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The New York Times, March 24, 1878 p.5:|
THE GREAT AMAZON RIVER.ITS COURSE AND ITS TRIBUTARIES.
A RICH EQUATORIAL COUNTRY--
THE FORMER EXPLORERS OF THE AMAZON--
THE WEALTH AND VERDURE OF ITS SHORES--
A PROPHETIC PICTURE OF THE FUTURE.
The Amazon fronts the Atlantic with a total breadth of about 180 miles, and at a distance of more than 100 leagues from the shore its yellow flood is unbroken. It cleaves the blue waters with a haughty irresistable onset, as if it disdained to merge its own in the mightier sovereignty of the ocean.
A thousand miles from its mouth, where the Japura joins it, it has a breadth of four miles, and at that point it might receive the waters of the Nile and the Danube without sensible augmentation of its volume. It drains an area of from 2,250,000 to 2,500,000 square miles, which is nearly equal to the extent of Europe, and is greater than that of all the territories of the United States.
It opens more than 10,000 miles of inland navigation to large vessels and an unbroken pathway from the sea to the foot of the Andes. For more than 3,000 miles it is without a rapid or a cataract, and its fall is on an average no more than an inch to the mile.
The tide acts upon its waters for a distance of 400 miles, without, however, arresting the outward flow of its current, and its immense mediterranean expanse "enwinds the isles" of a continuous archipelago. Unnumbered and unnamed, they rise from its yellow surface green, rounded, and verdurous, like emeralds set on an outstretched girdle of gold.
It rolls along the Summer belt of the world, keeping company with the equator, and waters a region of greater fertility than any other which is known. Its climate is salubrious, its productions of the greatest variety, and some of them of the highest commercial value.
Since 1867, the year the river was opened to free navigation, a liberal policy has been pursued by the Brazilian Government, in pointed contrast with the spirit which half a century earlier forbade Humboldt to explore its waters. All the world has been freely invited to enter in and possess this wide and beautiful land of promise.
But it still remains almost uninhabited. The population of the entire region is less than that of Rio de Janeiro or Brooklyn. Except its capital city, a few trading towns dotted along the line of the central river, and some tribes of Indians scattered here and there amid its immense wildernesses, living in boats along its endless lagoons, or in palm-thatched huts upon their shores, the land is a wild, a populous solitude of bees and birds, with turbulent commonwealths of howling monkeys holding perpetual parliament in its tree-tops, and each jutting frieze and coign of vantage of its forest architecture hung with slumberous festoons of snakes.
Much attention has of late been drawn to this practically unoccupied and undeveloped equatorial region. It, indeed, holds out such ample invitation to commerce and agricultural enterprise that it seems surprising it should thus far have received so slight a measure of attention.
After the late war a few colonies of Southerners found their way thither, as they did to other portions of Brazil, as well as to Mexico and Central America, but the experiments generally resulted disastrously, and the discontented exiles were glad to return to the homes they had abandoned.
A few English and foreign traders have established themselves along the various river towns; a few farmers, or fazendeiros, have laid out plantations of cacao, coffee, indigo, and the like. A few travelers, impelled by commercial interests or scientific curiosity, are generally to be met with, but, with these exceptions, the great river spaces seem almost as vacant as they were when the boats of Orollana, the Lieutenant of Cortez, drifted past them on the way to the ocean.
An English company some years since obtained from the Brazilian Government a charter to construct a railroad around the great falls of the Madeira, 480 miles from its junction with the Amazon, but the work was for some years abandoned. It is now about to be resumed by an American firm, the Messrs. Collins, of Philadelphia, whose first step in the direction of the work met with so disastrous a check in the loss of the steamer Metropolis a few weeks ago.
The completion of this road will open Bolivia, hitherto practically isolated, to the markets of the world, and afford a long-desired outlet for her rich and various products.
The Madeira is the largest affluent of the Amazon. Where it joins the river it is two miles wide and has a depth of 66 feet. Two hundred miles above it is a mile in width and 100 feet deep. It is about 2,000 miles in length, one branch taking its rise in Lake Titicaca, and the other near the sources of the Paraguay. If it were not for its cascade, large vessels might sail into the heart of Bolivia, and take on their freight almost under the shadow of the Andes.
The Madeira is, like the Amazon, a river of unnumbered islands, which seem like rounded masses of green foliage afloat upon its waters. In the season of floods it brings down immense quantities of timber, the spoil of forests, which its current has undermined and uprooted. A few years since, steam saw mills were established at its mouth for the purpose of utilizing this abundant and valuable flotsam. But, for some reason, the enterprise did not succeed. With the richest imaginable supply of native woods, the Amazon derives such timber as it requires from foreign sources.
The Rio Negro is next to the Madeira in magnitude, and enter the Amazon from the other direction. Its head-waters are joined with those of the Oronoco by the Cassiquiare, a natural canal three-fourths of a mile wide, and a portage of only two hours divides the head of its tributary, the Branco, from the Essiquibo of Guiana. It yields to commerce coffee, cacao, farina, sarsaparilla, Brazil-nuts, pitch, piassaba, and valuable woods.
At its juncture with the Amazon stands the important town of Manaos, the largest on the river above Santarem, though its population is only from 2,000 to 3,000. Its houses are mostly low adobe structures, washed white or yellow, with roofs and floors of red tiling, and having green doors and shutters. The President's palace is of more pretension, being of two stories and bearing an extra coat of whitewash. The foundation of a cathedral was laid about a score of years ago, but it still remains only a foundation, and bright archidacæ root themselves in crevices of the stones which the pious builders have for the time being abandoned.
