Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

We were all set, strapped onto metal seats, when the captain announced: everybody out, we got stuck. After two days flying, and two flawless landings, only the Guajará Mirim ‘runaway’ mud to stop our fearless DC-3 on its tracks. Everyone got dirty pushing the plane.
On the sideways, Native Brazilian Indians laughed out loud. It was not their first time having a blast with visitors, but I never went back for seconds. Once we took off, my mind was racing towards the Acre State, where I’d spend three months with my friend Tonho and his family.
We got to know a stretch of the majestic Amazon Rainforest, three times as big then as it is now. I flew for free as a military officer’s son, aboard a Douglas from the National Air Mail. Tonho left Rio three days later, on a commercial flight, but we got to Rio Branco together.
My place was next to piles of letters and parcels, as DC-3s were still being used on regular post routes within Brazil. No complaints; I didn’t know then, but it turned out to be one of the greatest trips of my life, a real miracle, as I hadn’t a cent to my name but was treated like a king.
On the way, I’ve spent a night in Porto Velho, whose downtown area on that rainy winter of 1973, was occupied by a huge gypsy camp. I had already realized that I was visiting another country, but I felt even more foreigner having a hard time understanding them. Pure prejudice made me weary of the Roma and not to ask for directions.

SYRUP & SPAGHETTI WESTERNS
Brazil’s vast distances and geographical north-south set up has a lot to do with the radical differences among its regions. Getting to the northwest, wild and racially mixed, coming from the south, urban and white European, is like a kick in the ass. You get on all your fours and it’s better to take your time getting up again.
Things seemed so odd, that the first thing the two teenagers got was cough medicine, which used to be unwittingly loaded with codeine. We were not into alcohol, and weed was rarer than snow, so pharma high was our tour guide exploring the sights and city blocks.
By far, the two weathers within a single day were our main source of amusement. The whole city life revolved around things happening before and after the rain. Dawn would break already in the 80s and while the thermometer would rise with the sun, sweat would drench us. Suddenly, all would change.
At just few degrees shy of the 100s, the sky would turn and a monsoon of biblical proportions would come down, all thunder and flood. It’d last less than an hour, though, and then, it’d be gone. Clouds would get quickly driven away and the sun would return to set, at the conclusion of yet another beautiful day.
Many a bottle of syrup we knocked down on our way to the movies – we may have watched the entire Sergio Leone collection, plus every one of the Zapata series – or the ‘boate,’ where a long-haired crooner singing Roberto Carlos‘ Amada Amante, was a nightly hit. What a life.

DEEP IN THE DYING JUNGLE
When we headed to Xapuri, to try Ayahuasca, we had no idea who Chico Mendes was. Deforestation was all around us, piles of downed trees by the side of the road. At one point, our bus stopped: ahead of us, a tractor-trailer was fully submerged in a small lagoon. Only the top of the cabin was out of the water.
We got to Brasiléia late at night, and rented a room in the back of a rest stop. There was no power and we were intrigued when the owner handed us a little fumigator, loaded with kerosene. It didn’t take long to know why: bugs were big as mice, and would fly around. We almost suffocated to death, trying to keep them away.
We woke up early, sweaty and nearly deaf. Heat was expected, but what was that loud noise, as if someone was scratching our zinc rooftop with metal nails. Zeeeep, zeeeep, zeeeep, one after another. (more)
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Read Also:
* Chico Mendes
* Amazing Zone
* Rainforest Rundown

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Blaming Gypsies

As Hungary Picks on Roma,
Racism Rears its Ugly Head

Widespread outrage has erupted in Hungary after an influential politician called the Roma ‘animals.’ That a founding member of the ruling party could be so blatantly intolerant has reawaken fears that the European Union nation’s is slowly sliding into authoritarian rule.
Diverse segments of the population jumped into the Roma’s defense, including the country’s justice minister, and a group representing Jews, who know a thing or two about the switch to dictatorship by a seemingly stable democracy. But for the Roma, it’s all deja vu.
Historically, they’re used to serve as scapegoats every time things don’t go as planned for governments with autocratic inklings. And Hungary of the last 10 years seems to fit the bill, with ever stricter attempts at controlling the press and laws designed to curb individual liberties.
The article by Zsolt Bayer, founding member of the ruling Fidesz party, is so the more hurtful to the Roma, since they’ve been an integral part of Hungary’s ethnicity and culture for over six centuries. After an inconsequential New Year’s Eve bar brawl, allegedly with the involvement of some young Gypsies, Bayer went ballistic.
‘They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals,’ he wrote on the following Saturday’s edition of the Magyar Hirlap newspaper, a particularly nasty slur against what constitutes seven percent of the country’s 10 million people. Most of them, of course, living in impoverished communities outside big cities.
The World Jewish Congress called on Hungarians to ‘speak out against such manifestations of racism.’ Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics said that there’s no room for anyone ‘who labels a group of people as animals.’ And we’d add, leave the animals out of this too, for in 10,000 years-plus of registered history, there has been not a single case of animal racism reported.
In any event, like the Roma themselves, we’ve all been there before, as Continue reading

Haunting Memories

We’ll Always Have Paris, Just
Not Because of You-Know-Who

Anyone would be hard pressed to come up with a single thing Adolf Hitler did for the good of mankind. We came up with two (stay with us on this): one was not to bomb Paris, a decision he made when he toured the city 72 years ago today. The other, of course, was to die a miserable death and none too soon, a few years later.
Even if the reasons why he spared the City of Lights had nothing to do with charity, it still remains as a small consolation, amid all the horrors he visited upon millions during World War II. What’s even harder to fathom though, is that besides the mass murders he ordered while in power, given a chance, he’d have committed even more evil.
For the man who, by most accounts, professed Christian beliefs, but did not hesitate to gas people to death, also inspired countless plots to destroy his enemies, who at that time were pretty much everyone who was not Nazi enough. ‘Chocolate Bombs,’ cans of plums, outfitted with Continue reading

Roma Walkaway

Europe Push Against Gypsies
May Set Dawn of New Diaspora

Em France,police forced some 160 of them out of a Marseille camp, in anticipation of the coming presidential elections.
In the U.K., 80 families have been fighting eviction from the Basildon district’s Dale Farms for almost a year now.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Romanies, or Gypsies, or British Travelers remain vilified and marginalized as they have been since their origin, which can be traced back to the Indian diaspora in the tenth century.
There’s something about these “Egyptians” and their nomadic lifestyle that strikes deep-seated suspicions and fear at heart of the mainstream of the European society. Continue reading