the trader, Raymundo Rocha, to ask that

their area become a municipality, which did not occur until


This case illustrates the social structure of the

region at that time. Rocha (a contemporary and class equal

of Leitao in Maraba) was the main buyer of all export

products, including rubber, Brazil nuts, copaiba, andiroba

and other extractive commodities of the region, and exported

them to more distant places such as Belem, the capital city

of Para. In turn, he supplied the local populations with

necessary food and other survival items at stores in vilas


including Lago Vermelho. Because Rocha had control over the

distribution of export and import products, he also had

political control over the region.

Rubber Extraction

Lago Vermelho, like most other locations in the Amazon

during the rubber boom, had the aviamento system of social

relations of production (cf. Wagley 1974; Moran 1974;

Weinstein 1985). The aviamento system linked primary rubber

producers to exporters in the larger cities through rubber

trader/merchants and the proprietors of rubber trails. As

Weinstein (1983) explains, a series of debt relations

operated at each point of this exploitive system where

rubber collectors often worked under coercive labor

arrangements. At the bottom of the system was the rubber

tapper (seringueiro), a direct producer who extracted the

rubber latex from rubber trees in the forest and coagulated

it over a fire to make it easier to handle and transport.

He then delivered the hardened rubber to a trading post to

his patron (patrao), who was either a large landholder

(seringalista) who leased the tracts of land containing

rubber trees to the seringueiro, or a merchant (aviador) who

controlled local rubber production and trade. The

seringueiro received trade goods in return, usually in

credit, to continue his operations. The trader and

landholder used various means--overpricing the tradegoods

and underpricing the rubber, rubber rents--to appropriate

surplus and to maintain their control over the seringueiro

by extending more credit, thus increasing the latter's

indebtedness so that he had to continue the relationship.

This type of credit arrangement operated at all levels.

Next in the chain came the small-town aviador in cases where

the local trading post was not easily accessible to larger

steamboats, and thus, the rubber could not be shipped

directly to a major urban center, usually Bel6m or Manaus.

This individual usually operated as an agent for a larger

commercial house, by buying rubber from the patron or the

rubber tapper and selling goods that he obtained on credit

from a rubber-trading firm (aviador) in Belem or Manaus, to

locals through his store. When the rubber arrived in the

urban area, it was inspected for impurities at the aviador

firm and prepared for export. Weinstein states,

The aviador house was the most important link in the
Amazon's commercial chain, in terms of both its
central position and its multiple functions. Also
known as the rubber 'receiver' (to distinguish it
from the actual exporters), it was this firm that
decided when and to whom to sell the rubber. And
it was the large aviadores who contracted with the
importing houses for the goods that were distributed
to the small-town merchant, the roving trader, the
seringalista, and ultimately the seringueiro.

It was these aviador firms, furthermore, that arranged for

the drought-stricken refugees from the Brazilian Northeast

to come to the Amazon to work on rubber trails in order to

alleviate the labor shortage problems. The firms also acted

as the legal and financial agents for the wealthier patrons

and traders in the region. Additionally, they were in

charge of arranging additional credit or short-term loans

from the local banks in order to add to advances from

importing firms, or to buy steamboats, docking facilities,

and warehouses.

Next, the rubber was passed on to the export houses,

which acted as agents for rubber-buying firms in New York or

Liverpool. This transaction was the only link in the chain

in which cash was passed within Brazil. These export houses

could also act as informal banking facilities or importers,

having access to cash and foreign exchange. The last link

in the chain was when the rubber arrived in another nation

and became the property of the overseas purchasing house,

which normally paid for the costs of transporting the goods

overseas and any other expenses that incurred after the

rubber left Brazil. Then, the rubber was sold by that firm

to a manufacturer.

From Chaves' historical account (1990), it is evident

that a majority of the residents of Lago Vermelho were

primary rubber collectors who worked for a few people who

controlled rubber trails in the Araguaia-Tocantins

Riverbasin area. Some of these seringalistas who controlled

the rubber trails later built houses in the Lago Vermelho

settlement itself. However, in the early days, only Rocha's

middle-men, ('aviadores'), lived in and around Lago

Vermelho, running the local commercial trade. The

seringalistas also encouraged the local inhabitants to

gather Brazil nuts, shellfish, and other extractive forest

products such as palm nuts to make oil.


