The Amazon Basin is known around the world as one of the greatest rainforests in the world, where hundreds of species of animals coexist with indigenous inhabitants and countless varieties of plants and trees, including the seringueira (latex rubber tree), which is tapped to obtain rubber.
Cocoa beans and Brazil nuts are also native to the area, which suffers from illegal deforestation that has threatened not only the forest itself, but also its crucial role in the regulation of the planet's temperature.
To raise awareness on this issue, Dr. Eugênio Scannavino Netto, the founder of the non-profit Health and Happiness Project, helped create this traveling exhibition, which opened in 2002 in São Paulo and has since been showcased in Paris, Lausanne and Rio de Janeiro. It is currently on view at The South Street Seaport in New York City, where it will remain until July 13th before returning to Europe in the fall.
“Even in Brazil, most people don't really know much about the Amazon,” Malu Ramos, one of the exhibit's producers told us in an interview. “Dr. Scannavino came up with the concept of the project to allow people who have never been there to have an idea of what it is all about.”
Upon entering the show, visitors are greeted by videos that show children playing in the shores of the Solimões, one of the many rivers that form the Amazon. After that, visitors enter the main chamber, which features a walk-through miniature reproduction of the area, spreading from the thriving port cities of Manaus, Boa Vista and finally to Belem, where the river finally meets the Atlantic Ocean.
There are also reproductions of many local landmarks, such as Pico da Neblina (Brazil's tallest mountain at 9,822 ft.) and Marajo Island, the largest pluvial-marine island in the world. At the back of the room there is a full-scale mock-up of one of the many boats that travel along the river, ferrying inhabitants from town to town in trips that may take up to ten days to complete as a result of river's navigable extension.
The following chamber denounces the illegal deforestation of the area and illustrates the consequences of such actions. The exhibit also examines the violence against those who fight for preservation, like Chico Mendes in 1988 and Sister Dorothy Stang who was shot at point-blank range in 2005.
Throughout the show there are videos of the local communities and prerecorded sounds from the rainforest. In the outdoor portion of the show visitors see a reproduction of an Amazon Village built in full scale. At the end there is a gift shop with artifacts made in the Amazon and sold by Sustainable Amazon. According to Fabio Interaminiense, the company’s Vice-President, Sustainable Amazon markets Amazonian products created with recycled or natural materials “without hurting the environment.”
The Amazonia Brasil exhibit is a positive showcase of the region, leaving enlightened visitors craving to check out the real thing. The only element missing from the experience is a sampling of the rich cuisine from the Amazon, which is a blend of the food made by the native people there with influences from Africa and Portugal.