Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/16

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Santarem — Population — Trade — River Tapajos — Cuiaba — Diamond region — Account of the Indians of the Tapajos.

Santarem, four hundred and sixty miles from the mouth of the Rio Negro, and six hundred and fifty miles from the sea, is the largest town of the province, after Pará. By official returns it numbers four thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven free, (eighty-seven being foreigners,) and one thousand five hundred and ninety-one slave inhabitants. There were two hundred and eighty-nine births, forty-two deaths, and thirty-two marriages, in the year 1849.

I would estimate the population of the town of Santarem at about two thousand souls. In the official returns, all the settlers on the cocoa plantations for miles round, and all the tapuios engaged in the navigation of the river, are reckoned in the estimate. This, I believe, is the ease with all the towns; and thus the traveller is continually surprised to find population rated so high in places where he encounters but few people.

There is said to be a good deal of elephantiasis and leprosy among the poorer class of its inhabitants. I did not visit their residences, which are generally on the beach above the town, and therefore saw nothing of them; nor did I see much poverty or misery.

There are tokens of an increased civilization in a marble monument in the cemetery, and a billiard table. The houses are comfortably furnished, though I believe every one still sleeps in a hammock. The rides in the environs are agreeable, the views picturesque, and the horses good. A tolerably good and well-bitted horse may be had for seventy-five dollars; they graze in the streets and outskirts of the town, and are fed with Indian corn.

There is a church (one of the towers has lately tumbled down) and two or three primary schools. The gentlemen all wear gold watches and take an immoderate quantity of snuff. I failed to get statistics of the present trade of Santarem; but an examination of the following tables furnished by Mr. Gouzennes, the intelligent and gentlemanly vice-consul of France, will show the increase in the exports of the place in the three years between 1843 and 1846.

304 TRADE.

These tables show the tonnage and cargoes of the vessels arriving in Santarem for three months in each year.

Mr. Gouzennes gave me the table for 1843, and to M. Castelnau the table for 1846. He also gave me a letter to M. Chaton, French consul at Pará, requesting that gentleman to give me his tables for the last year, (1851) but they had been sent to France.

Three months of 1843 — Three months of 1846.

Number of crews - - - - 300 - - - - 362
Tonnage - - - - 647 - - - - 1,287
Fish - - - - arrobas - - - - 5,537 - - - - 6,402
Peixe-boi - - - - arrobas - - - - 75 - - - - ——
Tow - - - - arrobas - - - - 430 - - - - 478
Pitch - - - - arrobas - - - - 64 - - - - 933
Tobacco - - - - arrobas - - - - 499 - - - - 3,352
Cocoa - - - - arrobas - - - - 12,808 - - - - 19,940
Sarsaparilla - - - - arrobas - - - - 665 - - - - 4,836
Cloves - - - - arrobas - - - - 226 - - - - 998
Guaraná - - - - 94 - - - - 457
Coffee - - - - arrobas - - - - 369 - - - - 512
Cotton - - - - arrobas - - - - 24 - - - - 226
Cumarú (Tonka beans) arrobas - - - - —— - - - - 47
Carajurú - - - - arrobas - - - - 2 - - - - 75
Castanhas - - - - alqueires - - - - 1,206 - - - - 3,709
Farinha - - - - alqueires - - - - 2,428 - - - - 1,384
Oil of copaiba - - - - pots - - - - 427 - - - - 3,056
Oil of turtle-eggs - - - - pots - - - - 420 - - - - 1,628
Oil of andirobá - - - - pots - - - - 11 - - - - 29
Mixira - - - - 170 - - - - 316
Hides - - - - —— - - - - 664
Oxen - - - - 100 - - - - 85
Piassaba rope - - - - inches - - - - —— - - - - 1,970

I think, but have no means of forming an accurate judgment, that the importations of Santarem have not increased in the same proportion in the years between 1846 and 1852. A few of these articles — such as the cotton, the coffee, a part of the tobacco, and the farinha — were probably consumed in Santarem. The rest were reshipped to Pará for consumption there, or for foreign exportation.


The decrease in the consumption of farinha is significant, and shows an increased consumption of flour from the United States.

I had from Capt. Hislop, an old Scotchman, resident of Santarem, and who had traded much with Cuiabá, in the province of Matto Grosso, the following notices of the river Tapajos, and its connexion with the Atlantic, by means of the rivers Paraguay and La Plata.

Hence to the port of Itaituba, the river is navigable for large vessels, against a strong current, for fifteen days. The distance is about two hundred miles. From Itaituba the river is navigable for boats of six or eight tons, propelled by paddling, poling, or warping. There are some fifteen or twenty caxoieras, or rapids, to pass, where the boat has to be unloaded and the cargoes carried round on the backs of the crew. At one or two the boat itself has to be hauled over the land.

The voyage to the head of navigation on the Rio Preto, a confluent of the Tapajos, occupies about two months. At this place mules are found to carry the cargo fifteen miles, to the village of Diamantino, situated on the high lands that divide the head-waters of the streams flowing south from those of the streams flowing north, which approach each other at this point very closely.

