As the Brazilians push ahead with their conquest of the Amazon rain forests, towns, which not so long ago were becoming faded relics of Portuguese colonial days, are again booming.
As the Brazilians push ahead with their conquest of the Amazon rain forests, towns, which not so long ago were becoming faded relics of Portuguese colonial days, are again booming. Ports such as Manaus, 900 miles (1448 kilometres) inland, are at the centre of new and impressive development. A vast network of roads is pushing into the jungle ... a network cut so clear reports say it can be seen from the moon.
SYNOPSIS: Manaus, is in the heart of Amazon rain forest near the junction of the Amazon and Negro rivers. It has a population of 350,000, and the people thrive on the river trade. At the turn of the century rubber made millions of dollars for some of its inhabitants, and once again business is booming. Old river boats and even ocean going ships navigate the river all the way up to Iquitos in Peru, and fish, fruit and vegetables are unloaded on docks that will rise or fall 12 metres on the massive tides.
The Amazon people are from many ethnic groups, though mainly of Portuguese descent, and from Africans taken as slaves. Some of the fair haired women, scattered among the darker faces, are the great grandchildren of German pioneers. Today, nearly everyone speaks Portuguese.
According to the last census, Brazil has 16 million homes, and less than half have any plumbing or water supply. Everything is wet, and the dark wooden shacks will eventually crumble away.
The river regulates life along its banks. It takes people, where they want to go, provides food and carries away their rubbish. The Amazon has 10,000 tributaries, and perhaps more yet to be discovered.
The Amazon also imposes hardships. Human existence has always been a hard, grinding struggle. The pattern has long been primitive, and although the area has tremendous natural wealth, science seems to belong to another age.
Women and children have been promised a better deal in the country's future, but many don't understand. To them the main fight is against the Amazon.
There are believed to be no more than 180,000 Amazon Indians scattered along the entire length of the river. The people, some, who live on government reservations, live simply with no reading, writing or television sets.
Poor diet is another problem, and life expectancy has actually decreased, but rubber gives the Indians something to trade with.
The poorer people keep struggling to have large families, but two out of 10 babies die from avoidable disease such as measles and tetanus.
The Transamazonica highway now spans Brazil from East to West. It links the Atlantic coast and the frontier 3,000 kilometres away. This is Brazil's way of conquering the Amazon rain forest.