Despite the end of the rubber boom in 1910, rubber was

still important for the local economy. According to Chaves

(1990), in 1912 another "adventurer" arrived to town who

built a large house that served as his home, a store, and a

temporary storage facility for the products coming from the

forest. With his own resources, he explored the forest for

more rubber trails and a better outlet from which to

transport his own rubber as well as that of other rubber

barons in the region. Chaves mentions three principal

comerciantes (traders) in the region, who were most

important to the producers in Itupiranga, one of whom was

stronger than the other two. These merchants were supplied

from Baido, some directly and others by an intermediary of

other nearby rubber barons, such as Raymundo Rocha in

Arumateua who bought a large quantity of the products

extracted in the Itupiranga area. There were many buyers of

the locally extracted produce, which consisted mainly of

rubber, but included the other extracted vegetable products.

Some of these buyers travelled from Bel6m to Sao Luis,

Maranhao, stopping at places such as Arumateua, Itupiranga

and MarabA along the way to buy rubber and Brazil nuts and

to sell necessary products as well as some luxury goods to

locals. They would arrive in large boat-like canoes driven

by up to six to ten oars. The boats were filled with all

sorts of supplies, and one informant told me that when they

arrived, everyone in town would go to the riverfront to see

what the traders had to sell. Women would buy cloth, thread

and other supplies with which to sew. Men would congregate

and drink cachaga (an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane)

and beer with the traders and other people on the boat.

Children could buy sweets. Whenever the boats arrived,

according to local informants, a general holiday atmosphere


During the 1890s and 1900s many people were drawn to

the region from other states because of rubber. By 1912,

the small settlement had 200 inhabitants, a majority of whom

were caucheiros and mateiros. Caucheiros were rubber

gatherers who gathered one type of rubber, called caucho

(Castilla ulei), which grew plentifully nearby. People also

gathered rubber from another type of tree, seringeira (Hevea

brasiliensis), although historical accounts suggest that

caucho was the mainstay of the local economy. Mateiros

explored the forest, opened and marked ownership of the

rubber trails, as well as other areas rich in Brazil nut

trees (Bertholetia excelsa), copaiba (Copaifera

officinalis), andiroba (Carapa quvanensis) and other

extractive resources for possible exportation. The rubber

collectors spent six months during the dry season in the

forest extracting the latex. They would often trade at

small settlements closest to their trails. The rubber was

transported by mule during the summer months and in the

winter by canoes, with as many as 10 canoes fastened

together to tow the rubber over the rapids of the Tocantins

River to Itupiranga and also to Arumatiua, before going on


to Belm (Chaves 1990). Sometimes the rapids would break up

the train of canoes and the rubber and transporters would be

lost. Many people said that river travel was dangerous in

those days. During the rainy season, the caucheiros would

come from their houses on the rubber trails to their houses

in Lago Vermelho to sell their rubber and buy supplies, and

to socialize.

The winter months were a time for many parties with

dancing and drinking. There were dances like the suscia,

tambor, and roda, the latter one in which the men danced

apart from the women (Chaves 1990). At times, when the

parties became too wild and men imbibed too freely in drink,

they would become violent and someone would get killed from

a knife fight. Many times the fights were over women, who

would often get killed, also. Incidents such as these

prompted locals to request an administrative and political

structure that would be able to legislate and police the

local citizens' behavior. Most men who arrived in

Itupiranga were not married or had left their families

behind, planning to return after they had made their

fortune. Some of these men only stayed temporarily. Others

cohabited with local women, and sometimes eventually married

them, forgetting about their families elsewhere (Chaves

1990). Thus, the town was a temporary haven for some

people, but also became a permanent residence for others,

who identified with Lago Vermelho and wanted to improve

their living conditions and the organization of their


The money the direct producers made and the necessary

supplies they received from the traders in exchange for the

extractive forest products were not enough to maintain them.

