aerial view of the Amazon river

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Amazon

Spring/Summer 2020​ | Volume XIX, Number 3

Table of Contents

Editor’s Letter →

by June Carolyn Erlick

Forests

Brazilian Amazon at a Crossroads

Brazilian Amazon at a Crossroads

The first time I traveled to the Brazilian Amazon some years ago, I visited my friend Simone in Macapá. The capital of Amapá, one of the nine states that make up Brazil’s Legal Amazon region, Macapá is a sleepy town on the northern bank of the Amazon River, close to…

The Defense of Life within the Forest

The Defense of Life within the Forest

English + Português
“The most important thing is audacity,” the Amazonian environmental activist Maria said to me. “If you have the courage to fight, then fight,” her husband, Zé Claudio, emphasized…

Saving Latin America’s Forests

Saving Latin America’s Forests

Surging deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon grabbed international headlines in 2019.  In early August, The Economist decried environmental destruction in the world’s most extensive rainforest as “vandalism.”  Three weeks later, French President Emmanuel Macron…

Innovating for Sustainable Development in Paraguay

Innovating for Sustainable Development in Paraguay

Forests. For many, they invoke beautiful images of trees and splendid scenes of nature, often inspiring deep reverence and respect for something so powerful and ancient. But as soon as one begins to peel back the branches, it is clear that this ecosystem and humans’ engagement…

Bolivia’s Amazon

Bolivia’s Amazon

The fires that raged across the Amazon basin last fall hit Bolivia particularly hard. From September to November, the fires swept through more than 3,000 square miles—twice the area of Rhode Island—, much of it in the pristine dry forests of the Chiquitanía area…

How Do Monkeys Create Tropical Rainforests?

How Do Monkeys Create Tropical Rainforests?

Tropical rainforests are not virgin but rather “anthropogenic,” as humans are said to have created these forests. At least that is what anthropologists have been arguing for the past thirty years. In this past decade, this view has expanded with concepts like “cultural”…

Facing the Challenges

Fluvial Poetics in the Amazon

Fluvial Poetics in the Amazon

English + Español
We were in the hands of the river. I had been told that the boat for Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon, would depart from Santarém at noon. Instead, we set sail at 2 pm. The arrival was even more difficult to determine. The guy who sold me the tickets assured me that…

Learning to Heal in an Amazonian Capital

Learning to Heal in an Amazonian Capital

It’s my 37th birthday, and I’m seventy days into social isolation in my hometown. Being from Belém has gifted me with a taste for the wonders of brega popular music, a knowledge of traditional herbal baths and an ability to cope with extreme heat and humidity…

Lack of Oxygen in the Amazon

Lack of Oxygen in the Amazon

English + Español
“The eight relatives died in fourteen days. One after the other, we went burying them all. I didn’t even get a rest. When I was drifting off to sleep, someone would always call: ‘Your uncle died.’ ‘Your grandfather died.’ If another Kokama dies, we will not have any tears left…

Creating Huayusa Upina

Creating Huayusa Upina

Morning fog obscured all but our immediate surroundings as César Cerda, former president of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza (OPIP), navigated his white Ford pickup truck along the winding, paved road toward the town of Arajuno. It was the summer…

We must demystify Amazonia

We must demystify Amazonia

English + Español
The image of the wild Amazon jungle full of snakes, monkeys and alligators, is more a Hollywood creation than anything to do with reality. Truth is, it is rare to see wildlife in the Amazon; and it’s not because animals are scarce in one of the most biodiverse places in the…

Religion and Spirituality

A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table

About a year ago, a foreign visitor to Harvard gifted me with an odd realization. It doesn’t seem as something intentionally taught, but it may have been—it is impossible to know someone else’s intentions. What I know is that his spatial and cosmological imagination grew…

The Powers of the Sacred

The Powers of the Sacred

Some 45 years ago, when I first went to live as an anthropology doctoral student, with the Baniwa indigenous people of the northwest Amazon in Brazil, it was a very remote place, though still under the control of Catholic Salesian and Protestant evangelical missionaries…

Myth and Metaphor

Myth and Metaphor

The full measure of a culture embraces both the actions of a people and the quality of their aspirations, the nature of the metaphors that propel their lives. A child raised to believe that a mountain is the abode of a protective deity will be a profoundly different human being…

The Catholic Church and the Souls of the Amazon

The Catholic Church and the Souls of the Amazon

From the Colombian Amazon town of Leticia, a visitor reaches Brazil or Peru in minutes by foot or canoe. Three outposts here – the towns of Leticia (pop: 48,000) and Tabatinga, Brazil (pop: 62,000), and the island of Santa Rosa, Peru (pop: 2,500) – and their surrounding…

