MONTE ALEGRE, PARÁ — On Saturday June 2nd, 2012, students from Roger Williams University took a seven hour overnight boat ride 120km from Santarém to Monte Alegre, where they explored the World Heritage city. Preserved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Monte Alegre contains ancient and bizarre drawings on that date back to around 11,000 years ago.
The students, two professors, and a few friends followed their tour guide up Serra da Lua literally meaning “Moon’s Mountain” or “Moon’s Range”, where the group witnessed the drawings alongside the mountain.
“I think target let their trade mark on those rocks,” jokingly said Roger Williams student Jolyn Wiggin. “All jokes aside though it was really interesting to see all the paintings and it’s unbelievable to me how they stay intact after thousands of years.”
It was an arduous hike to the last set of drawings, which displayed what seemed to be a pregnant woman. The students and professors were drenched in sweat and each of their legs was cut up from tall grass, a slip on a loose rock, and malicious bugs. After making their decline, the group headed over to Caverna da Itatupaoca meaning “Cave of the Rock of God” where they were able to enter inside the ancient and damp cave.
Lastly, the group took one last stop at Mirante, a Vista Point, where they were able to get an aerial view of Monte Alegreand the Amazon River.
SANTARÉM, PARÁ — On Thursday May 31, 2012, two Roger Williams University students interviewed Evangelical missionaries in Santarém, Pará. Don Best and his wife Betty, both American born citizens, have lived in Santarém for ten years working with Project Amazon.
Don majored in journalism and worked with the Peace Corps, while Betty majored in graphic arts and photography which led to them working on magazines together. The two found themselves in Santarém from the advice of a friend back in the United States.
According to the Best’s and other members of the mission,”the vision of Project AmaZon is to plant 100,000 churches, concentrating on the unreached Amazon Basin and moving out to all of Brazil and the world.”
“I believe that the missionaries are doing great work. They are helping people find jobs and get them off the street. I feel that their long term exposure to the Santarem has given them great insight to the changes that have happened in the past few years,” said Jacob Nussbaum, Roger Williams student.
SANTARÉM, PARÁ — On Sunday May 27, 2012, a group of eight Roger Williams University students and two professors attended mass at a Catholic church in Santarém, Pará. The church, Igreja São Francisco, differed from a typical American Catholic procession.
“The church was much more lively than one in America, it seemed to have evangelic influences and I experienced a sense of unity that came from the international nature of the service and how kind the people were to me,” said Thomas Barry, Roger Williams student, who stayed for the full service.
The service was filled with an assortment of different songs of prayer, led by a choir of women. The congregation was guided by the priest of Igreja São Francisco, Padre Ademar, who was interviewed earlier by Roger Williams students. The procession appeared to be an Evangelical service, not a traditional Catholic service. Members were very passionate in song and prayer.
SANTARÉM, PARÁ — Not as secretive as most, Pai Clodomilson de Ogun or Father of St. Clodomilson Ogun, practiced Candomblé Wednesday May 30th, 2012. These services take place every Monday and Wednesday night from around seven to ten. Candomblé is an Afro-originated religion blended with Brazilian voodoo and Christianity that is typically practiced in Brazil. Although Pai Clodomilson de Ogun looks like a Brazilian house, do not be fooled. The walls are covered in a collage of Saints. The priest was dressed in bright apparel as he described the ancient saints to Roger Williams University students.
After exploring the prayer houses, the first part of the service began. A candle was lit in the center of the floor where the dancing was held with incense burning to the right of the melted wax. The incense was burnt to ward off any bad spirits or energy, so the service could proceed with ease.
With songs to the dead being sung by three trainees and drummers, the priest began his magic. He slipped out of his shoes, calling for the dead and twirled in a heat of dance until his body spasmed with the spirit of his saint. With the assistance of one of his trainees, who were all dressed in white, the priest was led into his backroom. Moments later, after more song and dance, the priest ascended from the room dressed in different attire and with a deeper raspier voice. The saint had taken over his body and was now yearning for a glass of whiskey and a cigarette.
The service continued and one by one the trainees allowed their saints to enter their bodies. The candle wax drooped to the floor as the hours went by filled with outfit changes, pounding drums and songs of ancient language derived from Africa called Yoruba. Victoria Mordasky was one of the two Roger Williams students chosen to share a dance with the priest. The pounding of the drums quickened as she followed his footsteps in dance.
