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As the first representative of the white race, Gonzalo Pizzaro got to the Amazon in 1540. He was just appointed the governor of Quito by his brother Francisco Pizarro - the famous explorer and conqueror of Peru. As target was set to find some substantial place in unexplored area, that time called 'Canelas' (country of cinnamon). A large prey was expected, the enthusiasm of all co-conquerors encouraged stories that were told about this country, and which was, after previous experience with the depredations of the former Inca empire learned to trust. Expedition had been prepared the way it worked during the previous conquest, the way of flaunting civilization - three hundred and fifty Spaniards in arms, four thousand accompanying Indians, thousand hounds, well-stocked with food and a large herd of pigs.
From the very beginning of the journey they clashed with difficulties, as if something had wanted to warn them. They had to pass Andean mountain range first, characterized by a considerable volcanic activity in that part. At higher altitudes they got paralyzed by ice storms which many unprepared Indians didn't survive. Soon they became a witnesses as an extremely powerful earthquake shook the mountains, landscape cracked creating a gap that engulfed an entire village. After descent of the eastern slopes frost quickly changed to suffocating heat. They faced a sustained downpour and thunder while crossing swamps for several weeks, until they reached a place they called 'lost ends' – not a thing they imagined, just a few occasional encounters with savages.
They stood at the border of endless forest and were going to return with no luck what they found hard to take. Fading hope got brought round by prospect that somewhere in the jungle is a rich golden 'El Dorado' which they dreamed of. It was Gonzalo's turn to decide as leader to terminate the expedition, but it wasn't a manner of Pizzaro family. Therefore they entered to hew the path through impenetrable vegetation, wet rotten wear fell off from them as it got caught at thorns, so it hung in shreds soon. The heat took most of their stock, after consuming all the pigs they were pleased they could eat the dogs as well. They reached wide river Napa and kept going further down the stream bank as they couldn't wade across. Discovered 350 meters high waterfall and acquired a sense of awe from its rumble, it seemed to them they returned to beginning of the world. Strong tree trunks could be hardly enlaced by sixteen men with outstretched arms and crown branched out into vertiginous heights. They have not seen living creature except a few alligators and snakes. They believed that on the opposite side might catch something to eat and used the space above the waterfall where the river bed narrowed to only 6 meters and built a simple bridge. Passed the river safely then, but no improvement came up from it. Learned from savages there is a rich and densely populated territory at confluence of the Napa River and the Amazon River (you would find there town called Fancisco de Orellano today - about 70 kilometers away from the big city of Iquitos). Due to rising weakness of the crew, Gonzalo decided to build a ship of 'brigantine' type, which would carry all the baggage and sick men. To seal the holes between the wooden beams used ragged clothes and natural rubber - so the first European vessel appeared in the Amazon basin. It worked for a while, one group sailed and the other was on the move held in sight. However, when number of exhausted pilgrims exceeded capacity of the brigantine, Gonzalo decided to send that ship with fifty soldiers to the confluence of rivers for food supply. He placed Francisco de Orellano in command of ship and waited for his return - but in vain. The ship never got back and after another distressful two months he brought soldiers to the confluence finding only one fellow Sanchez de Vargas there, who told him that ship couldn't ensure neither stocks nor sailing against the strong current back, so ship went down the Amazon (F. de Orellano independently got to the Atlantic ocean then, reaching the island Cubagua and got to Spain after all).
The area at the confluence was populated indeed, but by a militant tribe, so any skirmish was out of the question in regard of the status of soldiers. Allegedly they all were experiencing 'cold panic' from inevitable review of the possibilities afforded by this inhospitable wilderness, even more after Gonzalo's decision to turn round and walk back to Quito. In 1542, they really managed to enter the gates - slowly, unsteadily as a crowd of ghosts – eighty Spanish, two thousand Indians - almost no one recognized them in the city.
Apparently there were not too many so pathetic attempts to conquer the Amazon, but clear priority cannot be given to Gonzalo. The greatest irony was, however, that he occurred right in the heart of the greatest treasure of the world for two years, day after day, all members of his mission had to literally touch the most valuable medicines which life of this planet has ever created. They described their self impressions like liana hung in gaudy garlands coloring the trees, enveloping them with seemingly beautiful garment, but creating an impenetrable interwist.” Unfortunately everybody failed to understand the matter while they could ask the natives, because nearly every tribe in the Amazon has got a shaman with a connection to 'espiritos' and great knowledge of using vines and tree bark to treat - Gonzalo asked only about the gold everywhere, so nothing else he obtained. If his expedition had brought back remedies to heal all the ailments of Europe at that time, it would have been certainly much bigger treasure than all the gold, silver and emeralds that Pizarros ever sent to the Spanish court.
Brigantina's adventurous voyage brought fame to Francisco de Orellano at the Spanish court, where he rhapsodized the Amazon as far as got permission to conquer this territory and assignment of five hundred Spanish soldiers. He took this new mission proudly, but carelessly and incautiously died on the sea frustrating everything. This 'minor slip', however, had more serious consequences than would appear at first sight, because most part of the Amazon didn't fall under domination of the Spanish crown then but the Portuguese. This fact had a fatal impact on the lives of indigenous people - the Spanish colonial law did not permit slavery, while the Portuguese enslaved one tribe after another and forced the natives rub on their plantations by violence.
The events Spanish-Portuguese territorial disputes in the Amazon greatly affects Jesuit Samuel Fritz, a native of Trutnov – Bohemia. Riddle of his nationality has never been cracked as his nationality was not revealed in any of documents written by his hand. Samuel was placed to Omaguas tribe as missionary in 1685. Among hundreds of other missionaries from Europe excelled having extraordinary ability to conciliate favor of natives and speak their own language. Omaguas inhabited islands and banks of the main stream in disputed area and served as easy prey to the Portuguese 'hunters'. Samuel founded the mission San Joachim and charted the vast territory belonging to his tribe for three years (until 1689).
In 1494 Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, dividing the world into two exploration and colonizing areas: the Spanish and the Portuguese. It stated a meridian in the Atlantic Ocean (46º 37’), with the western part excusive to Spain and the east to Portugal, but imperfect cartography allowed the Portuguese expand far beyond the border. When Samuel got seriously sick during his look about Yurimaguas tribe on the lower Rio Negro, he had to seek medical help from the Portuguese in settlement Pará. They helped, but right after his recovery imprisoned him because of his unpleasant cartographic work. In July 1691 (after nineteen months) came Portuguese King's deliverance stating that Samuel is to be transported back to his mission.
The following year he was sent to Lima approved by his superior from La Laguna to inform the viceroy of injustice against Indians done by the Portuguese. There he distinguished himself through coming accompanied by a procession of Indian converts and wearing 'the Indian suit'. His two meters tall, red-beard figure intensified the oddity of his appearance. The Viceroy, Count of Monclova, greeted Samuel warmly, but he didn't grant one single application - why should the Viceroy mind human rights in some damn Amazonia?
After this failure Samuel asked for help authorities in Quito, Madrid, and even in Rome. Finally he couldn't stand bold and unapologetic Portuguese expansionism any more and forced the Indians to move them self to the upper Marañón, to save them from slavery. So due to him Yurimaguas went relocated from the Rio Negro to 1000 kilometers distant Huallaga river, what led to origination of a major port 'Yurimaguas' later on, where descendants of Yurimaguas live today. He actually managed to accomplish this incredibly ambitious plan and also to widen out his map of the Amazon adding some new areas, even the mountain like Huánuco, where the lake Lauricocha described as source of the Marañón river and thus the entire Amazon. He began, however, to meet one problem. Mostly very loyal Indians always started to revolt during his absence and got calmed again just after his return. The mission of San Joachim faced to riots since 1695 which culminated in an insurgence and church igniting in 1701. Samuel's friend, Father Jindřich Václav Richter was actually murdered in another mission converting Cunivas tribe in 1696.
In 1707, when Samuel intervened in Quito for subvention to Maraňon area, finally his special cartographic work got adequate honor. Engraver Juan de Narvaez printed his map of the Amazon, which was admired by many scientists and cartographers for many many years. After the Portuguese looted Mission San Joachim and dragged away all the inhabitants of surrounding territory by force into slavery, Samuel retired himself to village Jeberos on the river Aipena, where he spent the rest of his life. Died on 20th March 1725 and his admirers said about him: "Samuel Fritz, though born in Bohemia, made for the Spanish crown more good than all the captains and conquerors ..." I wish there had come to the Amazon more of those who would have followed the example of his selfless acts. But it didn't happen often even in activities of missionaries who found out soon how good it would be to proselytize indigenous inhabitants if some rich and insatiable adventurer was interested in their territory.
City of Iquitos (Peru) and Manaus (Brazil) became rich during the 'rubber fever' at the turn of 19th century. But good positioned and easier accessible Manaus grew out to the real Amazon metropolis (today has 2 million inhabitants), until 1920 called 'Paris of the tropics'. Opportunity for exceptional profits attracted entrepreneurs from all over the world who have built palatial residences there. As a symbol of success and luxury of this strange period, a magnificent secession building of the Opera 'Teatro Amazonas' arose there - for this crank (opera house in the jungle?!), a sufficient resources were found - they imported marble from Carrara (Italy), metal parts from the United Kingdom, roof tiles from France, the curtain with a scene 'Betrothing of the Waters', i.e. the Amazon with Rio Negro, as Manaus is placed on their confluence, directly from Paris, wood of the surrounding forest wasn't enough to cover all the desirable floor color shades - an European oak was brought.
This anomalous economic boom in the Brazilian Amazon, after its rapid decline, resulted in more cosmopolitan composition of the population, so while a white man would merge easily with the crowd in Manaus, he would barely find a place in the Peruvian Amazon where he didn't feel like an alien on a foreign planet.
Mentioned opera house is also an apposite symbol of European vainglory which always needs to be adored and treads other cultures under foot ignoring them totally, because automatically considers its culture to be the most advanced anywhere. As if animalistic barbarism used by all European colonialists to get their possessions would like to be concealed by the evidence of European maturity - flashy on the surface but empty inside. Let's glance what stratagems Francisco Pizzaro exerted to capture Inca ruler Atahualpa (1532) and to shatter his empire - he slaughtered three thousand unarmed members of his entourage, what was undue even from view of the emperor who otherwise have reserved the right to rule over life and death of all his vassals in the empire where young virgins were commonly sacrificed to bloodthirsty God Pachacamac. What an impression then actuated doing of conquistadors for another almost 500 years in the eyes of a candid indigenous people? Yes, even today it's still not just a 'mere' history, it was again an European company 'Grupo Romero' who proposed an offer at the beginning of 2009 to completely destroy the whole Peruvian Amazon, and natives made it clear what they thought about it through their loud protests in June 2009, even at the cost of bloodshed.
There is a tendency to condone all this behavior pretexting that otherwise South America would have been barbaric and cannibalistic, but that's true at 1 per cent. Culture of 99% Amazon tribes was more spiritual than European and was free of any boast filling an emptiness inside with clairvoyance. It's a shame of priggish and heedless Europeans that they could not discern it.
Today, Amazon's culture is broken and infected with civilization's achievements appreciably resembling a destructive virus. Reaching these gains incentives native to enhance the forest destruction, because they want surplus crop to turn into cash due to yearn to afford e.g. marine engine - when they reach it, so it's the noisiest and the most stinking one. The word 'ecology' never needed to understand, because in their domestic waste never appeared any plastic, glass, empty household batteries, etc.. This way a white self-centered slant generates destruction, but then some majestic opera house is built for show, and everything is all right, all the extreme suffering had a purpose, we can hear singing famous opera singers - what a poor consolation for the silenced voice of the jungle.
Maintainers of the connection with source of power (shamans, curanderos) lose their traditional authority, take shelter with a few backers not tainted with egoism in their last refuge where they aim to save the jungle, which only protects their pure world of truth from Christian hypocrisy. There are also concerned 'Whites' who are aware of the extent of possible consequences and realize the hour that struck in this trend. Fortunately, there is a lot of Europeans either who see the polished surface of their culture and want to balance its vulgarity, where decency and dignity requires. This gives rise to charitable foundations to save important ecosystems and culture of the Amazonian tribes.
Fund 'Cachiyacu' proposes to create a nature reserve in basin of the Cachiyacu river in Peru. No other organization has focused this unique ecosystem yet, so it needs a hand pretty enough. Thin streams as live strings drain a limpid water from the hills belonging to the last Andean catena (about 1200 m.a.s.l.), from the village Balsa Puerto they mingle through many charming meanders heading to the village Varadero, where Cachiyacu joins the Paranapura river – tributary of mighty Huallaga stream. The fund is administered by Jungle-medicine.eu Ltd. and for correct use of its resources shall be liable David von Ava, who has been studying shamanistic tradition of the Chayahuita tribe for several years. Major donors get access to overviews showing usage of the acquired funds. Jungle-medicine.eu cares to demonstrate this way that purpose of the collection is honest and means don't cover any other expenses.