The Amazonian Market

Belching people from every orifice, this interface between the jungle and the modern world spreads its filthy fingers from the waterfront; its banks sickly-sweet from discarded fruits and carcasses continuously churning with the mud, to the apprehensive fringes of a civilization that tolerates this bloated apparition. Larger than any other I have ever seen, this gritty, shadowy underbelly aptly dubbed “Little Venice” by the locals, snakes its way through countless puddled mud trenches masquerading as streets, as I am awed by the treasures oozing from every nook.

Subject to the copious undulations of the Amazon River as well as the frequent tropical rains, most of the market exists underneath stilted wooden shanties that keep the entire town from escaping into the river. The few cement buildings interspersed between them continuously struggle to be more than just piles of rubble, while offering shelter so dank, it surely soaks deep into the skin of anyone who dares lay their head down in an unclaimed corner.

Forget romantic visions of natives bargaining exotic plants or jungle crafts for a few American pennies or that extra t-shirt you brought with you; this is existence at its basest of human survival, manifesting itself in the form of fish too old or sickly to be sold in town, or in young animals such as sloths ripped from their mother’s arms as the mother is killed and then sold as a pelt or ground into an ‘aphrodisiac’ to whomever will offer a few dollars, to echoes of the darkest reaches of the human conscience as young girls are offered up for sale, and young children are offered up as slaves.

I am awed by how such iniquity can encroach so mercilessly on the beauty that shimmers in such superfluity all around me. Yet, I wonder, if so stunned and revolted by what I found, why not leave the instant these feelings crept up inside me? My claimed powerlessness to affect any change here certainly doesn’t free me to feel joy from the measure against my own life and my place in this world that I feel by seeing how these people seeing how these people live their lives provides me with, but it’s there. And it’s intoxicating. And I shudder when I think about how long this has been going on, how it will go far into the future, and how I am going to buy my trinkets and never return.

See images of the Amazonian Market in my Gallery.

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