Conto: “The girl and the Ajuricaba”

(by Kenio Barros de Ávila Nascimento)

The girl and the Ajuricaba

She was a child then. In his eight years of life, many of them spent with his father at the edge of the Solimões River, he had suffered little. Her mother, who died two years after she was born, had almost no memory. Only the beautiful, vague motherly smile she remembered. They said she had it, too. When his father was away, he would wander around with his little friends and friends in the village; to swim in the tributary rivers and in the iguarapés, in the floodplains; or to play around the village.

Like any day, waiting for her father, she was close to home. Lurking, waiting for the paternal vision.

On that day, as on another day, his father arrived. And he wore a lightly kneaded armor, carried a French gunship, and carried a sword and arquebus on his shoulder.

She turned in time to see the arrow sink into her father’s helmet: Portuguese captain, who fell by the river. And he was not the only officer killed that twilight. Frightened, the girl rushed over to him, but voicing from the woods and rushing from the women in a rush dragged her to a small boat of twisted logs, improvised and guided by other fugitives. He survived the attack.

#

They descended on the opposite bank of a tributary river. He suffered hunger, cold, mosquitoes. Finally, when they reached another settlement, she was recognized by her foster sister, an ihié-boah, a “little girl” in the Tikuna language. Hours and hours later, a rowboat, not too big, passed and rescued the survivors, going to Solimões River below:

 — Ihié-boah, where are we going? … Painho, he …?

— Give me your hand … the boat!

On the long journey that followed the encounter with Rio Negro, the boat passed by Vila de Ega, at the mouth of Tefé, where the girl can see, from the river itself, the old fortress from where her father had been the lieutenant of the 5th Company of Ordinances a few years ago.

— Ihié-boah, shall we go to the old house?

— No, no … Just pass by. The boat goes to Forte da Barra, on the Rio Negro.

It was then early June in the Amazon, when rivers in general are more navigable. And a cold had just arrived.

The girl trembled not only in cold, but out of fear as she saw the first canoe pass by, which frightened her:

— Calm down, look at the ouheh [canoe] of them: … they are not Manaus, nor friends of them,  said Ihié-boah, reassuring her.

#

At times, when passing by canoes or other boats, the crew established contact by gestures, signs, nods, shouts in Portuguese, nheengatú, tukuna, tupi or any other language useful to the communication, until the Dutch.

One of the survivors on the boat came to comment on others who had long been known about the alliance of the Manaus tribes with the Dutch, north of the kingdom’s borders in Brazil, and even after many punitive expeditions were sent by Portugal, nothing has changed.

The barge still passed by the entrance of Lake Ipixuna, and further ahead, near the mouth of Lake Coari, the boat stopped in a village of no more than a hundred souls.

The survivors and the crew descended. They were finally assisted by remedies and some treatment offered by the local Tapiras Indians. The local priest, a Jesuit, said there were no official doctors and so there was no way to get blood. Lucky there was a Chinese healer practicing his multi-millennial art.

The Chinese administered his homeopathic doses, and spoke thus to a patient, in an excellent Portuguese:

— Use like this: two doses a day of natru muraricum; and three times a day of arnica montana until completely healed.

Such luck – finding a homeopath on the way – cheered the wounded and other survivors who returned animatedly to the boat at the next dawn to continue the almost quaint but exhausting and long voyage.
Before boarding, the crew and the local Indians renewed the boat’s stock of food, even with tracajás and tapiocas.

#

Six days later, in the afternoon, under strange dark clouds, the boat saw the land of the Muras Indians, which meant that it would arrive the next day at the fort of the Rio Negro.

At night, when the boat approached much of the land, the mystery was undone: clouds of smoke were visible. Labaredas burned their land, gigantic tongues of fire protruding into the black sky. The left bank of the river burned in some places. There were loud buzzings, whistles of wind, and in the distance perhaps human cries.

The girl retreated, hugging her own legs. Ihié-boah noticed the annoyance, and said:

— Tomorrow we’ll come and see our aunt …

—  Swear?

— By tupana [God]!

The next day, upon arriving at the port of Forte da Barra do Rio Negro, it was difficult to disembark by the intense shuttle of boats, many under the royal flag of Portugal.

And at the moment of docking, shouts were heard, followed by cheers, echoing throughout the docks of the harbor, for minutes.

The girl did not understand, and asked the older sister, who said:

— They surrendered! It seems … The Manaus …. the war is over

#

These were the girl’s last memories of the year of the first false-surrender of the Manaus and their allies.

Eight years later, in December 1728, when the rains used to wash without respite the São José Fort of Rio Negro, this girl, now a girl of sixteen, deposed in the governmental inquiry into the crimes of the captured Indians – and the girl would be one of the key witnesses.

She remembered those events that had happened eight years before, and far away, from the upper Solimões. And such memorabilia were vividly reported to government officials that year-end.

During the interrogations, for the first time and last in the life, the young woman saw closely the leader of Manaus. He heard his words, which echoed gravely in the room where he made his statement, issuing safe, challenging and ironic phrases, worthy of a leader, although surrendered.

On being heard, the leader of the Manaus had his interrogation registered, and follows below a part of the transcript of the proceedings of the process, because they noted his testimony:

“And Manaó’s public interrogation by the state prosecutor’s office began:

 — Are you a member of the tribe of Manaos? — asked a promoter.

— You know that yes.

 — And who are you?

 — My name is Ajuricaba.

— Infamous, your name is. Where did you learn Portuguese?

— With you, as a child, I lived years near the fort.

— What about the Dutch? You speak Dutch too, do not you?

— Yes, I also lived on the northern borders, and I lived with them …

— Do not you live any longer? Or does he only trade with them, enemies of the Portuguese crown?

— And who is not the enemy of the Portuguese crown!

— How dare you? … What have you done to the black slaves … fugitives owned by the kingdom, in your power?

— My power? I set them free.

— As?

— I do not make slaves: I only make free men …

— Cynical … because you terrorize with your tribes other peaceful tribes, besides committing the peace in the domains of Portugal.

— I …

— Tell us: Did you participate in the attempt to siege the Alliance of Manaus to this Fort of the Rio Negro River three years ago, in the year 1725?

— Yes, I participated.

 — And leaded?

— Yeah, they call me boss.

— Whatever. You will be transferred to St. Mary of Bethlehem of the Great-Pará in order to hear your sentence there.  And put him on a royal ship, where he will continue to set the irons until he reaches his destination, said a promoter.”

Months later, the girl was informed by authorities about the fate of the Manaó Indian; and she, dazed, wept convulsively, for she felt sorry for him.