Known for its incredible diversity of flora and fauna, the Amazon rainforest is also inhabited by a diverse population with unique cultures.
Soil scientist Judson Ferreira Valentim, who resides in Brazil’s Acre state, stated that the common belief that the environment excludes people is untrue. He argues that there are multiple variations of the Amazon and its inhabitants.
Brazil’s portion of the Amazon is home to 28 million people, ranging from small villages with thatched homes to the impressive skyline of Belém, often referred to as the “Manhattan of the Amazon.”
This article is a part of The Protein Problem, a series by AP that addresses the issue: Can we sustainably provide food for a growing population? The complete project can be found at https://projects.apnews.com/features/2023/the-protein-problem/index.html.
Several communities are connected through bodies of water. On the Tocantins River, which is a branch of the Amazon, school boats collect children from raised wooden houses, while fishermen feed bits of their catch to the river dolphins that often visit the docks. At sunset, families gather by the river beaches, finding relief from the daytime heat in the water.
Rural areas are connected by roads, which are susceptible to damage during heavy rainfall, or newly constructed highways – providing improved access to educational and medical facilities, but also leading to potential deforestation.
In the forest itself, there is often no path. Açaí picker Edson Polinario spends his days under dappled sunlight that filters through the canopy of virgin rainforest, often with just the company of his large black dog.
In the small village of Tekohaw, Maria Ilba, who is of both Indigenous and African descent, observes a wild green parrot eating salt on her windowsill one evening. Maria reflects on the cultural changes in her village, noting that it has become more diverse and less traditional over time.
The area includes a school, a small hospital, and a means of transportation for severe illnesses. While appreciative of these amenities, she expresses concern that future generations may lose touch with their language, culture, traditional foods, and body art.
It is certain that there will be changes. The speaker only wishes for the future to protect what is most important – for both the people and the forest.