Belem, Brazil

After crossing the Equator at 22:24 pm last evening, we carried on past the estuary of the Amazon River to the Para River.  We sailed about 60 miles up the river to Belem which was established in 1616 and soon thereafter named Our Lady of Bethlehem.  Due to the draft of our ship we had to anchor at Icoaracy Village which is about 20 miles from downtown Belem. Poverty was quite evident in the village though there were large factories around and Belem itself was marginally more prosperous looking. Belem is known for the arts but the tour I took today did not go to the theatres and museums.  We started at the Ver-o-Peso (check the weight) market, named for the days when there was a Portuguese tax on everything going into and out of Amazonia.  There is a wide variety of interesting things to see in this very large market.  In addition to a large restaurant section, the market has clothing, hardware, fruit and vegetables, livestock, nuts, baskets, hammocks, medicinal herbs and in an adjoining building, fish.  The photos show Brazil nuts, hammocks, brightly coloured bottles of medicine, very hot yellow peppers which I was persuaded to try some 23 years ago on a visit, and I’ve never forgotten just how hot they are, and some fish. We continued on to Forte do Belem (photo) and had a view of the Se Cathedral (photo) which was holding ceremonies and not available to visit. We then went to the Basilica da Nossa Senhora de Nazare (photo) which  is an important shrine containing a revered statue of the Virgin (photo) which was made in Nazareth during the first centuries C.E., taken to Spain, then Portugal for protection from the Moors, and finally brought to Brazil by missionaries who came to convert the indigenous people.  The stained glass windows(photo) in this church were quite beautiful. After the Basilica, we went to the Emilio Goeldi Museum which includes a zoo and a Botanical Garden.  The park was started in 1866 and is the oldest research institution in Amazonia.  It contains only local plants and wildlife.  Most of the animals, for example the jaguar and ducks (photos), were in cages in the gardens.  However, there was one small rodent-like animal which is pronounced gutti (photo) which was roaming freely.   In two days time we will arrive in Recife, Brazil.

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