In order to survive within the inequitable aviamento credit

system, these direct producers from the Northeast adopted

indigenous economic and technological strategies to maintain

their living during the season when they could not collect

the rubber latex. They hunted, gathered or fished for

resources from the forest and river for their own use, as

well as maintained small gardens to supplement their

extractive activities. Over time, women and children in

the direct producer social group participated in these

horticultural activities, as well as in the collection of

forest products. However, during the late 1890s and early

1900s, the main activity was rubber collection by men.

This economic activity of rubber collection was not

viable in the long run because of the type of rubber tree

and method of extraction found in the Itupiranga region.

There are different varieties of rubber in the Amazon, which

require different methods of extraction. The species most

plentiful in Itupiranga, caucho (Castilla ulei),

necessitated that the tree be cut down in order to extract

the latex. One result of this method, is that once all of

the trees are cut down, rubber extraction is no longer a

viable economic activity. By 1910, the caucho was mostly

gone in the Itupiranga region, even though smaller amounts

continued to be exploited during the next few decades.

Other factors also affected rubber production in the

early 1900s. In 1910, rubber prices plummeted due to the

successful experiment in cultivation of plantation rubber in

Asia. When rubber could be produced more economically from

the Asian plantation, natural rubber from the Amazon Basin

could no longer compete. The Amazonian economy, which was

entirely based on credit relations throughout the system

from primary producer to export houses, disintegrated

(Weinstein 1983). Lago Vermelho underwent a crisis, but

Chaves states that this depression did not last long,

locally because of the rising price of Brazil nuts, which

were concentrated around Maraba and Itupiranga (1991).

Locals also hunted wild cats to trade their skins.

Extraction of Brazil Nuts

The rubber barons in the Tocantins region around

Marabh, Itupiranga, and Jacunda did not fail as badly as

others elsewhere in the Amazon because their rubber trade

operations were able to stay afloat due to the local

exploitation of Brazil nuts (Lagenest 1958; Emmi 1985).

Thus the regional depression resulting from the ascendancy

of the Asian plantations in supplying rubber for the world

market did not negatively affect the local barons in the

Tocantins region as much because they increased their

efforts in the extraction of Brazil nuts or castanhas.

Like Maraba, the origin of Lago Vermelho was based upon

the commercial production and distribution of rubber.

However, when rubber declined with the crisis, the Brazil

nut became the primary export product. Export figures from

Maraba give an idea of the fall in importance of rubber, and

ascendancy of the Brazil nut. In 1919, Maraba exported 355

tons of rubber. By 1920 the exports only reached 229 tons,

and by 1921 had dropped to 92 tons (de Lagenest 1958:47).

At the same time, in 1919, 5,396 hectoliters (1 hectoliter

equals 100 liters) of Brazil nuts were exported from Maraba.

In 1920, 17,878 hectoliters were exported, and by 1921,

27,967 hectoliters (Ibid). Since that time and until the

1980s, the extraction and commerce surrounding the Brazil

nut continued to be the primary source of wealth for the

area. For example, a breakdown of extractive resources in

1954, reveals that the Brazil nut contributed by far the

most value in the economy of Maraba (see Table 2-1).

However inexact these figures, they give an idea of the

magnitude of Brazil nut extraction carried out in Marab& in


Extractive activities were carried out seasonally. The

extraction of Brazil nuts was carried out during the months

from January to June. Then, from June to November, the

direct producers or gatherers (castaneiros) of Brazil nuts

would often work mining for diamonds in the Tocantins River

and smaller tributaries in and around the main river before


the rainy season began, which would make the waters too deep

in which to mine.

In the municipality of MarabA in 1954 there were 111

demarcated castanhais (demarcated tracts of land rich in

Brazil nuts), 35 of which were leased by private individuals

and 76 percent of which were state property (Lagenest 1954).

