Man Holds Razor to My Neck in Jacareacanga

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Don´t worry, just having fun with this title. I have taken time in Jacareacanga on the Tapajos river to slow down a little bit, nurse a low grade fever I´ve developed, and get my hair trimmed with a straight razor for about 1.50$ US.

Jacareacanga (Jacare´) is a fairly small town with a large percentage native indian population. It has a history for being a rough and tumble town, but I haven´t seen any evidence of it. My next stretch is nearly 800km to Humaita´on the Madeiros river with a small town of Apui along the way. I am using Jacare´to recover from some pretty significant exhaustion that has crept up on me. It has also been raining more than I have seen on the trip so far. Today it has been pouring for hours already which makes cycling an impossibility.

The indian population here is supported by the Brazilian foundation FUNASA which attends to their health needs. From what I have observed so far the native indians operate in the same space as everyone else in Jacare´but completely seperate from the non-indian population.

I see them walk in groups of 10-30, many woman with at least 1 or 2 new borns and toddlers, to and from the river and stores. Some of their huts are mixed in with the rest of the populations but without electricity, even in the middle of town. They are definately extrememly improverished and spend much of the day finding a shady spot to sit. In the morning I usually see a large group on a long bench in front of the food store. In the afternoon they move to a restaruant front.

In the evenings it is common for people to go to the village plaza where the food and icecream carts are stationed. People play soccer, a form of handball I´ve seen on my trip, and volleyball. However, the indian population have their own set of food stands and vendors they frequent. I see very little socializing between indians and non-indians.

There´s much I don´t know about the social structure of the indians and non-indian Brazilians. It appears as though the cultures are very different however.

A native indian family load their canoe for a fishing trip.

A native indian family load their canoe for a fishing trip.

The Tapajos river region is a popular gold and silver mining area. Next to where I am staying is a shop with a set of scales to turn in your gold dust. Across the street is a store for Garimpos, or miners in search of gold, silver, or any valuable stones or minerals. Often their operations are considered illegal. Also, mercury is commonly used for gold extraction which has lead to high levels of mercury in the fish population and subsequently in the humans that eat those fish. In Jacareacanga this has been a considerable problem amongst the indian population that depend on the river as a source of food.

I saw this painting on a wall in Itaituba which has an indian population as well. It shows an indian in front of a burned jungle. It reads, “Tears and ash.”

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At any rate, I enjoyed an afternoon of swimming in this river. The water was in the mid to upper 80 degree range and free of trash pollution. These little “minnow” looking fish swarmed me and wouldn´t leave me alone no matter how much I thrashed around. They didn´t do anything to me, but I kept imagining they were the Candiru parasitic catfish that imbed themselves in your orfices and need to be surgically removed. Ughh! I watch too much animal planet.

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Above is a brick making operation just on the edge of Jacare´. The mud around here is horrifyingly heavy and sticky so it´s no wonder that it´s used for this purpose. The water is pumped from the river into a truck, the soil is dug by men with shovels, and the mixture is shaped into bricks by hand and dried in the sun. I am unsure if a hardening agent is introduced to the mix as well.

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(*Side Note*: I want to thank everyone for following the posts and making comments. I didn´t realize until today that I missed over half of the comments that weren´t forwarded to my email for some reason. They are very motivating.

Also nice to see that people are reading this! It takes alot of time with the slow connections to make a post, almost 3 hours per post usually between the power going out, computer crashes, and slow picture uploads. It´s very difficult when the power goes out and you lose all your work!

It will most likely be over a week before I can update again, the next stretch is quite remote.

Ate´Logo!)

10 Responses to “Man Holds Razor to My Neck in Jacareacanga”
  1. looks like you had some good R&R. Good luck on the next stretch.

    by Erek
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  2. Puma’s in Brazile. very interesting. I would have expected jaguars not puma’s. In the US Puma’s tend to be 125-200lbs. Jaguars tend to be 50-75lbs bigger. I would expect little co-habitation as they compete. or fight with jags winning. That puma sounded WAY bigger than those up here. Maybe the Puma’s are more aclimated to people and thus more “see-able”..???

    by wayne S
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  3. so great that you can cool off. keep eating and sleep well tonight.

    by sara
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  4. Dougie, watch those fish I think I saw the same show. They also call them penis fish. Be careful.

    by John
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  5. Doug – we are enjoying your narrative and pictures. Take care of yourself and be safe.

    by Mike and Ava
    on 18. Oct, 2009

  6. Great to hear that you had some time for R&R in Jacareacanga. An interesting contrast to see the reservations between native Amazon Indians and Brazillians – in the states we are ever at odd with race and ethnicity, yet these problems occur world wide, as exemplified by a show on China that had them complaining about how broke North Koreans were with theem sneaking over the border to steal their things since they were so poor.

    Thanks again for taking the time to post images and updates of your experinece, and safe travels on your next leg of the journey! Pssst – The Pumas should leave you alone unless you are wearing Adidas!

    by Ken
    on 19. Oct, 2009

  7. Thanks for keeping us updated. All of the posts and photos are terrific. What a trip!

    by jgill
    on 20. Oct, 2009

  8. HAHA. Thanks John. I think these were something else though.

    by doug
    on 27. Oct, 2009

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