Through the Eyes of History

Circuits of Glass

Circuits of Glass

In 1909, Emilia Snethlage, a German ornithologist working for the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, arrived at the Curuá River in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. Just five years earlier, Snethlage (1868-1929) had received a Ph.D. from Freiburg University at a time when women…

From Canaima to Canaima National Park

From Canaima to Canaima National Park

English + Español
Sometimes we find our research topics in other people’s footnotes. I first read Canaima (1935), a lesser-studied novel by author, teacher and former president Rómulo Gallegos (1884-1969), as a student of Latin American literature in the doctoral program at Johns Hopkins…

A “Nonsensical Notebook”

A “Nonsensical Notebook”

English + Español
The 19th century continues to live within us in many ways. One of those ways is the presence of national typologies in our imagination. Cowboys, gauchos, harvesters and horsemen make up a portfolio of picturesque images that have found their way into movies, posters…

Archaeology in Amazonia

Archaeology in Amazonia

English + Español + Português
In June of 2017, when I should have been writing my dissertation in Andean archaeology, I joined an archaeological project led by Helena Lima, researcher and curator at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém, Pará. I am an archaeologist who, until recently…

Culture, Memory and Traditional Knowledge

The Canela and I

The Canela and I

English + Português
A mestiça born in Brazil, I had many worlds from which to choose. I could have selected that of my Sicilian ancestors, those immigrant Librandis who came to São Paulo eager for honest work of nearly any sort. I also could have chosen the Hakimes, Syrian immigrants who…

Indigenous Peoples and the Theater

Indigenous Peoples and the Theater

English + Português
It was 2001 and I still can feel to this day the strength that propelled me towards Kamayura village. There live an indigenous people speaking the Kamayura language, which belongs to the Tupi linguistic branch. Their area is part of the Xingu Indigenous Park…

Amazônia Redux

Amazônia Redux

A meeting with a group of indigenous leaders, during my recent trip to the Amazon, still resonates with me to this day. I met with them in Atalaia do Norte—the riverside entrance to the Javari reserve, a region in the Javari river basin. They wanted to share concerns about…

The “Unknown” Feminism of the Amazon

The “Unknown” Feminism of the Amazon

English + Español
The Uchunyas are an indigenous community belonging to the Shipibo tribe in Ucayali, Peru. Like any Latin American society, they face diverse problems, including the threat of neoliberal economic development, as they confront a palm oil company that operates in their…

Book Talk

How Democracies Die

How Democracies Die

How Democracies Die analyzes the main dangers that modern democracies face. As the authors warn, 21st-century democracies do not die in one fell swoop, in a violent way, by hands that do not always belong to the political system. On the contrary, modern democracies…

The Return of Collective Intelligence

The Return of Collective Intelligence

My college Native American Culture professor,  the Mescalero Apache scholar Inez Sánchez, told our class that we should regard the word “primitive” as synonymous with “complex.” I gained a better understanding of what Sánchez meant reading The Return of Collective…

Vernacular Sovereignties

Vernacular Sovereignties

English + Español
Manuela Lavinas Picq, a professor at the Universidad San Francisco en Quito, Ecuador, offers a rarely seen representation of Latin American Indigenous women as a collective, historical and political actor in search of justice and social transformation. Eurocentric, capitalist…

The Fernando Coronil Reader

The Fernando Coronil Reader

English + Español
Fernando Coronil appears on the cover of this posthumous book in a photograph taken by his daughter Mariana. Cement and a communications tower appears to distance him from his beloved plains and grasslands. But no such distance exists. The hammock from…

Borderland Battles

Borderland Battles

When then-President Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace accord with one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest guerrillas in 2016 (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), optimism ran high that an end to decades-long violence in Colombia had been…

Exile Music

Exile Music

Novels about the Holocaust and Jewish survival span countries and languages and audiences of all ages. Such stories tend to be told against a European or United States background. Rarely does a novel involve European Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in Latin…

Latin American Soldiers

Latin American Soldiers

John R. Bawden’s Latin American Soldiers: Armed Forces in the Region’s History introduces readers to the study of Latin American’s Armed Forces., Bawden examines warfare and military traditions in four different countries (Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Chile)…

Magdalena: River of Dreams

Magdalena: River of Dreams

Wade Davis, a Canada-born ethnobotanist, published a widely praised book in 1996 titled One River. It chronicled the explorations and discoveries of his Harvard professor, Richard Schultes, who sought to understand the origins of mind-altering plants and their ritualistic…

The Cubans

The Cubans

Reading the new book The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times made me nostalgic for my years on the island as a U.S. news correspondent. I certainly didn’t miss the struggles or hassles, of which there were plenty, but it made me long for the intelligent…

The Future of the Amazon, Lessons from the Past

This is the full recording of The ReVista launch of the Spring/Summer Amazon issue in a completely redesigned format brings together the authors of the issue in forum format, looking at issues in the Amazon from the perspectives of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay.