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 industrys 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 didnt 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 hadnt occurred among them and the new
immigrants had brought. The labor of the defeated Indians was used for
road construction and rubber-tapping. The
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 couldnt return to their homes in the northeast even after the war had ended...
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