Henry C. (Henry Clemens) Pearson.

The rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela online

. (page 10 of 12)
Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 10 of 12)
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own lack of care. The traveler's tales that each ton of rubber costs a



OF THE AMAZON 169

human life cannot be substantiated. Natives die off from cachaca, from
fevers brought on by drinking unboiled water, and because they will
not protect themselves from mosquitos at night. At present there is
no way to make them take better care of themselves.

In the upper valleys the rainy season begins in September and ends
in December, while in the middle and lower valleys it is months longer,
beginning in November and terminating in March. In the southern
regions the rains begin in June and end in October. It will thus be
seen that the Acre territory offers a much longer working season than
the others. The fine grade of rubber known as "Punis" comes from
the Acre. In the dry season, which is when most of the tapping is
done, the seringuieros live very well indeed. In addition to their regular
supplies, there is a great variety of game wild pigs, tapir, deer, black
monkeys, and turtle. There are also fish, great and small, wild turkeys,
geese and ducks, and turtle eggs by the canoe load. Although fresh
vegetables are not obtainable, there are many forest fruits that take
their place and prevent illness. The fresh meat must of course be used
at once as it will not keep. Turtles, however, are kept in stock by penning
them in a pit until ready for cooking.

The wet season, however, is a time of trial. Rain descends in sheets
and appalling thunder showers are almost of daily occurrence. It is
apparently hotter than ever, a steamy hotness that is very trying. The
river rises so that rubber gathering is impossible. The fish disappear in
the flooded lands and are almost impossible to catch. Tapir, deer, wild
pigs and even the game birds seek the higher lands far away from the
river. Insect pests multiply and, between threatened starvation or anni-
hilation by mosquitos or hungry alligators, the seringueiro is at his wits
end. Of course he could provide against this very easily but he never
does.



CHAPTER XXI.

MATTO GROSSO, A GREAT UNEXPLORED COUNTRY GATHERING OF MATTO GROSSO
RUBBER COLOMBIA ON THE AMAZON "HEVEA," CAUCHO, AND BALATA VENEZUELA
AND THE Rio NEGRO "ANGOSTURA" RUBBER THE CASIQUIARE AND THE FORESTAL
DISTRICT CARELESS RUBBER GATHERING.

THE great Brazilian state of Matto Grosso, in the southern part of
which were at one time productive diamond fields, will doubt-
less be the next great producer of rubber. It produces con-
siderable now, but has possibilities in the way of infinitely greater pro-
duction, once its territory is explored. It is over 500,000 square miles in
area, reaching from Amazonas on the north to Paraguay on the south.
The Guapore river, which flows into the Amazon through the Madeira,
is part of the boundary line between this state and Bolivia. The river
just named is but one of a number of important streams, coming from
the great forest reaches in which is much rubber. Of the others, per-
haps the Tapajos is the most important.

The state of Matto Grosso is very sparsely populated, 150,000 souls
being a liberal estimate. No portion of the Brazils is perhaps better
named than this, the words meaning "Dense Forests" practically as
dense, indeed, as at the time of its discovery 400 years ago. The forest
lands are wonderfully rich in valuable woods, medicinal plants and barks,
and all the sturdy pioneer needs to do is to go in and help himself.

It was as late as 1893 that rubber trees were discovered in Matto
Grosso and the official report declared that there were "thousands
of millions" of them. In 1900 a party of young Americans went to
Matto Grosso to hunt for rubber. They disappeared into the trackless
forests and were never heard of again. A relief expedition sent in
months later could find no trace of them, and indeed came near suffering
the fate of those whom they were trying to relieve.

With the extension of railways from southern Brazil, the opening
up of such great concessions as that granted to the Madeira-Mamore
Railway Co., on the Guapore river, and the constant pushing up such
rivers as the Xingu by rubber hunters, the forest interior must soon
be known and exploited.

170



OF THE AMAZON



171



Undoubtedly Matto Grosso rubber came out through the Xingu,
the Tapajos, and the Guapore long ago, but with no record of just
where it came from. No such system for rubber collection, as yet, obtains
in this little known territory, as is in vogue in the rest of the Amazon
valley. Where there is regular rubber gathering, estradas are laid out,



^ATLANTIC




MAP OF THE VENEZUELAN FORESTAL.



each gatherer attending to something like 100 trees. According to de
Mello, latex cups are not attached to the tree itself, but little troughs
made from the wood of the "bority" palm are fastened to the tree with
pegs, the joint between tree and trough being filled with clay. He claims
that the milk is coagulated by the addition of alum dissolved in hot



172



THE RUBBER COUNTRY




"RATELAO" IN THE RAPIDS, UPPER RIO NEGRO.



water. The freshly coagulated latex is then pressed between boards to
expel as much water as possible.

