Anda, thirteen, is helped into a corset before going to a football game down the river. Established in by the Portuguese explorer Francisco Nogueira, its port of Cajuba was once a thriving home to a salt refinery that drew ships from as far away as the United States and Germany.
Nonetheless, according to local elders such as Seu Severo, villagers were used as slaves. In the s, under international pressure, Brazil finally began to clamp down on deforestation. Jararaca was devastated. Villagers eek out a living in whatever way they can. On most mornings, children hop into small canoes and row against the current to catch bundles of hand-me-down clothes and food tossed from ferry boats passing through the straits.
Ferries, rafts, canoes, ships: Day and night, the strait resembles a highway on the water, with locals latching small canoes to cargo ships, then climbing aboard to try and sell whatever goods they can to mariners. Some villagers sell shrimp. Others sell sodas, turtles, meat, and fish. The biggest prize for villagers is diesel oil.
The cargo ships always carry an extra supply of it, which crews trade for money, food, and more recently, time alone with young girls who have little other opportunity than to offer their bodies in exchange for this coveted liquid. With many communities like Jararaca still without power, most families, if they can afford it, rely on generators for a few hours of electricity per day.
The lack of electricity has had a profound effect. Preserving food would be all but impossible without boats arriving daily with shipments of ice. Running machinery that could provide viable work is almost prohibitively expensive. For the most part, though, many savor their few hours of electricity by watching soap operas. Others are encouraged by their mothers, aunts, or sisters with more experience, showing them that this world can offer them a better life. For the more experienced women of the cargo ships, their sexual encounters have become more like love stories, filled with gifts of perfume, sometimes televisions, and, most importantly, the promise of a better life—a way to escape the depressing reality of the ribeirinha.
However silent, rules of the practice do exist. Each balseira frequents one specific mariner on each ship, who must be faithful to her only in the area where she lives. In return for sex, she is rewarded with diesel, sometimes other gifts.
They adhere to what may be called a localized faithfulness. The drivers pass through the river just once, and it is on these boats where women perform a more conventional type of prostitution, sometimes with up to ten men in one trip. The legend plays itself out daily in these straits. Girls and housewives alike row their canoes furiously under a beating sun or torrential rain in the hopes of latching on to a cargo ship and offering themselves to these men.
The ships are considered by many balseiras as an escape from a monotonous life on the river, with each mariner a prince charming of sorts.
She is going to end up living the same life as me, on these rivers, from one cargo ship to the next. Alessandra, eighteen rightand her niece Maria, eight, board the Matheus Pinto cargo ship to sell tapioca. Alessandra, whose mother is a prostitute, became a balseira when she was eight years old.
The legend of the boto is often used to explain illegitimate children and perplexing love stories along this river, which in itself has become almost mythical for its lawlessness, its sinuous mixture of nature and men.
Most veteran balseiras average seven to nine children, usually with different fathers. When I asked Jessica, twenty, if she ever knew her father, she seemed embarrassed, and said her mother had never explained the circumstances of her birth.
Jessica said she hoped to break with the tradition of balseiras in her family. She goes to school. I met another girl, Pamela, the day she returned from the clinic in Boa Vista with her newborn baby. Just thirteen, she lay in a hammock in a brittle shack she called home, her face a mixture of terror and pain.
Her baby lay untouched in an adjacent hammock. Her mother and visiting friends berated her to breastfeed, but she just lay there, barely saying a word. In Ponta Negra, one of the most notorious areas for cargo-ship prostitution, the practice has slowed, but it remains unclear whether this is a result of police cracking down on the practice or a lack of dependency on diesel. But more importantly, they need a job that values the ribeirinha culture—that is inclusive—to convince these communities into believing that a dignified life, as such, is possible.
A different kind of education needs to be practiced. They need professional courses that guarantee earnings by utilizing the resources of the forest in a sustainable way.
For now, the telenovelas dazzle the young ribeirinhas of Jararaca, who can only dream of having the kind of lives they see on the screen. Paulo Siqueira is a Brazilian photographer and videographer. Shopping cart Subscribe. How to Give Why Give? How to Give Store.
Gorda de manaus
At the mouth of the Amazon, a long tradition of bartering sex for a taste of modernity. A man hauls oil barrels in the Amazon River. Many families in Jararaca, even those without generators, subsist on the black-market oil trade. Now the family survives on his earnings trading oil.
Ezekuel Tecera Lopes, thirty-three and disabled, lives at home with his mother, Maria, who has been a balseira for fifteen years. Lilia and her son Helielder on their boat along the Amazon.
Lilia moved to Jararaca when she married. Nadia Shira Cohen. Paulo Siqueira. Issue: Fall Volume 88 4. Topics: Brazilsouth americaprostitutesphotography. Leave a tip.
River women of brazil
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