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Who Needs a Camera?

You can find this story online at Soul Brasil magazine.

Let me introduce myself. I’m originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I’ve been a singer and performer all my life.  In the 1980’s I was part of a theatrical-rock band called O Espírito da Coisa, that means “The Spirit of the Thing,” and Katita was my nickname. Around 1985-86, my band flew to Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state to perform by the Rio Negro, the largest black water river in the world and the largest left tributary of the Amazon River.  

I remember getting off the plane and feeling the pores of my skin filling with water from the extreme humidity. Visiting Florida and Hawaii come close to that feeling. I noticed then that the air conditioner at the hotel was never off. 

 The show was scheduled for the afternoon in a place where the Amazon and Negro River meet, and a large amount of people come to spend their day at the local beach.  The area was full of motorboats, and we had the opportunity to tour the area and witness the clear line you see when the pale-sandy color of the Amazon River meets the Rio Negro. It was during that trip that I saw a pink dolphin for the first time. They are called “boto” and are the largest river dolphins in the world. What a magical site. From the black waters I saw that pink shining skin come up and play.  And where there is “botos” you also find piranhas.  The first time I saw a piranha (a piece of it) was when my mom returned to Manaus to visit her brother many years prior to my trip. She came back with a native Indian fishing spear, condiments for cooking, and a stuffed piranha mouth Indians use as a comb. 

We performed in our bikinis and trunks and around 5pm it started raining. The sound engineers quickly brought pieces of plastic and covered the speakers and equipment. They knew the tropical rain during December and May always appear at that time. Just us, the tourists, were surprised how quickly it came and went. 

It was an incredible trip to me. Not only because the place was so amazing, but also because I was visiting part of my mom’s history. She was born in Portugal and her father and brothers worked as fishermen.  They usually came close to the coast of Brazil and when my grandma died, my granddad moved the family to Manaus to try a better life. Ah, the immigrant life I inherited. Eventually, one of my uncles went down to live in Rio de Janeiro. After my mom finished her boarding school she went to live with her brother. It was there that my mom met my dad and I was born. 

 But, this was just the intro for the real story I want to tell you.  The next day of the show we went for a small trip through the “igarapés” of the tributaries of the Amazon. “Igarapés” are routes navigable by canoes only.  I believe the whole band was in one long canoe.  The noisy motor accompanied us while navigating through the wide portion of the river, but as soon as we entered the narrow passageways they turned off the engine, and that’s when I was transported to another world. Not a physical one, but a cosmic world, an ancestral world. It was then that I heard the silence of the forest, or the sound of the planet. The canoe kept moving among the trees rooted in the river water and time stood still… It was a weird feeling because I couldn’t explain what I was experiencing. Have I been there before? 

After awhile our guide brought us to a small tree house where a family lived in the middle of the forest. We were introduced to a “preguiça,” a sloth that was hanging on a tree trunk. She was moving but I couldn’t see her slowest moving.  

Then, a small boy or a girl (I don’t remember which) brought us the pet of the house: a small monkey called “macaco prego.” He was a tinny creature that deeply moved me.  Especially when I noticed he was chained.  I looked into his eyes and I saw a human being. His piercing eyes stayed with me all these years. And maybe, that’s why I had to tell you this story.  

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