His description is not altogether clear in many respects, and it may
be that he has confused the coagulation of the Hevea latex with the
boiling of the "mangabeira" milk. It is, however, true that much of the




EMBARKING CATTLE ON THE UPPER RIO NEGRO.



OF THE AMAZON



173



Matto Grosso rubber is poorly handled, and is usually air cured instead
of being smoked. That, however, will rectify itself when the territory is
opened, as the smoked product brings a much better price. Matto Grosso
"coarse" is to-day quite common ; "fine" and "medium" are also on the
market. The state export tax on rubber is 20 per cent.

Most of the rubber exploitation in the Brazils has been south of the
Amazon. That there are a great variety of rubber producing trees north
of the Amazon is undoubted. There are many sections where the Hevea




R1VI.K SCENE ON THE UPPER RIO NEGRO.



Brasiliensis does not seem to be present. The Guyanensis, however, is
very widely distributed, and produces a rubber that is well worth gather-
ing, although it is probable that it needs different treatment in coagu-
lation from Brasiliensis.

The Amazon for more than 600 miles forms a boundary between
Brazil and Colombia. There is a vast territory north of the river that
is watered by the Putumayo, the Napo, the Caqueta, and their tributaries,
forming a wonderful system of waterways into a country rich in Hcrca



THE RUBBER COUNTRY




TOWN ON THE RIO BRANCO.




"FAZENDA CAPELLO" ON THE RIO BRANCHO.



OF THE AMAZON 175

rubber, in caucho and balata. Very considerable quantities of rubber
come to Manaos from this section. This territory has been more or less
worked for many years, although the rubber has not been very extensively
gathered, the early exploration having been for quinine. It appears on the
map as being Colombian property, but it is well to add that it is claimed
by Peru. Indeed, Peruvian custom houses were established and taxes
collected on all exports. The governments of Colombia and Peru, how-




"SERINGAL" ON THE RIO BRANCO.



ever, put in force a modus vivendi, giving both countries equal rights
on the Putumayo until the boundaries are settled by arbitration.

The southeastern federal territories of Venezuela, notably Amazonas,
drained by the Rio Negro, are rich in rubber trees. A certain amount
of rubber known as "Angostura,." fine and coarse, comes down to Manaos
and once the territory, particularly to the east of Bolivar, is explored,
both rubber and balata undoubtedly will be found in abundance. There
are scanty records of the rubber that comes from Venezuela by way of



176



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



the Rio Negro. Sometimes it is noted and oftentimes it is claimed as a
Brazilian product. In 1902, for example, 48,000 kilograms of fine Para
and 20,000 of coarse were credited to Venezuela, but other years, when
just as much came in, there are no official figures to show for it.




FOREST SCENE IN COLOMBIA.



The upper Rio Negro, it will be remembered, is joined to the upper
Orinoco by a river known as the Casiquiare, so that there is a waterway
from Manaos to the upper Orinoco. It is a narrow, turbulent, canal



OF THE AMAZON 177

river with one small cataract and several rapids, and is really navigable
only to expert canoeists.

The Venezuela territory, that has its outlet through the Rio Negro
and depends on the city of Manaos for its market is called the Forestal
District, and is some 300,000 square miles in area. Nearly the whole
of this is at present government land. Some 38,000 square miles of this
rich land is drained by the Rio Negro. Parts of the country are hot
and unhealthy. The inhabitants of this part of Venezuela are chiefly
Indians. For example, in the territory of Amazonas the population is
46,000, of which more than 45,000 are Indians. They are a docile, un-
ambitious type of humanity, willing to work under proper direction.

The Venezuela government is more than willing to have this terri-
tory developed and concessionaires who take up development problems
honestly and energetically get excellent treatment. Promoters of fraudu-
lent schemes, however, once they are recognized, can get into more
trouble than anywhere else in the world.

