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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Brazilians have their own way of thinking


Brazilians

have their own way of thinking, which is not ours, and which is to us almost incomprehensible. They are most indirect in their thoughts and deeds--a characteristic which is purely racial, and which they themselves cannot appreciate, but which often shocks Europeans. For instance, one of the most palatial buildings in the Avenida Central was built only a short time ago. In it, as became such an up-to-date building, was established a lift. But do you think that the architect, like all other architects anywhere else in the world, would make the lift start from the ground floor? No, indeed. The lift only starts from the second floor up--and, if I remember rightly, you have to walk some thirty-eight steps up a grand staircase before you reach it! Do you know why? Because the architect wished to compel all visitors to the building to admire a window of gaudy coloured glass half-way up the staircase. In this way they reason about nearly everything. They have not yet mastered the importance and due proportion of detail. Frequently what is to us a trifling detail is placed by them in the forefront as the most important point of whatever they undertake.

Thanks to the strong credentials I carried--among which were letters from H.E. Regis de Oliveira, Brazilian Minister in London--I was received in Rio de Janeiro with the utmost consideration and kindness. From the President of the Republic to the humblest citizens, all with no exception treated me with

charming civility. My stay in Rio was a delightful one. The Brazilians of the principal cities were most courteous and accomplished, and it was a great pleasure to associate with them. Intense interest was shown by the Government of the country and by the people in my plan to cross the continent. Dr. Pedro de Toledo, the Minister of Agriculture, was specially interested in the scheme, and it was at first suggested that the expedition should be an Anglo-Brazilian one, and that I should be accompanied by Brazilian officers and soldiers. Colonel Rondon, a well-known and brave officer, was ordered by the Government to find suitable volunteers in the army to accompany my expedition. After a long delay, Colonel Rondon informed me that his search had been unsuccessful. Colonel Rondon said he would have gladly accompanied the expedition himself, had he not been detained in Rio by his duties as Chief of the Bureau for the Protection and Civilization of the Indians. Another officer offered his services in a private capacity, but he having become involved in a lawsuit, the negotiations were suddenly interrupted.

[Illustration: Dr. Pedro de Toledo, Minister of Agriculture, Brazil.]

I endeavoured to find suitable civilians. No one would go. The Brazilian forest, they all said, was worse, more impenetrable than any forest in the world. Brazilian rivers were broader, deeper and more dangerous than any river on earth. Wild beasts in Brazil were more numerous and wilder than the wildest animals of Africa or Asia. As for the Indians of Central Brazil, they were innumerable--millions of them--and ferocious beyond all conception. They were treacherous cannibals, and unfortunate was the person who ventured among them. They told stories galore of how the few who had gone had never come back. Then the insects, the climate, the terrible diseases of Central Brazil were worse than any insect, any climate, any terrible disease anywhere. That is more or less the talk one hears in every country when about to start on an expedition.


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