AVENER PRADO FOR “THE WORLD”
ReportageA year after the fires that sparked worldwide outrage, the Amazon rainforest is still in flames. Symbol of the destruction of this major ecosystem, the Chico Mendes reserve, which was to be an example of environmentally friendly exploitation, has now been ransacked.
Today, like almost every day in his life, “Bito” went to “bleed” his forest. He got up at 3 a.m. and washed his smoked face with cold water. Swallowed a tapioca pancake and some grilled bananas. Took his bag, his bucket, his knife. Put on his boots. Carefully adjusted his headlamp. And sank between the trees. Alone, so alone, in the great Amazonian night.
Under the tropical canopy, Arleudo Morais Farias, by his full name, is a shadow among the shadows. Fast and discreet, just like the jaguar. In fact, this jungle belongs to him as much as to the feline. He knows it by heart and the mark of its trace: a brown scratch spotted with white, rippling gracefully to the damp ground along the trunk of the rubber tree. The signature of the seringueiro, the Amazonian latex collector.
The syringe will is the Portuguese name for rubber. Bito, 43, tall since he was a child. “I learned everything from my father”, slips, between two bloodletting, this resident of the Chico Mendes reserve, in the Brazilian state of Acre. Every day, he has to visit a hundred trees, 15 kilometers to cover over rough terrain, often in the dark, with 20 kg to 40 kg of latex on his shoulders. Encounters with monkeys, tapirs and panthers are frequent. “And with snakes, it’s every day! “, laughs Bito.
The latex, this fatty, white sap called here “milk”, flows drop by drop into small cups that the worker collects. It sounds so simple. But the rubber tree, despite being 30 meters high, is a fragile giant. It must be skinned with care: just a few millimeters. “More, we can hurt him, and he can even die”, explains Bito. The syringeiro is a delicate gesture. A gesture of love, he said. “These trees are part of my family, they are like my children”, smiles the man from the forest, “milk” full of his beard and hands.
The world before
“I like it, I like this solitary life, in the middle of nature”, he continues on his return, around 3 p.m., in his wooden hut on stilts in the village of Icuria. Yet despite appearances, Bito is worried. For several years now, business has been bad. His meager income has dropped by almost half. Above all, Bito has marked features. He’s more than his age. “I’m tired, my body is already very hard. ” Her son is 18 years old. He will be a doctor. “I don’t want this life for him”, Bito confesses in a blank voice.
You have 87.68% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.