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Notes on the Geography of Brazil: Manaus, 1984

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, 1984 picture 1

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

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 2

Loading soft drinks and manioc flour.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 3

Here's why the dock floats.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 4

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

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 5

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

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 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, 1984 picture 7

The municipal market, on the waterfront.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 8

Another side of the market.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 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, 1984 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, 1984 picture 11

The central shopping area.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 12

A very smart furniture store.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 13

Early morning at a downtown street market.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 14

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, 1984 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, 1984 picture 16

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

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 17

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

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 picture 18

Yarded logs from the surrounding forest.

Brazil: Manaus, 1984 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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