Rubber gatherers up the Rio Negro are more careless than they
are south of the Amazon. They make a trough around the body of the
tree, using the pith of the "miriti" palm. Above this are made incisions,
and as the latex runs down into the trough, it drains off into a little
earthen pot set on the ground. Hardwood smoke is used in curing
instead of palm nuts.

Just as a bit of rubber history: An alert promoter once interested
American capitalists to the extent of backing a great rubber gathering
company on the banks of the Casiquiare. As far as could be learned the
nearest he got to his rubber fields was the city of Manaos, 800 miles
away. That, however, did not prevent him sending out exhaustive reports
of the number of trees that he saw, tapping that he did himself and
adventures that came his way. His descriptions of the flora, of bird,
beast and insect were marvelous, and were innocently published in the
company's advertisements. He was the only man in the world who ever
saw birds of Paradise in South America, and his company the only one
that ever published the fact of their presence among Hevea trees to
allure investors



CHAPTER XXII.

DOWN THE AMAZON IN A FREIGHTER SANTAREM AND WICKHAM THE NAR-
ROWS AGAIN ARRIVAL AT PARA RUBBER PLANTING LANDS EXAMINATIONS OF
THE "RAIN FOREST" "CAPOEIRA" LAND.

THE journey down the Amazon was fully as interesting but briefer
than the upstream voyage. The captain was a veteran in the
Amazon trade, and knew Manaos thirty years before, when it
was only a farmyard, and Iquitos when it was an Indian village. He
gave me his cabiri and laid himself out to make me comfortable. The
boat was a slow one, but with the current we had no trouble in doing*
13 knots, and passed Ita'coatiara early in the evening. The river had
risen 10 feet since we came up, and by the water marks on the trees
had still another 10 to go. The floating logs, trees, and grass patches
had multiplied greatly.

The food was excellent, the drinking water good, and, swinging
our hammocks high up on the rear deck, we were very comfortable.
The big, flatbottomed freighter was as steady as a rock, and slid through
the water as if she was greased.

I was up at six the next morning and found it raining heavily. All
the forenoon we passed through exceedingly heavy showers. The rain
drove under the awning more or less, so I put on a rubber coat and
wondered if friends at home would believe how cool it was at midday
directly on the equator. We passed Santarem that afternoon, and got
a good view of the sandy beach in front of the town, its big white church,
and its little one story houses with the blue fronts and red roofs. We
also saw the wireless station the "deaf and dumb wireless" as the
captain graphically described it.

The Tapajos river enters the Amazon opposite Santarem, and as
it is not as muddy as the latter, it shows the same line of black water
as does the Rio Negro, although in lesser degree. It is a good thing
to remember that Santarem is the place where Wickham back in the
'To's was installing a small rubber plantation and watching for Oppor-
tunity. Luckily for the planters in the Far East it came, when the big

178



OF THE AMAZON



179



British steamer Amazonas, without cargo and without cash to buy one,
hove in sight. Wickham, practically penniless, chartered it for the Indian
government, stored baskets of Hevea seeds in its huge hold, won hasty
clearance from Para for "rare botanic specimens," and got the seeds
to the Kew gardens alive and vital. Every Hevea tree in the Far East
and thousands in other parts of the world are a direct result of that
act. The British planters should erect a splendid monument at Santarem
in honor of Wickham, but they will .never do it with the consent of
the Brazilians.

It is interesting to note that Cross secured a thousand H'evea Bra-




AMERICAN HOME IN SANTAREM.



siliensis plants which he shipped to Liverpool in October, 1876. Wick-
ham's seeds reached Kew gardens, June, 1876. Both the seedlings from
Kew and the plants sent by Cross to Peradeniya and Heneratgoda gar-
dens, Ceylon. Wickham's undoubtedly got there first and made up the
government grove that afterward supplied rubber seed to every part of
the tropical world.

One night a boat of our own line saluted us in passing, showing
a flare which burned green for three minutes, then shot up three white
balls, lighting up the yellow waters and the black jungle most weirdly.
When we reached the place where the German boat had grounded, al-
though it was broad daylight, it rained so heavily that one could not see



i8o



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



a boat's length ahead. The pilot knew where we were, but he also knew
what the river could do in the way of making new channels and obliterat-
ing old ones, so we anchored until it cleared.