These high lands are rich in diamonds and minerals. I saw some in possession of Capt. Hislop. The gold dust is apparently equal in quality to that I had seen from California.

From Diamantino to Cuiabá the distance is ninety miles, the road crossing the Paraguay river, which there, at some seasons, is nearly dry and muddy, and at others a rapid and deep stream, dangerous for the mules to pass.

Some years ago a shorter land-carriage was discovered between the head-waters of the northern and southern streams. By ascending the Arinos, a river which empties into the Tapajos, below the mouth of the Preto, a point was reached within eighteen miles by land-carriage of a navigable point on the Cuiabá river above the city. The boat was hauled over these eighteen miles by oxen, (showing that the passage can be neither very high nor rugged,) and launched upon the Cuiabá, which is navigable thence to the city.

This was about three years ago; but the trade, for some reason, is still carried on by the old route of the Preto, and the land-carriage of one hundred and five miles to Cuiabá.

A person once attempted to descend by the San Manoel, a river that rises in the same high lands as the Preto and Arinos, and empties into the Tapajos, far below them; but he encountered so many obstructions to navigation that he lost all but life.

306 CUIBA.

The passage from Diamantino to Santarem occupies about twenty-six days.

Cuiabá is a flourishing town of about ten thousand inhabitants, situated on the river of the same name, which is thence navigable for large vessels to its junction with the Paraguay, which river is free from impediments to the ocean. It is the chief town of the rich province of Matto Grosso. It receives its supplies — the lighter articles of merchandise and luxury — by land, from Rio Janeiro, and its heavier articles — such as cannot be transported on mules for a great distance — by this route of the Tapajos. These are principally salt, iron, iron implements, wines, liquors, arms, crockeries, and guaraná, of which the people there are passionately fond.

St. Ubes or Portuguese salt is worth in Cuiabá thirteen and a half dollars the panero, of one hundred and eight pounds. Lately, however, salt has been discovered on the bottom and shores of a lake in Bolivia, near the Paraguay river. It undergoes some process to get rid of its impurities, and then is sold at four dollars the panero.

Cuiabá pays for these things in diamonds, gold dust, and hides. The diamond region is, as I have before said, in the neighborhood of the village of Diamantino, situated on the high lands that divide the head waters of the tributaries of the Amazon and La Plata. M. Castelnau visited this country, and I give the following extracts from his account of it. He says:

"The mines of gold, and especially those of diamonds, to which the city of Diamantino owes its foundation and its importance, appear to have been known from the time the Paulistas made their first settlements in the province of Matto Grosso; but, under the Portuguese government, the working of the diamond mines was prohibited to individuals under the severest penalties.

“A military force occupied the diamond districts, and watched the Crown slaves who labored in the search of this precious mineral. Every person finding one of these stones was obliged to remit it to the superintendence of diamonds at Cuyaba, for which he received a moderate recompense, whilst he would have been severely punished if detected in appropriating it


“At this period throughout Brazil, the commerce in diamonds was prohibited, as strictly as their extraction, to all except the special agents named by the government for this purpose.

“Subsequently to the government of Joao Carlos, of whom we have already spoken, this commerce became more or less tolerated, then altogether free.


“If, as we are assured, the laws which theretofore governed this branch of industry are not legally repealed, they have at least completely fallen into disuse. The inhabitants of Diamantino only complain that the prohibition of the slave trade renders it impossible for them to profit by the wealth of the country.

“In 1746 valuable diamonds were found, for the first time, in Matto Grosso, and were soon discovered in great quantities in the little river of Ouro. The governor, Manuel Antunes Nogueiza, designing to take possession of these lands for the benefit of the Crown, ejected the inhabitants therefrom. Famine made great ravages among the wretches thus deprived of their homes.

“From that time the country seems to have suffered every evil. A long drought was followed by a terrible earthquake on the 24th September, 1746. It was not until May 13, 1805, that the inhabitants were again permitted to take possession of their property, but upon condition of remitting to the Crown, under severe penalties, all the diamonds found.

“In 1809 a royal mandate established at Cuyabá a diamond junta.

“Gold and diamonds, which are always united in this region, as in many others, are found, especially in the numerous water-courses which furrow it, and also throughout the whole country.

“After the rains, the children of Diamantino hunt for the gold contained in the earth even of the streets, and in the bed of the river Ouro, which, as has been said, passes through the city; and they often collect to the value of one or two patacas (from eight to fifteen grains) Brazil weight.

“It is related that a negro, pulling vegetables in his garden, found a diamond in the earth attached to the roots. It is also said that, shortly before our arrival at Diamantino, a muleteer, driving a stake in the ground to tie his mules to, found a diamond of the weight of a demioitava, (about nine carats.) This last circumstance occurred in the chapada (table land) of San Pedro.

“We have heard it stated that diamonds are sometimes found in the stomachs of the fowls.

“The rivers Diamantino, Ouro, and Paraguay appear already to be completely exhausted. The river Burité continues to furnish many stones; but the Santa Anna, so to speak, is still virgin, and, notwithstanding the incredible quantity of diamonds taken from it, it does not appear to have lost its primitive richness.

