Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Gallery Available to View - Foz do Igaucu

Over the past two days, I have continued to work on reviewing as well as editing scanned slides of the past 33 years.

I have created a new gallery at my photography website for a visit that I made in April 2001 to Foz do Iguacu. The following is a link to the gallery;

Foz do Igaucu is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is a series of spectacular waterfalls created by the Parana River in the Tri Border Region of Brasil, Argentina, and Paraguay. On July 13, 2009 I wrote a blog about the area.

Today I am writing about a portion of my first visit to the falls - "Moises Bertoni Museum".

As part of tour packages in the Foz do Igaucu area, you can book a tour of the "Moises Bertoni Museum". The tour involves a boat cruise on the Parana River to get to the museum which is located in Paraguay. The tour lasts approximately four hours with either a morning or afternoon departure.

We took the afternoon departure and enjoyed a very pleasant cruise along the river on a large double decked boat. There was a fairly large group of Brasilians on board celebrating something so besides the great scenery, we also had some quality "people watching" opportunities. Our fellow passengers were seasoned party people - they had brought aboard picnic jugs of cairpirinhas (a strong alcohol drink - the national drink of Brasil). They were having a good time and by the late afternoon they were having a great time.

After about a one and one-half hour voyage, we arrived at the location of the Museum Moises Bertoni. It seemed to me to be an island in the river but subsequent Internet research leads me to believe that it is actually a peninsula. The area is known as Porto Bertoni and is part of Paraguay.

The museum is the former home and research center for a Swiss immigrant named Moises Bertoni. He was a larger than life man in a time when many men and some women rose above their peers in their quest for adventure, knowledge, and pursuit of their ideals.

Moises Bertoni was born in Switzerland in 1857. He was very intelligent and ended up speaking several languages. By the time of his death he had published 362 books, speeches, articles, maps, booklets, and pamphlets regarding zoology, botany, and ethnology. He was knowledgeable in such diverse sciences as meteorology and anthropology.

In the late 19th century, he and 40 other people left Switzerland to look for a place that was "territory still virgin". Somewhat like some of the hippies of the late 1960's, he was seeking a place where he could apply and experiment with what he had learned of science, politics, sociology and Utopian lifestyles. By this time he had five children and believed that he could not continue his studies, research, and raise the family in the confines of Switzerland and Swiss society.

He left Switzerland and arrived in Argentina. He and his group were initially welcomed there. But as time went on, like most idealists, they wore out their welcome. Bertoni's ideals were in conflict with the ongoing exploitation and destruction of the land as well as people's in his area. His views invited persecution from powerful people. Despite these difficulties Bertoni continued to collect plants, animals, insects, and seeds. He was preparing to publish what he had found when his fifth child accidentally died. With this family tragedy in 1890, he decided to move to Paraguay. He settled in the jungle in the Yaguarazapa region. Some years later he moved once again to the area where the museum is located.

Alongside the Parana River he continued his studies of a wide ranging area of topics. He was greatly assisted in his work by the local indigenous people the Guarani. From them he learned about and was able to study many different types of plants and animals. He also studied the Guarani culture and society while raising his 13 children with his wife. Part of his research and work involved planting many rare plants around his home. The progeny of these plants thrive today around the museum. Some of his work involved researching malaria. Ironically Bertoni died in 1929 due to malaria - two weeks after his wife had died of the same disease.

After docking, we left the boat and hiked about one-half mile up a hill through the hot and humid jungle along a narrow muddy trail to get to the museum. Inside of the museum, which is his actual home and research center, we were able to see Bertoni's collections, books, furnishings, and scientific instruments. Outside, Mbaya people with their babies were selling handicrafts.

The Mbaya people are descended from the Guarani people and are well known now for their handicrafts - necklaces, baskets, and carvings. I ended up taking a couple of photographs of the Mbaya people but I was limited by the film that I had. Shooting in the jungle requires a higher speed film to keep exposure times reasonable to avoid blurring. Interestingly, I now look back at these photographs as the beginning of my focus on people rather landscapes and animals in my work.

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