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June 24, 2003

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This morning our boat floated up to the docks at Manaus, the capital city of the Amazon. It's history began with the rubber boom after 1839, when Charles Goodyear developed the vulcanization process that made natural rubber durable. Rubber plantation owners settled in Manaus and after Brazil abolished slavery in 1884, they 'employed' indentured servants, called seringueiros, to tap the rubber sap from the jungle. These seringueiros were really serfs, owing all of their livelihood to the plantation master who supplied them with food and goods in exchange for rubber. The plantation owners became fabulously wealthy and Manaus grew into Brazil's second leading city after Rio de Janeiro.
Order an "Americano sandwich," which turns out to be toasted ham and cheese.
Manaus's opera house, a lavish building leftover from the rubber boom and now stranded in the Amazon. Built in 1896 during the height of the rubber boom, when Manaus's leading citizens sent their shirts to be laundered in London and imported new clothes from Paris.