“It would appear, however, that diamond-hunting is not as productive as it is believed; for they quote in the country, as very remarkable,


the result obtained by a Spaniard, Don Simon by name, who in four years (only working, it is true, during the dry season, but with two hundred slaves) had collected four hundred oitavas of diamonds, (about seven thousand carats.) He was obliged to abandon the work because he lost many slaves in consequence of the pestilential fevers which reign in the diamond region, and particularly upon the borders of the river Santa Anna. Before his departure, he filled up the place from whence he extracted the stones.

“Later another individual found eighty oitavas of diamonds upon one point alone of the river.
“The largest diamond taken from the Santa Anna weighed, it is said, three oitavas, (about fifty-two carats.) It was many years since, and they know not the price it

sold for.

“They assert that the stones taken from this river are more beautiful than those from other diamond localities, and that there are persons who, in commerce, can distinguish the difference.

“It was very difficult to obtain from the inhabitants of Diamantino, who seemed to think themselves still under the Portuguese laws in regard to diamonds and gold, exact information about the quantities of these two minerals exported each year from the district. However, by uniting the most positive data, we have formed the following table, which presents the approximate quantities of diamonds drawn from the country from 1817 to 1845, as well as the fluctuation of prices, and the number of slaves employed.

“We have added to this the value of the slaves.

“At the time of our journey about two thousand persons, of whom eight hundred were slaves, were engaged in this kind of work.

Years. Price of the oita in assorted stones. Number of oitavas found in the year. Number of slaves employed Mean value of of each slave.

1817 - - - $20 - - 600 - - 1,500 - - $125
1820 - - - 30 - - 5 - - 600 - - 1,500 - - 125
1825 - - - 30 - - 5 - - 600 - - 1,500 - - 125
1830 - - - 30 - - 300 - - 1,500 - - 125
1834 - - - 60 - - 300 - - 1,500 - - 125
1838 - - - 75 - - 300 - - 1,200 - - 150
1840 - - - 100 - - 250 - - 900 - - 200
1844 - - - 125 to 150 - - 200 - - 800 - - 300


“In 1817 a stone of an oitava was sold for two hundred dollars.

“Gold is worth the following prices the oitava:
“In 1817, sixty-seven and one-half cents.
“In 1820, sixty-seven and one-half cents.
“In 1830, seventy-five cents.
“In 1840, one dollar and sixty cents.
“In 1844, one dollar and eighty cents.

““We see that the prices of diamonds and gold have advanced since 1817. This is owing to three causes:

“1st. The diminution of the number of African slaves, in consequence of the laws against the slave trade.

“2d. The diminution of the quantity found.

“3d. The celebrity which this rich locality has progressively acquired, and which attracts there many persons.

“At present the vintem of diamonds in very small pieces is worth in commerce from four and a half to five dollars. A stone of a demi-oitava would be worth now from two to three hundred dollars, according to its beauty. A stone of an oitava would be worth seven hundred and fifty dollars.

“Two or three years ago a stone of three-quarters of an oitava was sold at four hundred dollars, and another of the same weight for five hundred.

“Now there is scarcely found more than two hundred oitavas of diamonds per annum, and only two or three stones of a demi-oitava and above.

“The richest man of Diamantino had in his possession, at the time of our journey, two hundred oitavas of diamonds.

“The slaves sell the diamonds they steal at two, and two and a half dollars the vintem; large and small, indifferently.

“To recapitulate. After the researches which I made at the places, it appears to me probable that the quantity of diamonds extracted from Diamantino and from Matto Grosso amounts, since the discovery by the Paulistas to the present time, (1849,) to about sixty-six thousand oitavas; it must be remembered that in this sum are included a great number of large stones.

“In estimating the mean value of the oitava at one hundred and twenty-five dollars, we arrive at a total of about eight million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It is proper to add to this sum that of the diamonds taken from the basin of the river Claro. Although this last yields inconsiderably at present, and may be far from what it was under the Portuguese government, I cannot estimate it at less than fourteen thousand oitavas,


worth about one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

“Thus the amount of diamonds drawn to the present time from the province of Matto Grosso will amount to about eighty thousand oitavas, worth ten millions of dollars.

“I do not doubt that this region may one day furnish, if it is submitted to a well-conducted exploration, an infinitely larger quantity. Unfortunately, as we have already said, the search for these stones is accompanied with great danger; and I am convinced that these baubles of human vanity have already cost, to Brazil alone, the life of more than a hundred thousand human beings.”

M. Castelnau has given the value of diamonds and gold in the Portuguese currency of reis, and occasionally in francs. In turning the reis into dollars, I have estimated the dollar at two thousand reis. When I left Brazil, the Spanish dollar was worth nineteen hundred and twenty reis, and the Mexican eighteen hundred: so that my values are under the mark; but there is probably less error in this than in any estimate that Castelnau could form from his data.

One will readily perceive, from these estimates, that diamond-hunting, as a business, is unprofitable. But this, like all mining operations, is a lottery.

