Mr.Monduco. A Caboclo/Amazonian local of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.
I haven’t written much about my neighbours in the forest. Neighbour, in this case, being a relative term, as most lived miles away and I saw them rarely.
However there was one man I saw regularly when I was at home, Mr Monduco.
I believe his name was Raimundo, but as it was the same name as the son of his wife, he became fondly known as Monduco. He was an elderly Caboclo who had lived his whole life on, or by, the river. He was thin, but his muscles were hard and defined, due to a lifetime of physical work, and he was surprisingly strong.
He had a large canoe for a home, covered with bright blue tarpaulin. Inside he had hung a hammock, which he used frequently during the day for ‘siestas’.
He was grandfather to the children of the previous owner, having married the previous owners mother. When the family moved on to live in town, he asked me if he could stay in the river on his boat, and I was happy for him to do that. Letting him use the kitchen to cook his meals and grow some food on the small plantation behind the lodge.
He was a quiet, wise and thoughtful man. We communicated with gestures and facial expressions and, as I learnt a little Brazilian Portuguese, limited language. He was patient and kind, a true gent and we shared a silly sense of humour.
Somewhere a couple of children called him father, I believed them to be adults living some way away. Otherwise he was alone and appeared to like it that way.
He spent most days fishing in the coffee coloured river, bringing back a variety of fish for dinner. Peacock bass was a favourite. Large piranhas too made tasty meals, cooked over an open fire.
He wore on his head for these fishing trips a child’s knitted hat. The child’s hat kept off the heat from the intense sun and had a small brim that covered his eyes from the glare.
The modern caps I got him he wore in town or gave away. I think the inside band made his head sweat.
When my rations from town were running out, he would disappear into the forest and come back with armfuls of juicy mangos, creamy brazil nuts in their hard shells and occasionally a pineapple, minus the black tarantulas that favoured these fruits.
Sundays, he would hang his best white, lace trimmed, hammock, between two trees and lie in it with a large Bible, occasionally glancing at the open pages with a solemn look on his face. I don’t know if he could read, many fishermen and even their children can’t read, but he seemed to get some comfort from the book. He kept it carefully packed away when not in use in its original box wrapped in a cloth.
He had good friends living in the neighbouring forest areas and visited them often. A couple of his best friends lived across the wide river. An old blind man and his middle-aged nephew. How a man can live in the Amazon forest without sight is beyond me, I needed all my wits especially the ones attached to my eyes to stay alive.
The blind man had lost his sight as a teenager. He had dived into the river and came up unable to see. Whether he had dislodged something or caught an infection was not made clear to me. I thought him a brave man to continue living in the forest, especially as he and his nephew never wore shoes. An invitation for a bite, you might think.
He often came with his nephew to visit around meal times or when he had an injury that needed attention. My first aid box always held something to make him feel better and so did my cooking pot.
Caboclos are people of mixed Indigenous and European heritage.
Mr Monduco in the first two photos fishing and preparing nets. In the third photo sitting on a bench he made for me as a surprise, so I could birdwatch comfortably.