Magazine article The World and I

Big Water People - among the Amazon's Caboclos

Magazine article The World and I

Big Water People - among the Amazon's Caboclos

Article excerpt

Scattered in Brazilian towns, villages, and homesteads up and down the world's greatest waterway are the mixed-race people known as caboclos. They are descendants of intermarriage between Portuguese and native inhabitants during the era of the booming rubber trade in the late nineteenth century. A quiet and dignified people, they often live in the humblest circumstances. The caboclos appear somewhat indifferent to materialism. When visiting a family in a remote location, for example, one immediately notices the lack of electricity and other modern amenities. Their wealth lies in a natural lifestyle derived from a beautiful setting that is rich in food sources.

Their remote settlements are scattered along a thousand-mile stretch of the Amazon River from Manaus to Iquitos in Peru. (The mixed-race people found upriver in Peru are called riberi-os. Descended from Spanish- Indian intercourse, they share many cultural traits with the caboclos.) The region is almost devoid of major communities except for a few large towns and scattered villages. Most caboclos live in small groups or families. Their settlements are rarely seen up close by outsiders, traders, or tourists who venture along the river.

Caboclos houses are built on stilts--or floating tree trunks during flood season--and have thatched roofs. There are even floating communities: churches, homes, stores, and gasoline stations are all tied together and make up a small river town. Typically, travel is by dugout canoe. In larger villages, more affluent families might have a canoe with an outboard motor, but most of them use paddles.

The government does not consider the caboclos to be a native Indian group. In Brazil, natives must be "purebred" and must live on reservations to receive financial aid or support. Politicians ignore them except during election years and then send a few "gifts" to win their support. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.