A man in the diamond region may stumble upon a fortune at an instant of time, and without a dollar of outlay; but the chances are fearfully against him. I would rather depend upon the supplying of the miners with the necessaries and luxuries of life, even by the long land-travel from Rio Janeiro, or by the tedious and difficult ascent of the Tapajos. M. Castelnau, speaking of this trade, says that, taking one article of merchandise with another, the difference of their value at Pará and Diamantino is eight hundred and fifty per cent., the round trip between the two places occupying eight months; but that the profits to the trader are not to be estimated by the enormous difference of the value of the merchandise at the place of purchase and the place of sale. He estimates the expenses of a boat of nine tons (the largest that can ascend the river) at eight hundred and eighty dollars.Her cargo, bought at Pará, cost there but three hundred and fifty-five dollars: so that when it arrives at Diamantino it has cost twelve hundred and thirty-five dollars; thus diminishing the profits to the trader to about two hundred and forty-four per cent.

I do not find in Castelnau’s estimate of the expenses of a canoe the labor and time employed in shifting the cargo at Santarem from the

TRADE. 311

large vessel to the boats. This would probably take off the extra forty-four per cent., leaving a clear profit of two hundred. This is on the upward voyage. His return-cargo of hides, with what gold dust and diamonds he has been able to purchase, will also pay the trader one hundred per cent. on his original outlay, increased by his profits.

Let us suppose a man sends a cargo from Pará, which cost him there three hundred and fifty dollars. His two hundred per cent. of clear profit in Diamantino has increased this sum to one thousand and fifty. One hundred per cent. on this, the return-cargo, has made it two thousand one hundred dollars; so that he has pocketed a clear gain of seventeen hundred and fifty dollars, making a profit of five hundred per cent. in eight months.

Although there seems, from the accounts we have of the Tapajos, no chance of a steamer’s reaching the diamond region by that river, yet I have very little doubt but that she may reach it by the rivers Plata, Paraná, and Paraguay. Should this be the case, and should Brazil have the magnanimity to throw open the diamond region to all comers, and encourage them to come by promises of protection and privileges, I imagine that this would be one of the richest places in the world, and that Brazil would reap enormous advantages from such a measure.

The place at present is too thinly settled, and the wants of the people too few, to make this trade (profitable as it appears to be on the small scale) of any great importance.

Captain Hislop monopolized at one time nearly all the trade of the Tapajos. He told me that some years ago he sent annually to Cuiaba goods to the value of fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, and supposes that all other commerciantes together did not send as much more. He complains, as all do, of the credit system, and says that the Cuiabanos now owe him twenty thousand dollars.

The trade now is almost nothing. The Cuiabanos themselves come down to get their supplies, which they pay for principally in hides.

I made several pleasant acquaintances in Santarem. One of the most agreeable was a young French engineer and architect, M. Alphonse Maugin De Lincourt, to whom I am indebted for some valuable presents, much interesting conversation, and the following notes of a voyage on the Tapajos, which, as describing the manners and customs of the Indian tribes occupying the borders of that river, I am persuaded will not be uninteresting.


Fragments of travels from Itaituba to the cataracts of the Tapajos, and among the Mundrucus and Maués Indians.

“As soon as the Brazilian -------- (the principal authority of the little port of Itaituba) had procured me some Indians and a small canoe, called in the country canoa de Caxoeiras, I left this place for the purpose of visiting the great cataracts of the river Tapajos.

“I was the only white man among nine Indians, none of whom, with the exception of the Indian hunter, could understand me. I cannot express what I at first suffered in thus finding my life at their mercy. The boat, under the efforts of these nine pagans, had more the motion of an arrow than that of a boat ascending against the current of a river.

“Only seeking the principal falls of the Tapajos, we passed, without stopping, over those of Tapacura Assu and Pracau, and, continuing our route to the large ones, we arrived there the following day, without having met with anything remarkable to relate.

"There the scene changed. The river is no longer the calm Tapajos which slowly moves towards the Amazon; it is the foaming Maranhao, the advance cataract of the narrow and deep Caxoeira das Furnas; it is the roaring and terrible coata, whose currents cross and recross, and dash to atoms all they bear against its black rocks.

“We surmounted all in the same day. Seated motionless in the middle of the canoe, I often closed my eyes to avoid seeing the dangers I escaped, or the perils that remained to be encountered.

“The Indians — sometimes rowing with their little oars, sometimes using their long, iron-bound staffs, or towing the boat while swimming, or carrying it on their shoulders — landed me at last on the other side of the Caxoeiras.

“Arrived at the foot of the fifth cataract, the Indians hesitated a moment and then rowed for the shore. Whilst some were employed in making a fire, and others in fastening the hammocks to the forest trees, the hunter took his bow and two arrows, and such is the abundance which reigns in these countries, that a moment afterwards he returned with fish and turtles.