The next morning at 6 o'clock we were about twenty miles from
the beginning of the "Narrows." About 8 o'clock we were off Garupa.
where there is quite a settlement. Here the current was not as strong,
the shore began to be fringed with palms, and it grew much warmer.
We began to see rubber trees, huts on stilts, and banks awash at the
river's edge. We thought we had been through heavy rains. But the
shower that came driving up through the narrows so far outclassed any




PLANTED "HEVEA" (32 MONTHS OLD) AT SANTAREM.



former experience that we decided we hadn't really known what rain
was. It passed after time, however, and we went on. The Captain and
I had tea and toast, standing up to take it, for there was no dry place
to sit, even on that awning shaded deck. At 4.30 we passed through
Furo Grande, casting the lead every few feet, as many boats go
aground here. We got through without mishap, however, and turned
in at 8.30 that night, with the assurance that we could be in Para
at dawn.

The morning of our arrival at Para we were up at 5.30, sighting
the islands of the city an hour later. By g o'clock we had breakfast,
successfully passed the doctor and the customs, and, entering the launch



OF THE AMAZON



181



which friends had sent out, went ashore. To my surprise and pleasure
I found that the rubber exporters and merchants had arranged that I
should be their guest while I stayed in the city, as well as at a banquet
to be given that night at the Cafe da Pas.




YOUNG PLANTED "HEVEA ON TAPAJOS PLATEAU.

I was fortunate enough to know the acting director of the Para
Agricultural Experiment Station and get his -ideas on local planting.
He was a young American, was an instructor in botany in an American



1 82 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

university, and later at the head of an important section in the United
States Department of Agriculture. More than any other he has studied
the problems of rubber planting in the state of Para. I quizzed him very
searchingly, and the following is his statement, almost verbatim, and it is
worth serious consideration :

Although in itself the greatest rubber shipping port in the world,
the immediate vicinity of the city of Para seems never, except by a




OLD HEVEA TREES IN THE FOREST NEAR SANTAREM.

few better informed and more far sighted than others, to have been
considered seriously as a factor in the -production of plantation rubber.
Nevertheless, this district possesses advantages and opportunities af-
forded by none other.

The city's proximity to the sea and its natural advantages as a port
are so well known and its advantage in this respect over upriver points,
where higher freights would be unavoidable, are so apparent that they



OF THE AMAZON



183



may be passed over. Then Para possesses a railroad of 250 kilometers
(155 miles) in length, which affords access, ignoring the still much too
prevalent belief that Hci'ca delights in wet and swampy locations, to a
tract of well drained and healthful territory, immune to the caprices
of annual floods, which is capable of producing a grade of rubber com-
parable to any now coming from the Amazon valley. This territory was




OLD "HEVEAS" ON BORDER OF STREAM NEAR SANTAREM.



personally inspected by the writer with the express purpose of investigat-
ing its suitability for rubber culture.

This section, speaking of the more accessible portion south of the
river, forms part of the great forest system of the lower Amazon and
extends in an unbroken stretch, practically without variation, eastward
to the sea and southward to the mountains. The formation is a typical
tropical rain forest ; the large trees, among which are some veritable



OF THE AMAZON



185



giants, stand comparatively far apart and represent almost innumerable
species ; the undergrowth is somewhat more compact, the small trees are
straight and slender while the whole is intertwined with llanos and made
practically impenetrable. Extremely hard and durable woods are plenti-





THE STREET OF CEARENSES, PARA.



ful, some defying both the axe and the agencies of decay, but the trees
of any one given species are so isolated and difficult to find and reach
that remunerative lumbering is out of the question. The small trees and
llanos, or cipos, serve many useful purposes in the construction of houses,
fences, and tools.




THE RAILROAD TO BRAGANCA, PARA.



In this forest the rubber tree is no exception to the general rule,
as it is scattered and found in isolated locations like the other native
species. The large size of the specimens found, however, even when in



i86 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

competition with other and oftentimes more vigorous denizens of the
forest, testifies to its adaptability to its surroundings. In some localities,
it is, of course, more plentiful than in others, as those who remember
recent newspaper accounts of discoveries made near the borders of
Maranham will know. There are also in the city and along the Braganga
railroad, Para rubber trees of a foot or more in diameter, which were
planted and are now ' producing rubber of the finest grade. These are
large, strong and productive, even when much crowded and neglected.

Labor does not present any unusual difficulties near Para, nor are
the forests difficult to remove. Raw labor is available in almost unlimited
quantities near the city. It is easy also to import men from southern
Europe and the Madeiras, a class which rapidly accustoms itself to the
climate, which is not at all unhealthful, especially in the higher districts
away from the vicinity of the rivers.

The native custom of clearing the land of forests is to fell the small
trees and ring, or kill by fire, such of the large trees as have not yet
been removed for their valuable timber, and then to set fire to the whole
when somewhat dry. This practice destroys the most valuable elements
of the soil for the time being, making it useless for more than one or
possibly two crops of corn or cassava, but the supply of potash made
available by the combustion of the timber serves as a stimulant for plant
growth, which can be improved upon later by mulching or by a system of
green manuring.

In what is known as capoeira land i. e., abandoned clearings, which
have been covered by second growth the cost of clearing is, of course,
much less ; the humus has been restored to the soil, oftentimes in greater
quantities than ever before, and a clearing can be made simply by
felling the young growth of trees, which can be left to decay. This does
away almost entirely with the extra expense of burning and cleaning up
after felling ; besides it preserves the humus in the soil and adds an
additional amount with a mulch by its own decay.



,u

:



CHAPTER XXIII.

PLANTING INTEREST IN PARA NEW PLANTING LAWS A WORD ABOUT THE
TAPPING SEASON WHAT PARA RUBBER TREES YIELD THE "RECEBEDORIA."

THE planting idea seemed to have taken a strong hold upon the
residents of both Para and Manaos. I talked long with one
large operator in the Acre who assured me that his house had
already planted more than 100,000 trees. There were those who were
urging the governor of Amazonas to grant subsidies and concessions
of all sorts, but while he was most favorable to the planting idea, he
did not see his way clear to favor exactly the plans put before him.

Para had just passed laws designed to encourage rubber planting.
These covered a premium for trees actually planted ; the gratuitous dis-
tribution of seeds ; and a reduction of 50 per cent, on the export duty
on rubber for ten years, and 30 per cent, for the next ten years. There
was also an opportunity for the company to borrow money from the
government at a fair rate of interest, and a proviso that the planting
company must maintain a school for twenty orphans who must be
taught the elements of tropical husbandry.

From a practical standpoint the trouble about any rubber plant-
ing proposition in Brazil is that governors, like our own presidents,
normally last only four years. An unfriendly governor may not be able
to cancel a contract, but he can easily interpret the various articles
so that it would be valueless. Not that there is any present indication
of such change or such attitude, but the time might come when such
action would be thought advisable.

My own hope was that the governments of both Para and Ama-
nas would remove the tax on plantation grown rubber entirely for a
series of years. That they refused to do, as there were decided diffi-
culties in the way. For example, wild rubber prepared as is planta-
tion rubber would be sure to appear, and if a company owned both
wild and planted rubber the temptation would be to get most of both
kinds upon the market without an export duty.

Nor is the clause placing export duty of planted rubber at one-half

187



i88



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



that of wild rubber an attractive proposition. It should have been a
definite sum like 5 or 10 cents a pound ; or a definite percentage on
the sales value of the rubber, say 5 or 10 per cent. Another thing,
the idea of the planter running an industrial school or orphan asylum
in connection with a business venture will not appeal to many. It is
more than likely that these laws will be amended and simplified. In-
deed, their very presence is a decided advance, and a strong symptom
of the desire of the government to encourage planting on a large scale.
It may be that I have not made it plain just when rubber is tapped.
Speaking broadly the tapping season is from August to January, about
six months. Actually there is tapping on all of the time, for in seme




THREE YEAR OLD RUBBER AT DI AM ANTING.



places the inundation is not enough of a factor to stop it. It must be
remembered also that during the rainy season it doesn't necessarily rain
every minute and there are mornings when the seringueiros are able
to secure a certain amount of latex with no admixture of rain water.

A great many different figures are given regarding the yields of
Para rubber trees for the season. In the lower Amazon some estates
are said to go as low as a pound a tree, others yielding 2 and 3 pounds.
When certain estates on the island of Marajo were sold a yield of
nearly 9 pounds a tree was claimed. An analysis of their annual pro-
duction however brought the figures down to about 7 pounds a tree.



OF THE AMAZON 189

A prospectus of an Amazonas estate near Manaos claimed 17


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12

Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 10 of 12)