National Geographic : 1962 Sep
reverently killed and ate their aged parents; the old people had wanted it that way. Joe said: "Believe me, we are making progress here." That night, at the SPI post where the Ouro Preto and the Pacais Novos Rivers meet, I stood before a hut in the moonlight. The mos quitoes didn't bite much any more. Cicadas chirped. The water shimmered, seeming to keep time with the insects. Several Pacaas Novos were there. The women made a fire and roasted corn. Both women and men chewed babagu nuts, to make hair oil. I said I had thought that the women did all the work. This set off a debate, and Joe was hard put to translate fast enough. Men: We make arrows and hunt and fish. We clear the fields for planting. Women: We do the planting. And we bring the wood. We grind the corn. We bake the bread. We cook. Men: We cut down trees to get honey. We bring agai fruit to make the cooling drink. Women: We make the cooling drink. We make baskets and mats for sleeping. And we bear the children. There was a silence. Then a man said: We kill the enemy. The debate was over. Life a Battle in the Northeast I next visited the Northeast, a seven-state region as big as Venezuela. One Brazilian in four lives there. The United States, under the Alliance for Progress for Latin America, is committed to spend 131 million dollars there in the next two years alone. First, the dry Northeast (map, page 314). When it rains, little moisture remains. You might say that 80 drops out of 100 evaporate. Sixteen run off in rivers. Only four soak into the soil. In some years it does not rain at all. Brazilians call it sertdo, the backlands or wil derness. An American soil scientist said, "In Arizona we call it desert." The sun is incessant, the soil sandy, the vegetation sparse and prickly. There are spiny shrubs, and cactuses like huge sau sages, with 6-inch spikes. Here rides the vaqueiro, the Northeastern cowboy, clad in leather from hat to spurs, his horse in leather too. As the drought deepens, he burns the needles from cactus. Cows and steers eat what's left while it still smolders. "Some starve before they get sick," a va queiro said. "Some get sick before they starve to death." (Continued on page 345) 338 "Break with Cuba," cries the poster on a street side pillar in downtown Rio. "More than 1,000 executed in two years," says the caption above the firing squad. Brazil, like the rest of Latin America, finds Cuba a controversial issue. Farmers Air Their Ills in the Northeast, Brazil's Land of Hunger and Unrest More populous than Peru, larger than all Cen tral America, the blighted Northeastern bulge of Brazil is depressed and underdeveloped. Many of its 15 million inhabitants live in pov erty. In 1955 the first peasant league met at Galileia to seek land-reform laws. Today the leagues claim thousands of members. The Unit ed States, working with Brazil through the Al liance for Progress, has designated the North east a high-priority area for development funds. Jose Francisco de Souza, leader of the Galileia League, conducts this meeting. Decorations re main from a festival.