“The Indians, exhausted from the fatigues of the day, were not able to watch that night. I was sentinel, for these shores are infested by tigers and panthers. Walking along the beach to prevent sleep, I witnessed a singular spectacle, but (as I was informed by the inhabitants) one of frequent occurrence. An enormous tiger was extended full length upon a rock level with the water, about forty paces from me. From time to time he struck the water with his tail, and at the same moment


raised one of his fore-paws and seized fish, often of an enormous size. These last, deceived by the noise, and taking it for the fall of forest fruits, (of which they are very fond,) unsuspectingly approach, and soon fall into the claws of the traitor. I longed to fire, for I had with me a double-barrelled gun; but I was alone, and if I missed my aim at night I risked my life, for the American tiger, lightly or mortally wounded, collects his remaining strength and leaps with one bound upon his adversary.

“I did not interrupt him, and when he was satisfied he went off. The next day we passed the difficult and dangerous cataract of Apuy. The canoe was carried from rock to rock, and I followed on foot through the forest.

“The farther we advance in these solitudes, the more fruitful and prodigal nature becomes; but where life superabounds, evil does not less abound. From the rising to the setting of the sun clouds of stinging insects blind the traveller, and render him frantic by the torments they cause. Take a handful of the finest sand and throw it above your head, and you would then have but a faint idea of the number of these demons, who tear the skin to pieces.

“It is true, these insects disappear at night, but only to give place to others yet more formidable. Large vampire bats literally throng the forests, cling to the hammocks, and, finding, a part of the body exposed, rest lightly there and drain it of blood.

“At a station called by the Indians Tucunaré-cuoire, where we passed the night, one of them was bitten, whilst asleep, by one of these vampires, and awoke exceedingly enfeebled.

“In the same place the alligators were so numerous and so bold, and the noise they made so frightful, that it was impossible to sleep a moment.

“The next day I overtook a caravan of Cuyabanos, who had left Itaituba before me. They went there to exchange diamonds and gold dust for salt and other necessary commodities, and were returning with them to Cuyabá. They had passed a day at Tucunaré-cuoire, and had slept there.

“Thinking that I was a physician, one of them begged me to examine the recent wounds of a companion. In vain I refused. He still continued his importunities, lavishing upon me titles of Seigneur and Signor Doctor, as if he had been in the presence of M. Orfila.

“I went with him. The wounded man was a young Indian, whom an alligator had seized by the leg the night the caravan slept at


Tucunaré-cuoire. Awakened by his cries, the Cuyabanos fell upon the monster, who, in spite of every thing, escaped.

“I relieved him as well as I could. I had with me but a scalpel, some camphor, and a phial of volatile salts. It would have been best to amputate the limb, which was horribly mutilated.

“I had myself an opportunity of observing the dangers and privations these men submit to, to carry to Cuyabá the commodities necessary there.

“A caravan, called here Mon ao, which is loaded at Itaituba, for ten contos of reis, (five thousand dollars,) with salt, guaraná, powder, and lead, arriving in safety at Cuyabá, can calculate upon fifteen or twenty contos of reis profit.

“At Pará the salt can be sold for three francs the alquiere; at Cuyabá, it is worth one hundred and fifty francs.

“They can descend the river in forty days; but it requires five months to ascend it.

“The forests that border the Tapajos are infested by savage Indians, who frequently attack the Moncaos; and dangerous fevers sometimes carry off those whom the Indian arrow has spared.

“I left the caravan at Sta. Ana dos Caxoeiras; it continued its route towards the source of the Tapajos, and I entered the country inhabited by the Mundrucus.

“The Mundrucus, the most war-like nation of the Amazon, do not number less than fifteen or twenty thousand warriors, and are the terror of all other tribes.

“They appear to have a deadly hatred to the negro, but a slight sympathy for the white man.

“During the rainy season they go to the plains to pull the sarsaparilla root, which they afterwards exchange for common hardware and rum; the other six months of the year are given to war.

“Each Malocca (village) has an arsenal, or fortress, where the warriors stay at night; in the day they live with their families.

“The children of both sexes are tattooed (when scarcely ten years old) with a pencil, or rather a kind of comb, made of the thorns of the palm-tree, called Muru-muru. The father (if the child is a boy) marks upon the body of the poor creature, who is not even permitted to complain, long bloody lines, from the forehead to the waist, which he afterwards sprinkles with the ashes or coal of some kind of resin.

“These marks are never effaced. But if this first tattooing, which is compulsory among the Mundrucus, sometimes suffices for woman’s coquetry, that of the warriors is not satisfied. They must have at least a good layer of geni papo, (huitoc,) or of roucou, (annatto,) upon every


limb, and decorate themselves moreover in feathers. Without that, they would consider themselves as indecent as a European would be considered who would put on his coat without his shirt.

“The women may make themselves bracelets and collars of colored beads, of shells, and of tigers’ teeth, but they cannot wear feathers


“In time of war the chiefs have right of life and death over simple warriors. The Mundrucus never destroy their prisoners; on the contrary, they treat them with humanity, tattoo them, and afterwards regard them as their children.

“This warlike nation, far from being enfeebled as other tribes are, who, since the conquest of Brazil by the Europeans, are nearly annihilated, increases, notwithstanding the long wars they every year undertake against the most ferocious savages.

“Once friends of the whites, they yielded to them the lands they inhabited on the borders of the Amazon, between the rivers Tapajos and Madeira, and fled to live an independent life, which they have never renounced, in the deep solitudes of the Tapajos above the cataracts.

“I visited the old Mundrucu chief, Joaquim, who rendered himself so terrible to the rebels of Pará during the disorders of 1835. He is a decrepit old man, almost paralyzed. He received me very well, and appeared flattered that a traveller from a distant country sought to see him. He told me, in bad Portuguese, ‘I am the Tuchato, Joaquim. I love the whites, and have never betrayed them. I left my friends, my cacoaes, (cocoa plantations,) and my house on the borders of the Madeira to defend them. How many Cabanos (insurgents) have I not killed when I showed my war canoe that never fled ? ’"

“Now I am old and infirm; but if I remain in the midst of these women, and do not soon leave for the fields to chase away these brigands of Muras, who lay waste my cacoaes, I will be bewitched and die here like a dog.

“The Mundrucus do not believe that diseases afflict them. When a prey to them, they say it is a spell some unknown enemy has cast over them; and if the Pugé, or Magician of the Malocca, interrogated by the family of the dying man, names a guilty person, he whom he names may count upon his death.

“I have heard afterwards that when he was fighting so generously with his Mundrucus for the cause of the white man, a Brazilian colonel, who commanded the expedition, ordered him to pull manioc roots in a field supposed to be in the power of the rebels. The chief was furious, and, angrily eyeing the Brazilian, said, ‘Dost thou believe my canoe


is made to carry to the field women and children? It is a war canoe, and not a boat to bring thee farinha.’

“This same colonel revenged himself for this refusal by calumniating to the Emperor the conduct of the brave Mundrucu; and on that representation the court objected to recompense him. He remained poor as an Indian, when, according to the example of the Brazilian officers, he could have amassed wealth. He is old now, and has no heir, because he has only daughters.

“The next day he came to see me, and begged me to cure his nephew, a young Indian of eighteen or twenty years, whom he dearly loved, and whom he would have had inherit his courage and his titles; but the poor devil had nothing of the warrior, and every day, for several hours, had an epileptic attack. I again had recourse to the phial of salts; gave him some for the sick man to smell at the time of the attacks; and also directed that he should drink some drops weakened with water.

“The remedy had a good effect. The attacks became less frequent and long; and during the three days I remained in the neighborhood of the Malocca the old Tuchāo came every day to thank me; pressed my hands with affection, and brought me each time different small presents — fruits, birds, or spoils taken heretofore from the enemy.

“From Santa Ana, where I crossed the river, I determined to enter the forests, and not to descend by the cataracts. Six Indians went back with the boat to Itaituba; the three others remained to accompany me to the Mahués Indians, whom no European traveller had visited, and whom I much desired to know.

“The Indian hunter, to whom I gave one of my guns, carried my hammock and walked in front. I followed him, loaded with a gun and a sack, (which contained ammunition,) my compass, paper, pencils, and some pieces of guaraná. The other two Indians walked behind, carrying a little manioc flour, travelling necessaries, and a small press to dry the rare plants that I might collect on my journey.

“We followed a narrow pathway, sometimes across forests, uneven and muddy, broken by small pebbly rivulets, the water of which is occasionally very cold; sometimes climbing steep mountains, through running vines and thorny palm-trees. I was covered with a cold and heavy sweat, which forced me to throw off my garments, preferring to endure the stings of myriads of insects to the touch of a garment that perspiration and the humidity of the forest had chilled.

“Towards five o’clock we stopped near a rivulet; for in these forests it soon becomes night. The Indians made a fire and roasted the birds


and monkeys that the hunter had killed. I selected a parrot for supper.

“The following day we arrived, about nightfall, at the Indian village of Mandu-assu.

“The Mahués Indians do not tattoo the body as the Mundrucus, or, if they do it, it is only with the juice of vegetables, which disappears after four or five days.

“Formerly, when they were enemies of the white man, they were conquered and subdued by the Mundrucus. At present they live in peace with their neighbors, and willingly negotiate with the whites.

“The men are well formed, robust, and active; the women are generally pretty. Less warlike than the Mundrucus, they yield willingly to civilization; they surround their neat cabins with plantations of banana trees, coffee, or guaraná.

“The precious and medicinal guaraná plant, which the Brazilians of the central provinces of Goyaz and Matto Grosso purchase with its weight in gold, to use against the putrid fevers which rage at certain periods of the year, is owed to the Mahués Indians. They alone know how to prepare it, and entirely monopolize it.

“The Tuchāo of the Malocca, called Mandu-assu, received me with cordiality and offered me his cabin. Fatigued from the journey, and finding there some birds and rare plants, I remained several days.

“Mandu-assu marvelled to see me carefully preserve the birds the hunter killed, and the leaves of plants, or wood, that possessed medicinal virtues. He never left me; accompanied me through the forests, and gave me many plants of whose properties I was ignorant.

“Rendered still more communicative by the small presents I made him, he gave me not only all the particulars I wished upon the cultivation and preparation of the guaraná, but also answered fully all my questions.