In addition to the Madeira and the Rio Negro, the Amazon receives the waters of the Tocanhus, the Ucayale, the Xingu, the Tapajos, the Purus, the Napo, the Putumayo, and the Japura, all rivers of great volume, and either of which in any other division of the world would possess a separate reknown equal to that of the Danube, the Volga, or the St. Lawrence.
The Tocatins takes but a few hundred miles from Rio de Janeiro, in the mountainous Province of Minas Geraes, and flowing due northward, like the Nile and the Oxus, enters the main stream near Para. It is a river of rapids, and is therefore only partially navigable, but its "billows roll ashore the beryl and the golden ore," and mines of diamond, emerald, opal, amethyst, and sapphire are hidden amid the mountain fastness out of which it issues bearing its burden of thunder and foam. Most of the others named are navigable for long distances, and each opens a broad avenue into regions rich in all the varied products of the tropics.
Exploration has been busy with the river and its tributaries since Vincent Yañez Pinzon, almost 400 years ago, came upon its flood yellow as an imperial Chinese banner, rolling unbroken through the blue of an unknown sea... His caravels furrowed the La Plata afterward--the first keels which vexed its waters--and he remains a great figure among the great discoverers of that wonder age.
While he was the first to see the river, the first to traverse its length was Avellana, who issued out of conquered Peru, leaving the savage swineherd Pizzaro, suckled, it is said, in his infancy by the swine he afterward tended, throned on the golden chair of dead Atahallpa, and came down the flood, grinned at by the apes and chattered at by the parrots and gaped at by the crocodiles of 3,000 miles. He left his bones on its shores afterward, with those of 400 followers, the river thus avenging itself on the hand that tore away its old veil of mystery.
Aguirre, Texeira, Cabrera, and Juan de Palacios were its next explorers, and it was more than 100 years before La Anadamine, the French astronomer and savan, descended it and gave to the world the story of his journey, which is yet of undiminished interest.
Maire, Poepping, Smyth, Von Tschudi, Castleman, Herndon and Gibbon, Marcoy, Spix and Martins, Bates and Wallace, Azeredo and Pinto, Agassiz and Prof. Orton have successively added to the now copious literature of the river, but it is still, in many of its portions, a virgin field, and almost as fruitful of undiscovered wonders as it was when Pinzon first drove the carved prows of his caravels against its flood.
[Belém, capital of the state of] Para is the capital city of the river, and, with the exception of Quito, the only considerable town in the world on the equatorial line. Its population numbers about 35,000, and is made up of native Brazilians, Portuguese, Indians, half-breeds, a few Jews, many negroes, and a small community of foreign merchants representing all the commerical nations.
During most of the year the climate is uniform, and the weather of one day precisely like that of another. The mornings are clear and bright, but before midday the showers begin, and fall intermittently till toward evening, when they abate, leaving the remainder of the day delightfully cool and refreshing. It seems to be an entirely healthy city, and its inhabitants have a proverb taht those who once take up their residence there are sure to abide during their lives.
The river in front of the town is 20 miles wide, but the expanse is broken by numerous islands, the water-ways between which seem in some cases like lanes through solid perpendicular walls of green foliage from 80 to 100 feet in height. Although the Para River is shallow in comparison with the Amazon, ships of any size will float within 150 yards of the shore, and the traveler usually sees in its harbor craft of all sizes and from every maritime corner of the world.
The aspect of the town seen from the river is quite majestic. It has six large churches, including the Cathedral, a Post Office and Custom-house of impressive magnitude, and many other structures of a stately and imposing appearance. It is regularly laid out. There are a number of handsome public squares. Some of the streets in the commercial quarters of the town are excellently paved. Wide and handsome avenues, bordered with the silk-cotton tree, the cocoa palm, the almond, and the mimosa, stretch away toward the suburbs, leading out to the beautiful rocinhas or country residences of one story, surrounded by spacious verandas. The President's house is of notable splendor, and its staircase of sculptured marble is thought by the Paranese to equal those which Berrenquete executed in Valladolid and Seville four centuries ago.
The people are gay, pleasure-loving, hospitable, and the wealthier classes are surrounded with all the best appliances of civilization. In the houses of the rich you may encounter pictures by some of the masters of Spanish art, rare books, rich and beautiful tapestries, furnished from the best manufactories of London and Paris, bronzes by Barbadienne, bric-à-brac from all lands, "laborious Orient ivory sphere in sphere, The cursed Malayan creese, and battle clubs from the isles of Palm," and, if you happen to be invited to dinner, it is quite likely that you will get one as elegant as that which Menier, the chocolate king, gave the other day to Stanley.
The Federative Republic of Brazil, South America, is the fifth largest country in the world, and the fifth most populous nation. Occupying much of the Atlantic coast of the continent, Brazil borders every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador. The capital is Brasilia. The area of Brazil is 3,300,171 square miles (8,547,404 square kilometers). The estimated population of Brazil for July, 2007 is 190,010,647. The official language is Portugese; Spanish, English, & French are also frequently spoken.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822.
By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil has overcome more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of the interior.
Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, Brazil is today South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
CIA World Factbook: Brazil
Brazil Reference Articles and Links
Library of Congress Study
Earthcam: Brazil Webcams
Gov'ts-WWW: Brazilian Gov't Links
Brazilian Chamber of Deputies
Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bem-Vindo Ao Brasil tourism
Jornal Do Brasil in Portuguese