In Itupiranga several individuals controlled lands with

Brazil nut trees, but many primary producers gathered the

castanhas (Brazil nuts) on state lands. Each castanhal

(Brazil nut tree tract) is divided into ten or so areas in

which two to five castanheiros harvested the fruit. As with

rubber extraction, castanha extraction on private lands was

done using the aviamento system of production and

distribution. When a castanheiro contracted with an owner--

patron--of a castanhal he was given a quantity of money,

usually from 200 to 5,000 cruzeiros (Lagenest 1954).

Besides this money, the gatherer could obtain credit from

his patron's store for food supplies as well as even rifles

for hunting. The gatherers would spend five to six months

in the forest away from their families gathering castanhas

for six days a week, and resting on Sundays. However, in

many cases, whole families would participate gathering

Brazil nuts that the family head would then trade with the

patron. In May or June, the gatherer would transport his

harvest to the bed of the closest creek and store it.

At the end of the season his harvest was measured, and

based upon the amount he had gathered, he was paid at a


price fixed by his patron. When an individual's harvest was

poor he might only have gathered 5 hectoliters, and in a

good year 150 hectoliters. In 1955 the price per hectoliter

was 80 to 100 cruzeiros, thus someone could earn as little

as 400 cruzeiros or as much as 15,000 cruzeiros according to

the hypothesized measurements given above (Lagenest

1954:50). The measurement process lent itself to various

forms of exploitation by the patron. Unscrupulous patrons

could subtract the waterweight from the nuts or lie about

the weight of a gatherer's harvest, since many primary

producers did not know how to read. Furthermore, the patron

subtracted the expenses that the gatherer had incurred at

the beginning and during the season, sometimes adjusting for

inflation to the latter's disadvantage. Many times the

gatherer did not earn enough to pay off his expenses, and

would have to work for the same patron the following year to

fulfill his obligations from his debt. As a result, the

gatherers who worked for patrons were almost indefinitely in

debt. The system was exploitive yet secure for both

parties: the patron made sure he had enough labor for the

following season, and the gatherer had someone who would

take care of his expenses, even though he was in eternal


Gatherers sold their harvest or a part of their harvest

to other traders only rarely, despite the exploitative

nature of the system. The practice of selling secretly to

someone other than one's own patron was even discouraged

among the gatherers themselves (Lagenest 1954). The

dishonesty was practiced more by the patrons against the

primary producers, against which the illiterate, unorganized

gatherers had no recompense. The value added in these

transactions between patrons and clients ranged from 50

percent to 500 percent (Lagenest 1954:51). In an effort to

protect gatherers from such exploitation, President Gettlio

Vargas created the "Associagao Rural de Castanheiros (Rural

Association of Brazil nut Gatherers)," but the reality was

not very effective because the local association in Maraba

was organized by the castanhal owners.

The power of these patrons was enormous because of

their wealth. For example, Lagenest posits that in 1950

there were perhaps 30 such patrons in the Marab& area. The

export of Brazil nuts was 160,000 hectoliters in that same

year, which earned 40 million cruzeiros. These 30

individuals who would divide this money almost exclusively

among themselves were members of the same few families. A

local law prohibited an individual from owning more than one

castanhal, and as a result, it was common for one family to

own from 15 to 20 castanhais because each member of the

family had one castanhal registered in his or her name.

Moreover, these families controlled many of the other

commercial transactions since they owned the stores. As a

result, power and wealth were concentrated in the hands of a

few families who had enormous influence over the region and

the 3,000 or so gatherers during that period (Lagenest

1954). During the Brazil nut season, only the clients who

were contracted by the patrons were allowed to gather or

hunt on lands they controlled.

In Itupiranga many people preferred to harvest

castanhais on government lands, and not work for private

owners. With a patron, one was guaranteed credit and a sure

sale for one's produce for the season. Another advantage

was that there was less competition between gatherers, and

so a castanheiro could gather more Brazil nuts to sell.

However, the patrons would always buy the Brazil nuts from

their clients who worked on their lands for a cheaper price,

and so most castanheiros preferred to work on the municipal

lands, which were said to be "everyone's" lands. One man

said that he would gather between 20 to 30 hectoliters per

season, which he could sell "livre" or to whomever he

choose, so he sold to a trader who would give him the best

price. The drawback to this method of operating without a

patron was that each castanheiro had to compete with all of

the others who were intent upon gathering as many Brazil

nuts as they could in a season. Further, their independence

meant that they may not have had access to credit from

patrons during leaner times of the year.