“I left him for the Malocca of Mossé, whose chief was his relative. This chief was more distant and savage than Mandu-assu, and received me with suspicion. I was not discouraged, as I only went to induce him to exchange, for some articles, his paricá, or complete apparatus for taking a kind of snuff which the great people of the country frequently use.

“My cause, however, was not altogether lost; my hunter, who had been in a cabin of the village, took me to see a young Indian who had been bitten the evening previous by a surucucurano serpent. I opened the wound, bled him, and again used the volatile salts. Whilst I operated, a young Indian woman, singularly beautiful, sister of the


wounded man, supported the leg. She watched me with astonishment, and, whilst I was binding up the wound with cotton soaked in alkali, (salts,) she disappeared, and I saw her no more.

“The Indian was relieved. The old Tuchao knew of it; and, to thank me for it, or rather, I believe, to test me, presented me with a calabash, in which he poured a whitish and disgusting drink, exhaling a strong odor of corruption. This detestable liquor was the cachiri, (masato,) a drink that would make hell vomit; but the Indians passionately love it. I knew by experience that by refusing to drink I would offend this proud Mahué, and that if I remained in this Malocca I should assuredly die from want, because even a calabash of water would be refused me. I shut my eyes and drank.

“The cachiri is the substance of the manioc root, softened in hot water, and afterwards chewed by the old women of the Malocca. They spit it into great earthern pans, when it is exposed to a brisk fire until it boils. It is then poured into pots and suffered to stand until a putrid fermentation takes place.

“The Indian afterwards took his paricá. He beat, in a mortar of sapucaia, a piece of hard paste, which is kept in a box made of a shell; poured this pulverized powder upon a dish presented by another Indian, and with a long pencil of hairs of the tamandua bandeira, he spread it evenly without touching it with the fingers; then taking pipes joined together, made of the quills of the gaviao real, (royal eagle,) and placing it under his nose, he snuffed up with a strong inspiration all the powder contained in the plate. His eyes started from his head; his mouth contracted; his limbs trembled. It was fearful to see him; he was obliged to sit down, or he would have fallen; he was drunk, but this intoxication lasted but five minutes; he was then gayer.

“Afterwards, by many entreaties, I obtained from him his precious paricá, or rather one of them, for he possessed two.

“At the Malocca of Taguariti, where I was the next day, the Tachāo observing two young children returning from the woods laden with sarsaparilla, covered with perspiration, and overcome, as much by the burden they carried as the distance they had travelled, called them to him, beat some paricá, and compelled them to snuff it.

“I then understood that a Tuchāo Mahué had a paternal authority in his Malocca, and treated all as his own children. He forced these children to take the parica, convinced that by it they avoided fevers and other diseases. And, in truth, I soon saw the children leave the cabin entirely refreshed, and run playing to the brook and throw themselves in.


“Several vegetable substances compose paricá: first, the ashes of a vine that I cannot class, not having been able to procure the flowers; second, seeds of the acacia angico, of the leguminous family; third, juice of the leaves of the abuta, (cocculus) of the menispermes family.

“I never saw a Mahué Indian sick, nor ever heard them complain of the slightest pain, notwithstanding that the forests they inhabit are the birthplaces of dangerous fevers, which rarely spare the Brazilian merchants who come to purchase sarsaparilla roots.

“I had often heard of the great Tuchāo, Socano chief, and king of the Mahué nation, who, (unlike the kings of France,) notwithstanding the urgent entreaties of his subjects, abdicated in favor of his brother, and retired apart in a profound solitude, to pass there tranquilly the remainder of his life. I wished to see this philosopher of the New World before going to Itaituba, from which I was eleven days’ journey on foot.

“I went again to Massú to see the Indian bitten by the serpent, and perhaps a little, also, to see the Indian girl. He was still lame, but walked, however, better. The girl was incorruptible. Promises, bracelets, collars of pearl, (false) — all were useless.

“Without wishing to attaek the virtue of the Mundrucus women, I was induced to believe she would be more charitable, because in the whole Mundrucuanie it is not proved that there exists a dragon of such virtue as to resist the temptation of a small glass of rum.

“I assisted at an Indian festival so singular that it is only in use among the true Mahués. Following the example of the other nations of Brazil, (who tattoo themselves with thorns, or pierce the nose, the lips, and the ears,) and obeying an ancient law which commands these different tortures, this baptism of blood, to habituate the warriors to despise bodily sufferings, and even death, the Mahués have preserved from their ancestors the great festival of the Tocanderia.

“An Indian is not a renowned Mahué, and cannot take a wife, until he has passed his arms at least ten times through long stalks of the palm-tree, filled intentionally with large, venomous ants. He whom I saw receive this terrible baptism was not sixteen years old. They conducted him to the chiefs, where the instruments awaited him; and, when muffled in these terrible mittens, he was obliged to sing and dance before every cabin of the Malocca, accompanied by music still more horrible. Soon the torments he endured became so great that he staggered. (The father and relatives dread, as the greatest dishonor that can befall the family, a cry or a weakness on the part of the young


martyr. They encourage and support him, often by dancing at his side.) At length he came to the last cabin; he was pallid; his teeth chattered; his arms were swollen; he went to lay the gloves before the old chief, where he still had to endure the congratulations of all the Indians of the Malocca. Even the young girls mercilessly embraced him, and dragged him through all their circles; but the Indian, insensible to their caresses, sought only one thing — to escape. At length he succeeded, and, throwing himself into the stream, remained there until night.

“The Tocandeira ants not only bite, but are also armed with a sting like the wasp; but the pain felt from it is more violent. I think it equal to that occasioned by the sting of the black scorpion.

“In one of my excursions in the environs of the Malocca of Manduassu, I had occasion to take several of them. I enclosed them in a small tin box. I afterwards let one bite me, that I might judge in a slight degree what it costs the young Mahués to render themselves acceptable. I was bitten at 10 a.m. I felt an acute pain from it until evening, and had several hours’ fever.

“At Mandu-assu I was invited to a great festival of the Malocca. The chief kept me company; the people remained standing, and ate afterwards. As the Mahués are less filthy than the Mundrucus, I ate with a little less disgust than with the last, who never took the trouble to skin the monkeys or deer they killed, but were contented with cutting them to pieces, and throwing them pell-mell in large earthen pots, where meat, hair, feathers, and all, were cooked together. The Mahués at least, though they did not pick the game, burnt the hair and roasted the meat.

“The next day I departed for the Socano country. The Indians who accompanied me, having no curiosity to see the old Indian king, already tired of the journey, and seeing it prolonged four or five days independent of the eleven it would require to reach Itaituba, concerted to deceive me by conducting me through a pathway which they thought led to a port of the river Tapajos, and where they hoped to find some Brazilians of Itaituba with their canoes loaded with sarsaparilla.

“In trying to lead me by a false route, they deceived themselves; for we walked two long days, and the pathway, which was but a hunter’s track, finally entirely disappeared. I was ignorant of the position of the Malocca I was seeking. I only heard it would be found nearer the river Madeira than the Tapajos. I wished to cut across the woods and journey towards the west; the Indians were discouraged, and


followed me unwillingly. We passed a part of the third day in the midst of rugged and inundated forests, where I twice sank in mud to the waist.

“The hunter could kill nothing; and when, towards the evening, I wished to take some food, I could only find a half-gnawed leg of monkey. The Indians had not left me even a grain of farinha. Being near a stream, I grated some guaraná in a calabash and drank it without sugar, for they had left me none.

“Not daring to rest, for fear of being unable to rise, we immediately resumed our journey. Having again walked two hours across forests of vines, which caused me to stumble at every step; or crawling under large fallen trees, which constantly barred our way; or in the midst of large prickly plants, which lacerated my hands, I arrived, torn and bruised, at a small river, where we stopped.

“After drinking another portion of guaraná, I swung my hammock, but was soon obliged to rise, because a storm had gathered above us and now burst forth.

“If there is an imposing scene to describe, it is that of a storm which rages at night over an old forest of the New World. Huge trees fall with a great crash; a thousand terrific noises resound from every side; animals, (monkeys and tigers,) whom fear drives to shelter, pass and repass like spectres; frequent flashes of lightning; deluging torrents of rain — all combine to form a scene from which the old poets might have drawn inspiration to depict the most brilliant night of the empire of darkness.

“Towards midnight the storm ceased; all became tranquil, and I swung my hammock anew. The next day I awoke with a fever. I drank guaraná made more bitter than usual, and we started. The hunter met a band of large black monkeys. He killed five of them. The Indians recovered courage; for myself, I could proceed no further, so great were the pains I suffered from my feet to my knees. The fever weakened me so much that I carried my gun with difficulty; but I would not abandon it. I had only that to animate my guides and defend myself with.

“By frequently drinking guaraná, the fever had left me; but towards the evening of the fifth day, finding we were still wandering, and the forests becoming deeper, I lost courage and could not proceed. The hunter swung my hammock and gave me guaraná. The two others, perfectly indifferent, were some paces from me, employed in broiling a monkey. I knew if I had not strength to continue the journey the next


day, they would abandon me without pity. Already they answered me insolently.

“After a moment passed in the saddest reflections, I called to the hunter to bring me my travelling case. I took from it the entire preparation of paricá of the Mosse chief, and a flask of arsenical soap, which I would not use except as the last resource. I took the paricá and did as I had seen the old Indian do. I instantly fell drunk in my hammock, but with a peculiar intoxication, and which acted upon my limbs like electric shocks. On rising, I put my foot to the ground, and, to my great surprise, felt no pain. At first I thought I dreamed. I even walked without being convinced. At length, positively sure that I was awake, and there still remaining two hours of daylight, I detached my hammock, and forced the Indians, by striking them, to follow me.

“When further on we stopped to rest, they brought me the roast monkey, which they had not touched. I snatched a leg and ate it with voracity. The next day, constantly compelling myself to take the guaraná, I had but slight fever; and towards the evening, after a toilsome journey, we arrived at a miserable Malocca, composed of about four or five Indian cabins.”