National Geographic : 1962 Sep
KODACHROME(C) NAT Figures carved from wood by 18th-century sculpt fill a room in the Inconfidencia Museum of Ouro Pret Known as the Little Cripple because leprosy had del Lisboa became Brazil's dominant artist of the colon Ouro Preto, whose name means Black Gold, was a 18th and early 19th centuries. Today it survives as an seum displayed samples and statistics on wealth floating in from the entire State of Amazonas, an area more than twice the size of Texas. The new jute spinnery turned out 500,000 coffee bags a year, the tannery 20,000 cayman skins a month. Other factories canned nuts and made plywood. The oil refinery fueled the diesels, outboard motors, and kerosene lamps for an area as big as the United States east of the Mississippi. The old opera house, built 66 years ago during the rubber boom and then neglected, glistened with fresh paint inside and out, with new gilt and scarlet velvet (page 326). Manaus had a serious water shortage-but so did Rio and every other city I saw except Brasilia. Street lights? Only on the docks. People who 324 could afford it bought their own generators. To these docks, a thou sand miles up the Ama zon, come steamers from Liverpool and New York. Ships from river ports go on another 1,000 miles. Traders put-put off with salt, coffee, sugar, beans, machetes, and whatever else is barterable. The caboclos, the backwoods men, living on credit from the traders, pay high in the yields of the forests. One night, on arrival of the wood-burning stern wheeler Campinas of the SNAPP Line, I mingled with the starched officers and spruce passengers on the top deck. On the low er deck, next to gleaming machinery, I found peo ple who had brought along chicken coops, pig pens, giant turtles, mon keys, birds, gentle capy baras (giant rodents, two feet long though they were still young), and leashed IONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY weasels called iraras, the or Ant6nio Lisboa blood-thirstiest killers in o in Minas Gerais. the forest. formed his fingers, I met much of the ial period, same wildlife again, in an boom town in the old mansion turned into national monument. a warehouse by Willi Schwartz, the animal trader from Vienna. He had fish, too. "That's a discus fish," he said. "Ten dollars." I helped count a mass of cardinals, a ten-cent fish, in a big glass bowl. Difficult. They kept moving. Wildlife kept fascinating me. Parrots whis tling in the rain. Caymans in the dark, their eyes glowing pink in my flashlight beam. And a young onga, a jaguar, newly caught and pleased that someone came to see him, so pleased that he tried to stand on his head. Big Snake Swallows a Deer Aboard a canoe in the back country, I asked about piranhas. "They are here," the boat man said. "They bother you only if you have an open cut, if they sense blood. We are more afraid of electric eels and sucuri [anacondas]. That ripple, that was a sucuri."