Elections, Giant Air-Breathing Fish Expeditions, Santarém History Lessons, and Other Happenings

The briefest of brief thoughts on the election:

I’ll try to keep it brief as 1. I don’t want to bore you and 2. You probably don’t care about my political analysis anyways. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the major event of the past week…also known as…the 2012 U.S election.  To be entirely honest the “big” night was more than a little anti-climatic down here in Santarém.  While the Brazilian media certainly covered the various happenings back home pretty closely in the build-up to November 6th (with almost nightly specials on Globo for the last few weeks), there was absolutely no way to watch the election results come in like always (the mall closed way early so I had no real access to good internet).  Nonetheless, given the fact that I wasn’t interested in waking up on November 7th and unpleasantly learning that Mittens was now President-elect (although Nate Silver made me 90.6% sure he wouldn’t be), I decided to bring my laptop out to the one hotspot along the city’s riverfront and set up camp for a few hours.  There I sat until 1:30 A.M when CNN’s live blog informed me that Ohio had been called for the President and…that…was…that. PREEEETTY darn exciting.

I have to say that one thing made me UBER-proud to be an American on election night: the fact that three states legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote and another rejected a “protection of marriage” amendment was a massive step forward for civil rights in our country. When reading about the gay rights struggle 20 years from now, I have no doubt that kids will ask us, “what were people thinking back in the day?” Times and social mores are a-changin’ people…and that is a monumental win for human dignity in our country.

Arigós: A short history lesson on regional migration…

It’s about time that I brought a little Santarém history to your attention.  This past week I finally got the low down on a quasi-pejorative term I’ve heard thrown around on a regular basis: Arigó. You would be hard-pressed to find the word in any dictionary…and you’d have just as hard a time finding a Brazilian outside of the western Tapajós region that has the faintest idea what it means. When I initially heard someone say “Arigó” I legitimately thought that they were just talking about “Ari Gold” from Entourage (we all have our Gringo moments). Yet, based on some conversations and a bit of online research, it turns out that the term actually has a deep and rich history that draws on long-held feelings of resentment towards outsiders and explains a good deal about socio-economic equality in Santarém.

During the 1950’s a number of states in northeastern Brazil (including Ceará, Piauí, and Pernambuco) were slammed by a multi-year long drought that took thousands of lives and pushed thousands more into extreme poverty. The region’s farming population, particularly in the interior of Ceará, were left with few options and eventually looked westward for new prospects and a better life.  Needless to say, the Amazon region had no shortage of water or opportunities (given it’s historical underdevelopment) and thousands of northeastern settlers flocked to the northern interior over the next decade.  Santarém, with its unique location along the Amazon River and relatively untapped resources, proved to be an immensely popular spot for the northeastern migrants. The city’s inhabitants named the industrious, hard-working new arrivals “Arigós” and the northeasterners quickly established a major economic presence around town. In the coming decades, northeastern immigrants came to dominate local commerce (today they are the city’s dominant business-owning group) and quickly ascended the city’s socio-economic ladder.

As you might have guessed, this mass migration was met with more than a little resistance and resentment from locals. Given the region’s long history of exploitation at the hands of outsiders, it is unsurprising that some viewed the new arrivals as a threat. Although many of the immigrants eventually integrated into the city and adopted local customs, the term “Arigó” never went away.  Today you hear many people use “Arigó” to refer to the descendants of northeastern migrants (who are often upper-class business owners).  While some argue that the term has no negative connotation, I have always found that it is used with a tinge of disdain and certainly doesn’t appear emotionally neutral. Irrespective of your position on the word, one thing is clear: northeastern immigrants have had a profound impact on both the local economy and culture in Santarém. Interesting stuff indeed…

A change of itinerary:

In light of a family situation for Dan the Fishguy back home that required his immediate return to the states, I’m going to spend my last week in Brazil in a community about two hours into the jungle doing some research/translation pinch-hitting. Dan is at the height of his doctoral research right now so hopefully we’ll be able to keep things somewhat steady down here for him.  I’m going to be assisting his PhD coordinator (who is arriving that week) with on-the-ground logistics in a community about two hours up-river where  a massive fish counting/analyzing operation is happening that week. The plan is to pull at least 30-40 of the monster (these things grow up to a couple of meters long and weight a few hundred pounds) air-breathing fish known as Pirarucu and gather data regarding the local population. I’m planning on returning to Santarém late on November 28th or early on the 29th before my 6 A.M flight out on the 30th so it’ll be a very quick turn around. Things are really going to wrap up fast around here in the next couple of weeks.

Other happenings:

  • Shout out to Renato Capobianco for guiding the Regis College Men’s Soccer Team to its first ever conference tournament…and conference tournament win this past week! Great to hear.
  • The internet has been a bloody disaster all over the city recently. There are some things that I will miss about this place…other things…not…so…much.
  • I had myself a cup of PURE sugar cane juice earlier today. Drinking it is a “thing” here…so it was definitely worth trying. Part refreshing/part too sweet…one thumb up.
  • Even though I have NO intention of passing another night in a hammock come November 30th, I am definitely going to purchase a rede to bring back home for a good nap from time to time.
  • I have TWO more blog posts to write…and that’s it folks. Completely unbelievable that three weeks from now I will be shamelessly vegging out in front of a T.V in Weston, Massachusetts.

That’s all I have for now. Until next Monday, have a gr8 week.

Um forte abraço,


Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Post navigation

3 thoughts on “Elections, Giant Air-Breathing Fish Expeditions, Santarém History Lessons, and Other Happenings

  1. RyGuy Sanchez

    The largest civil rights win on election night was the legalization of recreational marijuana in WA and CO Tiny D. 47% of drug related arrests in the US are marijuana related and the incarceration rates are hugely skewed towards, you guessed it, minorities. 20 years from now we shall look back and say “what were people thinking back in the day?”

    • Both important victories no doubt Ry-anne…although I think as I pure civil rights issue…the recognition of one’s right to marry whomever they so please is about as fundamental a right as there is. It is as much a question of basic human dignity as interracial marriage was back in the 60’s.

  2. ryanfitzgerald2012


    Speaking of rights. UN now says access to contraception is a basic human right as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: