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Notes on the Geography of Brazil: Manaus

When these pictures were taken, in 1984, Varig ran nonstop flights from Miami to Manaus. Things change fast in the airline world: in 2014 the route was flown by American and TAM.

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Brazil: Manaus picture 1

Riverboats tied up at a floating dock on the Rio Negro. Why floating? You'll see in a minute.

Brazil: Manaus picture 2

Loading soft drinks and manioc flour.

Brazil: Manaus picture 3

Here's why the dock floats.

Brazil: Manaus picture 4

Looks like the range is close to 20 feet; it's actually twice that.

Brazil: Manaus picture 5

A branch of the Igarapé dos Educandos, one of several streams that enter the Negro.

Brazil: Manaus picture 6

Settlement encroaches on one of these seasonally flooded ravines. In high water, the scene must turn into a village in a lake.

Brazil: Manaus picture 7

The municipal market, on the waterfront.

Brazil: Manaus picture 8

Another side of the market.

Brazil: Manaus picture 9

The city's historic wealth is largely a story of rubber trees before the industry shifted to plantations in Southeast Asia.

Brazil: Manaus picture 10

The icon of Manaus, its opera house, built during the rubber boom. Seeds from the indigenous rubber tree was smuggled out and taken to Kew Gardens and from there to Malaya. Collectors of rubber from trees in the widely scattered Amazon forest could not compete with monocultural plantations.

Brazil: Manaus picture 11

The central shopping area.

Brazil: Manaus picture 12

A very smart furniture store.

Brazil: Manaus picture 13

Early morning at a downtown street market.

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On the east side of town, Manaus has a duty-free industrial district. Established in 1967, the Manaus Industrial Park by 2004 produced $10 billion worth of products, of which $1.3 billion were exported, mostly to the United States. Among the 300 companies operating in the zone were Nokia, Minolta, LG, Sony, Xerox, Samsung, Panasonic, and Kodak--and that's just electronics. The chief exports were cell phones, color TVs, and motorcycles. Motorcycles? On the list of manufacturing companies, along with Honda and Yamaha, was Harley-Davidson.

Brazil: Manaus picture 15

Farther outside town, the equatorial rainforest has been cleared for pastures that have become little short of internationally notorious amidst rising concerns about biodiversity and climate change.

Brazil: Manaus picture 16

Out in this countryside, social institutions like this school are strained; ecological concerns come a distant second to economic ones.

Brazil: Manaus picture 17

Roadside stop: a girl whacks the top off a coconut. The "water" sells for about a dime.

Brazil: Manaus picture 18

Yarded logs from the surrounding forest.

Brazil: Manaus picture 19

Ferry lineup to cross the Amazon, a few miles south of town. The confluence of the Amazon and Negro is marked by the line separating the dark waters of the Negro from the lighter ones of the Amazon, both flowing toward the left.

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