Brazil on the Move
end of the year you are beginning to get enough food out of the crops of beans and rice and manioc you planted. Maybe you have something left over to sell, enough to buy shoes with. A couple of more years, if it’s a hardworking family with plenty of children to help, you’ll clear a little more land and sell the timber.
    As he drives he points out little shacks in the clearings on either side of the valley. This man’s from Minas. This one from Pernambuco. He brakes the car suddenly and calls to a man and a woman working in a field. João and Maria. They approach the car bashfully, a sunbaked couple with lean Arabianprofiles. Sayão tells us they walked a thousand miles from some droughtstricken patch of ground in Ceará, God knows how many months it took them, on foot with their possessions on their heads, working their way as they came. “How are crops?” he asks them.
    Their teeth flash as they smile in unison. “Here the land is cool, Mister Doctor,” they chirrup. “We can grow rice without irrigation.”
    Sayão laughs happily. “They’ll sell their rice at a profit,” he says as he drives on. “When they get a little cash they’ll buy bricks and build themselves a better house like that fellow over there.”
    He points out a little white house with an arched veranda, beside a clump of huge trees. “Then they’ll clear more land and sell the timber to the sawmill and buy cattle … Coffee does magnificently here. We are planting Colombian type coffee for the American market. I want my settlers to plant coffee to tie them to the soil. A coffee plantation is a longterm investment … Brazilians are nomadic. They drift all over the continent. They’ll clear a piece of land and plant a couple of crops on it and move on. I want my people to stay put …”
    We drive on through raw plantations of coffee and corn and rice in jagged forest clearings. We visit the hospital and a small unfinished school.
    The four things he needs to get a colony going, Sayão is saying as we walk about, are: first, an allweather road; second, proper division of the land so that each man knows what is his; third, a hospital and public health service; and, fourth, schools for the children. “But what I enjoy most is the road.” He shows all his white teeth in a smile. “We are driving a road clear through the center of Brazil.” He motions us back into the sedan.
    Soon we have left the settlement behind and are charging north up the straight gravel road through the shaggy jungle. Sayão keeps turning back to talk to us as if he knew the roadso well he didn’t have to look at it. Sometimes he takes both hands off the wheel to make a gesture. The car plunges and swerves but he yanks it back without looking … “Here’s where we get our gravel. The soil isn’t so good. You can tell by the smaller size of the trees. Grazing land to be, but it’s full of gravel … we get all we need for the road.” Whenever he speaks of the road his voice takes on an affectionate tone as if he were speaking of one of his children.
    “What do you do,” the judge is asking, “when you get settlers who don’t work?”
    “When they don’t want to work they leave. The others don’t like to see idle people around. I’ve never had to use the police yet … or any kind of force. We argue with them, we give them friendly advice. But they have to work to eat. We are not running a home for incompetents. They soon catch the spirit of the thing. They see other people building houses, buying clothes, making money. Our people are natural colonizers.”
    We drive north for an hour at top speed. Blue mesas begin to rise up in the distance. Beyond the Rio São Patricio, Sayão turns into a construction camp. “Now, Papa, you can’t go too far,” the pretty daughter is insisting. “You have that government commission flying in this afternoon.” He gives her the look of a small boy called in from a ballgame. “All right,” he says,

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