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Entangled Edens

Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon

Candace Slater
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    Entangled Edens
    Book Description:

    Candace Slater takes us on a journey into the Amazon that will forever change our ideas about one of the most written-about, filmed, and fought-over areas in the world. In this book she deftly traces a rich and marvelous legacy of stories and images of the Amazon that reflects the influence of widely different groups of people--conquistadors, corporate executives, subsistence farmers --over the centuries. A careful, passionate consideration of one of the most powerful environmental icons of our time,Entangled Edensmakes clear that we cannot defend the Amazon's dazzling array of plants and animals without comprehending its equally astonishing human and cultural diversity. Early explorers describe encounters with fearsome warrior women and tell of golden cities complete with twenty-four-carat kings. Contemporary miners talk about a living, breathing gold. TV documentaries decry deforestation and mercury poisoning. How do these disparate visions of the Amazon relate to one another? As she fits the pieces of the puzzle together, Slater shows how today's widespread portrayal of the region as a fragile rain forest on the brink of annihilation is every bit as likely as earlier depictions to obscure important aspects of this immense and complicated region. In this book, Slater draws on her fifteen years of experience collecting stories and oral histories among many different groups of people in the Amazon. ThroughoutEntangled Edens,the voices of contemporary Amazonians mingle with the analyses of such writers as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Theodore Roosevelt, and nineteenth-century naturalist Henry Walter Bates. Slater convinces us that these stories and ideas, together with an understanding of their origins and ongoing impact, are as critical as scientific analyses in the fight to preserve the rain forest.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92601-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Maps]
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. 1 The Meeting of the Waters
    (pp. 1-22)

    On a rainy March night, my childhood friend Suzanna and I find our way into seats at the back of the Natural History Museum theater in Seattle, where I have gone to visit her. “This should be interesting,” says Suzanna as we lean back in the padded chairs. “I wonder what you’ll think of it, after all the time you’ve spent in the Amazon.”

    The lights soon go off and then come on as pinpricks in the ceiling as an immense world of trees and waters looms before our eyes. Parrots squawk, monkeys howl, and the sun hits a wonderfully...

  5. A Tale of Two Cities

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 23-28)

      The Amazon as golden kingdom reflected in a shining lagoon; the Amazon as underwater city inhabited by dolphins and anacondas with an

      eerie knack for showing up in the form of one’s next-door neighbor. The following pair of chapters describes two marvelous cities that diverge,

      but also intertwine. My focus in the first of the two is the glittering realm of El Dorado, which I see as one of the first and most important giants to represent the Amazon. My focus in the second is the shape-shifting underwater city known as the Encante, to which Tô Pereira and his


    • 2 El Dorado and the Golden Legacy
      (pp. 29-53)

      One of many early tales about New World marvels, El Dorado was not exclusively set in the Amazon. Reports of the elusive golden city also centered on the Andes and the Orinoco, as well as California, the Antilles, and Mexico. These varied locations for El Dorado continue into the present. While, for instance, journalist Patrick Tierney titled his account of how U.S. scientists allegedly triggered a 1968 measles epidemic among Amazonian IndiansDarkness in El Dorado,the Dreamworks filmThe Road to El Doradosituates this marvelous treasure trove somewhere in Mesoamerica.¹ And yet, even while El Dorado retains its...

    • 3 The Encante as a World in Motion
      (pp. 54-76)

      When I retell Father Simón’s story of the Indian chief whose wife takes up residence at the bottom of a lake to Tô Pereira one hot October morning some seven years after our first encounter, he listens intently.¹ “Well now, I hadn’t heard of this chief before,” he says as he glues a heel fashioned from a piece of used tire onto a well-worn shoe. “Still and all, the story sounds a lot like others that my Uncle Mané used to tell about the Encante. Yes, the story definitely sounds familiar. Except that I’m almost sure this priest of yours...

