First immigrants, the rubber

By the end of the 19th century the first wave of immigration to the Brazilian Amazon from the northeast of Brazil took place. It was caused by the North American and European industry’s beginning demand for rubber. The owners of the new rubber companies, the "Seringalistas" appropriated huge areas of rain forest for extracting the raw material for the rubber - the latex from the rubber trees ( Hevea brasiliensis, Braz.: Seringa). The Indians in the areas of Juruá and Purus tried to resist but didn’t have much of a chance with their bows and arrows. The new immigrants organized the so called "Correrias" (= running-arounds) - a group of about 50 gunmen assaulting an Indian village. As they generally were bachelors they killed only the Indian men and captured the women and made them their wives. This way most of the Indians were exterminated. Many also died from diseases like tuberculosis and measles which before hadn’t occurred among them and the new immigrants had brought. The labor of the defeated Indians was used for road construction and rubber-tapping. borracha transportadaThe rubber boom which brought wealth to the cities of Belem and Manaus was brought to end by the British rubber production in Malaysia. By 1913 the Brazilian rubber production was exceeded for the first time by the British-Malayan production. Many of the Seringalistas went bankrupt and returned to the northeast.
The situation changed for some years during the second world war, when the Japanese who were allied with the Germans occupied the Malaysian plantations. The allies against the Germans had to get the rubber which is indispensable for the conduction of war from somewhere else. This caused the second wave of immigration from the northeast. This time it was the so called "rubber soldiers": liables to the military service, they had the choice either to go to war against the Germans or become rubber-tappers. The rubber-tappers were in debt even before they started their work. They had to pay for their equipment and food with rubber. This "Sistema de Aviamento" (=delivery system) which was dictated by the Seringalistas made it impossible to gain money and so they couldn’t return to their homes in the northeast even after the war had ended...

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