“I got shivers and my heart felt like it was jumping out of my chest. I really appreciate their culture,” said Mordasky about her experience.
After returning to her seat the service proceeded with more songs of prayer. The drummers pounded away the last bit of their energy on the drums as the priest and his followers fell back into their normal senses.
SANTARÉM, PARÁ — On Saturday May 26th
, 2012, during the early afternoon, eight students of Roger Williams University roamed the local street market of Santarém, Pará while taking a break from their workload of anthropology and journalism classes. The group first explored the fruit and fish markets, trying to get a taste of the Amazonian culture.
Alongside the Tapajós River, the area is flooded with famous, yet potent smells from various types of fish. As well as fish, bananas, and the array of fruits, the market is famous for its Brazil nut. The Brazilian nut tree is native to Brazil and can be found standing tall in areas of deforestation because of its strong demand.
After passing through the fishermen’s haven, the market branches off into an arrangement of stores filled with hammocks, natural rubber balls, clothes and handcrafted artifacts by indigenous peoples.
“Everything was bursting with color- fruits, nick-nacks, the culture, even the people,” said Victoria Mordasky, Anthropology and Sociology major from Roger Williams.
The group of students were able to capture a piece of Santarém’s culture and everyday lifestyle. They had an arduous time staying together as a group as there was so much to explore. After the students splurged and bought souvenirs for home and themselves, they departed to go back to their daily rituals of interviewing and studying.
Friday May 25, 2012, SANTARÉM, PARÁ—From Wednesday May 23rd until Saturday May 26th, Santarém held a town-wide Expo coordinated by Instituto Esperança de Ensino Superior (IESPES) or Hope Institute for Higher Learning. The Expo was more of an American tradeshow that promoted various products both local and global. Upon entrance, one could get a sense of the atmosphere, with Honda cars and motorcycles displayed on the right, and environmental awareness booths to the left. Up ahead on stage were dance and model performances.
Music from the American television show Glee rang in the background as Elizabeth Garretson, a Roger Williams University student, walked past each booth, getting a sense of Santarém.
“I didn’t expect the Expo to be like this, I expected a presentation, but I loved going and getting our first real sense of Santarém,” Garretson stated as she pulled her head out of a rack of Brazilian bathing suits.
Garretson was one of eight students from Roger Williams studying Environmental Justice in Santarém. The group came to the Amazon to gain a greater sense of the complexities of the area through Anthropology, Communication and Service Learning courses.
Majority of the people at the tradeshow were dressed in formal attire; women fashioned dresses, skirts, designer bags and heels. In addition to the American music, there were traditional Brazilian performances that led to a crowd of people in the audience dressed in costumes of all kinds. The cluster of people turned into a line of costumes, colors, singing and dancing that weaved in and around the booths.
SANTARÉM, PARÁ — On Thursday May 24th, 2012 across a construction site that is slowly being developed into a community center with the help of Pastoral do Menor, one can find the Mercantil Bencão do Senhor, a local merchant store. Cesar, native to Santarém, is the owner of the store, along with his wife, Francinete; they have lived in the back of their store ever since they first built it in 2010. The store was built in two months by hired masons after Cesar saved the money he earned independently driving a cab for three years.
Cesar and his wife sell an array of products, from fruits to flip flops to toilet paper within the hours of 6am to 8pm Monday through Saturday. The store is only open until 1pm on Sunday due to church service at the local Evangelical church on the paved street a couple miles up. The couple along with their two kids live in Alvorado, Santarém a “small” diverse town, filled with dirt roads, stray dogs, and a mass of children that flood the streets everyday on their way to the local school to the left of the new community center.
Cesar expressed his desire for the dirt roads to be paved in response to how the roads were. “Terrible,” Cesar responded with echoing voices from Dardison and Elieze, delivery men, who responded the same. The two were a part of Diplast, where they delivered goods and supplies for local merchants in ten different neighborhoods weekly. Dardison, who rides his bike when he is not working, has been a part of the delivery service for five years as a driver. Elieze, who walks, has been working for Diplast for two years as the driver’s helper.
After unloading the assortment of foods and supplies, the two headed off onto their next store. They work from eight in the morning until six at night, with a two hour lunch break. Once the dirt cloud from the truck cleared after their departure, the local city bus passed by. Cesar described how the bus comes every twenty minutes starting at 5am until 11:30pm every day. He uses this bus as a means of transportation to get to the city and church.