05 February 2009

In Country: Manaus

This city is an armpit. Over 2 million people huddle into this squalid (and once glorious) city in the middle of the jungle. At every street corner a scammer crouches waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting tourist. Crafty men known as touts offer Amazon tour packages at inflated prices. The art of negotiation serves as the capstone for every transaction. The streets are narrow and clogged with vendors, their carts and wares. Each morning it rains, the warm water accompanied by thunder and lightning. We are in the midst of the jungle, and it is a desperate and unpleasant place.

Last night, after surveying the situation we decided to get out of here as soon as possible. Therefore in a couple hours we will hop on a boat headed down the Amazon. The boat ride takes 36 hours and there will be no internet access. As soon as I have connectivity again I will post about our experiences. Until then, eat some vegetables for me.


Roberto Mello said...

For someone who claims to be a professor fo humanities, you sure are quick to dispurse judgement with harsh and untruthful words, the arrogance portrayed in your post being truly astounding.

The "crafty men" situation is regrettably not an exaggeration. Those men are trying to make a living. In market terms they are known as "middle men" and it's quite a common occurrence in a market economy: they are trying to resell something while retaining their cut, which is the inflated portion of the cost. It's up to the buyer to research the most reputable seller and their prices in order to buy at the best price.

This process is the same in every market economy I know of. I've been a tour guide in several countries, including the United States, and the situtation isn't different. For instance, you can buy Disney World packages from third parties in Florida that are quite inflated.

The streets you mention seem to describe the old downtown streets, adjacent to the harbor. They are indeed "narrow and clogged with vendors". The old downtown, however, is small and not representative of the city as a whole. On the contrary.

I disagree entirely with your characterization of Manaus as a "desperate and unpleasant place" and an "armpit". Manaus is a thriving city, whose people are happy and helpful, who go through the difficulties of a developing economy with gallantry and hope.

Your comments display disrespect and arrogance, perhaps bigotry that could border racism, which I believe make you unfit to comment on "indigenous, African and European influences on contemporary Brasilian society." or at the very least, should not be taken seriously by any serious reader looking for good academic works.

Maureen Moore said...

Thanks for reading.

My objective is to study Brasilian culture. My report is not due for several months therefore my comments are purely subjective responses to experiences I am having right now. Once the research portion is completed the academic portion will begin. Until then, this is all experiential. Is it possible that one's experience is "unfit for comment"?

In a 2007 posting on your website you claim about Manaus that "Unfortunately, the local government continues to show chronic signs of myopic thinking." Perhaps my experiences were the bi-product of that government myopia. And since I am traveling with a 6 year old, I wasn't interested in putting her in jeopardy to find out if my "characterization" was not true. Sometimes a traveler has to go with the gut instinct.

And thanks for the wake up call about my latent (overt?) racism. I am sure my family will get a kick out of that accusation!

Question: Is it racism when a native Brasilian dislikes Manaus? The reason I ask is because our traveling companion Fernando also found Manaus distasteful.

As for Disney World, I wouldn't know since I don't frequent theme parks. But, again, thanks for posting.