09 October 2008

Amazon Sweet Sea review by Denis Minev

Amazon Sweet Sea: Land, Life, and Water at the River's Mouth
by Nigel J. H. Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Availability: Out of Print--Limited Availability

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars WATCH, READ AND LEARN - AMAZON MEETS ATLANTICMay 15, 2005
Nigel Smith is a longtime student of the Brazilian Amazon. In this illustrated book, he attempts to capture the social, economic and environmental reality of the estuary region of the Amazon river, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. 

This is a wonderfully illustrated book, with the pictures going a long way in capturing the reality of the region. The region is quite peculiar even within the Amazon in that it suffers the influence of the Ocean, with ingredients such as daily tides and beaches that are not common elsewhere in the Amazon. 

The social and economic contrasts are vast: on the one hand, there is the city of Belem, with over 1 million people and a cosmopolitan feel to it; on the other hand, you have the people who live in the banks of the thousands of rivers that crisscross each other on the way to the Ocean, living very simple lives, often without electricity. The book depicts, with few words and many images, the distinct local living conditions. 

The environmental aspect, which makes the region all the more interesting, is present throughout. Despite an economy heavily dependent on natural resources, especially in the Marajo island, the author presents an ecossystem that is often well integrated with man. For example, he demonstrates how people survive off gathering acai (a local plant), crab or eels, in such a way that the resources are naturally replenished. 

The sweet sea is clearly a distinct region from the rest of the Amazon, and hence deserves unique attention. The books gives one a full view of life there (human or not), which is quite amazing. I highly recommend this book for the armchair voyageur, or to someone considering visiting Belem and surroundings. It will definitely give you a perspective that most of the locals don't even have.

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