Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tall Tales from Brasil

My time in Brasil was very much an influence on me.  The stories I tell often have roots there.  I very much see the world through Portuguese lenses.  And my understanding of the world around me often has a lot to do with fundamental changes in understanding that happened to an eight-year-old boy on the Amazon.

So I was fascinated to discover a couple of recent articles in a journal that referenced the area where I lived for those seminal years.

The articles were describing some first-person accounts of early missionary work taking place along the Rio Curuari - not too far from the area where we lived.  According to the accounts, there was some significant conflict in the area between two groups.  The anthropologists suggested that the conflict was a result of fissioning - the splitting of a group into two, to take advantage of resources.

Rio (pronounced HEE-oh) Curuari is south and west of Jaburuzinho, which was just downriver of where we lived.

But the conflict was over a cadeira - a four-legged stool that was one of the symbols of office for the Big man.  Raiding parties, casualties, killings: the journal accounts of the 17th Century friars detailed multiple attempts to stop the violence.

How it happened is not clear, but eventually the friars met with the leaders of the two groups.  The Sanuma' leader (who led the most recent successful raid) hosted the meeting, but mistrusted everyone involved.  He hid the cadeira in the eaves of the longhouse, where the discussion was occurring.

During the 'peace talks', the thatch gave way, and the cadeira fell, landing on the Sanuma' leader.  Proving that people who live in grass houses should not stow thrones.

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