To make the extraction of Brazil nuts fair among people

who lived in Itupiranga, no one was allowed on the municipal

lands of the castanhal across the river for several months,

even to hunt. Beginning in late November and early December

when the Brazil nuts began to ripen, everyone was prohibited

by community sanction from going to the other side of the

river so that no one would gather any Brazil nuts earlier

than the others. Then, on January 1 every year the

community would celebrate the beginning of Brazil nut

season. The townfolk would gather at the river and

ceremoniously launch the canoes of the direct producers who

were to spend the next five months on the other side of the

river gathering Brazil nuts. With a gunshot the canoes

began a lively race across the river, and the people

remaining in town cheered for the racers from the side of

the river. The river in front of Itupiranga was filled with

boats, people said, and everyone was "animada" (animated) as

the castanha season began and people went off to work in the


In this manner, community sanctions controlled access

to resources at certain times so that they were distributed

more evenly among direct producers. On the one hand, game

and fish were divided and distributed after they were hunted

or extracted from the river. On the other hand, the

sanctions that governed Brazil nut gathering worked to even

out the chances for everyone to gather a similar amount of

nuts at the level of extraction. The restriction to

trespass for several months prior to January 1 on municipal

lands across the river and subsequent communal sendoff

celebration ensured that no one had an opportunity to begin

to gather and hoard Brazil nuts before anyone else.

The lands across the river were referred to as the

men's castanhal, whereas the areas rich in Brazil nuts on

the same side of the river as the town were where the women

gathered castanhas. The reason people gave for this

division was that the women had to stay closer to home and

watch their children, while the men could go off for the

required five to six months and stay in the forest.

However, among poorer families, both women and children

accompanied their husbands to the other side of the river

and remained in the forest throughout the castanha season.

Women whose fathers or husbands owned small stores, never

participated in either farming or gathering Brazil nuts on

the other side of the river. Likewise, poorer women also

participated in agricultural activities, unlike their

wealthier female contemporaries. The fact that there were

social group divisions between the lower class vis-a-vis the

patron class, is also indicated in Chaves (1990) who

mentions the presence of poor people (carente) in Lago

Vermelho since at least the 1920s.

The collection of castanhas was a more social activity

than gathering rubber latex. One man said that he did not

like to gather seringa because he had to spend all of his

time alone, and was, thus, always in danger of being

attacked by ongas (wild cats) or Gaviao Indians. People

stayed together for protection and for company while they

harvested Brazil nuts, and perhaps this togetherness despite

the competition fostered and maintained a more communal

feeling about the municipal lands, and perhaps also was a

source of resistance if those castanhais were threatened by

any patrons who tried to expropriate those lands for

themselves. No mention is made by Chaves (1990) of any

direct attempts by anyone to obtain these lands but his

account indicates political conflict between Itupiranga and

politicians in Maraba, who were themselves, or linked with,

Brazil nut patrons. Furthermore, Emmi (1985) carefully

traces the economic and political conflicts between

castanhal-owning families in Maraba, which illustrate the

struggles for control over and concentration of lands rich

in Brazil nuts. More than likely, the communal lands rich

in Brazil nuts near Itupiranga were the source of some

conflict between patrons in Maraba and the local Itupirangan


Diamond Mining

Another gathered resource that provided access to trade

goods were diamonds in the Tocantins River. Diamonds were

discovered in the region in 1925 and 1926 nearby Igarap6

Cametauzinho, which was located near Lago Vermelho.' During

the same time, the first diamond was discovered near Lago

Vermelho in the Tocantins River. Thus, in addition to the

extraction of Brazil nuts and oil from copaiba, babassu and

According to Lagenest (1954) the first diamonds were
not discovered in the region until 1939 or 1940. I choose
to believe Chaves' report because he lived in Itupiranga all
of his life, travelled back and forth between Itupiranga and
Maraba as a public official throughout his adulthood, and is
the local historian.