  6. Amazon Women

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 77-80)

      Although he was one of the most enduring figures in the swirl of early narratives surrounding the Amazon, the golden king was by no means the only giant. Transposed to the New World, the warlike Amazons of Greek myth figured among his principal rivals in terms of fascination and staying power.¹ It is they, not he, who gave the region originally known as “the Freshwater Sea” (Mar Dulce) or Marañón (Maranhão) the name by which we still know it.²

      In reality, the Amazons were not so much competitors of as they were complements to the gilded monarch. With their domain...

    • 4 Warrior Women, Virgin Forests, and Green Hells
      (pp. 81-101)

      Genuinely striking, the milky green stone that dangles from a leather cord around the neck of the older man on the splintered wharf keeps drawing my eye. “Is it a frog?” I finally ask, no longer able to contain my curiosity.

      The man nods. “This stone is very old. It is called ‘muiraquitã,’” he says, shading the pendant with his hand so that I can get a better look.

      “You mean one of those talismans that the Amazons are said to have given to their lovers as a token of their encounters?” I ask, suddenly connecting a word I had...

    • 5 Gold as a Woman
      (pp. 102-128)

      From the outside, Angela Maria’s modest stucco home looks like twenty others on the sun-drenched side street just a few minutes’ walk from Tô Pereira’s shoe repair shop. The inside, however, is different from any other in the neighborhood. Two bright-blue brocade sofas with protective plastic covers on the cushions vie for space in the living room with a massive, modern grandfather clock. The tile kitchen boasts a slightly rusted cherry-red refrigerator atop of which sits a set of cookie jars shaped like an eggplant, a glossy pepper, and a plump tomato. The money for these uncommon luxuries, Angela Maria...

  7. The Amazon as Water, the Amazon as Woods

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 129-132)

      Both rich realms of nature, the bio-diverse rain forest that appears in the headlines of countless newspaper articles and the mysterious lake within a lake of contemporary Amazonian folk stories are very different. The first is a distinctly terrestrial universe; the second is the aquatic equivalent of a Russian doll or Chinese box. A series of readily mappable habitats, the rain forest stands apart from the overtly fabulous waters that some storytellers describe as dwarfing the Amazon itself. “How can these lakes be still larger than the river? Well, of course, they are enchanted,” one older woman with a stiff...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 6 Roots of the Rain Forest
      (pp. 133-157)

      “Would you happen to have change for a dollar?” the young mother asks me as I pass in front of the Nature Company store. Eyes glued on the brightly colored Rainforest Meter just outside the front door, her son, a six- or seven-year-old boy with red hair and a baggy San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, is popping coins into the slot at a rapid clip. “Mommy, quick, another quarter!” he exclaims excitedly, running a small hand over the pictures of smiling snakes, emerald-colored trees, and butterfly-encircled jaguars spread across the meter’s top.

      “Listen, Danny,” says the mother. “You’ve already saved two...

    • 7 Lakes within Lakes
      (pp. 158-182)

      “In the time of the candles, the masters forced our ancestors to serve as human lamps,” says the graceful young black woman named Benedita, one of my traveling companions on this, my second of two trips up the Trombetas River. Although the smell of just-brewed coffee has begun to waft from the galley kitchen, we remain huddled in our hammocks, talking, as the slow-moving boat pushes its way through a thick and chilly morning fog. “They would have to stand there with an outstretched palm full of oil that held a burning wick, which often seared their skin,” Benedita says,...

    • 8 Beyond Eden
      (pp. 183-204)

      In its marvelous diversity, its threatened abundance, and its significance to all of humanity, the lake that Manuel Pedro’s mother holds up as a mirror of the future presents a striking contrast to the Rain Forest packed with marvelous flora and fauna that dominates present-day descriptions of the Amazon by outsiders. Even while Higino’s Lake blurs fixed distinctions between the earth and water by serving as a refuge to both land and river creatures, accounts of it underscore the centrality of aquatic imagery in many of the stories told by contemporary Amazonians. In doing so, the lake underscores the identity...

  8. Chronology of Key Dates
    (pp. 205-217)
  9. Glossary of Selected Terms
    (pp. 218-222)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 223-280)
  11. References
    (pp. 281-312)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 313-316)
  13. Index
    (pp. 317-332)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)