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The Amazon Travel Guide

Manaus

Manaus, the capital of Amazonas State, is a hilly city of around 1.8 million people that lies 766 km (475 miles) west of Santarém and 1,602 km (993 miles) west of Belém on the banks of the Río Negro 10 km (6 miles) upstream from its confluence with the Amazon. Manaus is the Amazon's most popular tourist destination, largely because of the many jungle lodges in the surrounding area. The

city's principal attractions are its lavish, brightly colored houses and civic buildings—vestiges of an opulent time when the wealthy sent their laundry to be done in Europe and sent for Old World artisans and engineers to build their New World monuments.

Founded in 1669, Manaus took its name, which means "mother of the Gods," from the Manaó tribe. The city has long flirted with prosperity. Of all the Amazon cities and towns, Manaus is most identified with the rubber boom. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it supplied 90% of the world's rubber. The industry was monopolized by rubber barons, whose number never exceeded 100 and who lived in the city and spent enormous sums on ostentatious lifestyles. They dominated the region like feudal lords. Thousands of seringueiros (rubber tappers) were recruited to work on the rubber plantations, where they lived virtually as slaves. A few of the seringueiros were from indigenous tribes, but most were transplants from Brazil's crowded and depressed northeast. Eventually conflicts erupted between barons and indigenous workers over encroachment on tribal lands. Stories of cruelty abound. One baron is said to have killed more than 40,000 native people during his 20-year "reign." Another boasted of having slaughtered 300 Indians in a day.

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