Gathering Riches: Images from the Brazilian Amazon by Christine Burrill
The Garimpeiro (miner) gives up home and family to rush to the latest gold strike, hoping for fortune.
Meire, an Arawete Indian, pauses after gathering over 50 pounds of clay for the tribes’ beautiful red and black striped pottery. The walk home from her special spot will take 2 hours.
Bekoiti, a Kayapo Indian, leaves the summer encampment with special treats (Brazil nuts, fish, lemons) for the home village.
Garimpeiros use mercury to sluice the fine gold particles from the dirt. It poisons the Indian’s downstream and and has disasterous health consequences for the miner’s themselves.
Bepte plays with his newly found turtle. Amazon Indians have pets of every description.
The man on the left has a tiny mound of gold under the yellow slip of paper in his pan. The smiling man in front is weighing the nuggets in the center. In Itaituba, at the heighth of the gold rush in 1989, there were 60 murders a month in a town with 40,000 population
The Arawete like the yellow feathers from under the wings of the scarlet macaw. Their numbering system has no words for numbers after 3. After that, the word is MANY. Since most possessions are easily replaceable from the forest, numbers aren’t so necessary.
In Serra Pelada, garimpeiros while away the down time with a low-stakes game of roulette.
Preparing for the Festival
To celebrate the bounty of the harvest, the Arawete Indians paint themselves in urucú berry juice and get ready for a 3 day party.