Trash + Poverty = A Very Polluted Rio Negro


We got into Manaus at about 1 am on Tuesday, May 21st. I was instantly struck by the humidity and how much hotter AND grosser I felt in comparison to Sao Paulo and Piracicaba.  The hotel we were staying at struck me as a prison, and I was instantly in a bad mood.  The last week and a half had finally caught up with me.. and I wanted to get back to the US PRONTO.  After taking a shower, which was conveniently housed next to the toilet (no shower curtain), I hastily fell asleep hoping that I wasn’t eaten alive by bed bugs.

I did feel better in the morning, when we started our adventure a few blocks away to the Market, which is housed along the Rio Negro. The Rio Negro is one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon River, and is black- where it gets its name from. The water itself actually looks like Coca-Cola.

My heart cried and I was so shocked by seeing the poverty that I was walking through.  In my heart of hearts I always knew that people lived in poverished situations, but for the first time in my life I was seeing the real deal. This was not 1 or 2 homeless people in Seattle, WA, but an entire community in poverty. There was so much trash in the river and roads- the physical state that the community was in was falling apart and to put it simply-sad.  I started getting angry, thinking about how people could live in situations such as this, and my senses finally kicked in. This is what they know- this is what their lives are.  Is it fair and appropriate to feel so sad and effected by this place?

I still am struck by the sheer volume of trash that floats in the river- that all these people depend on for their transportation and sustenance needs.  Our guide told us, “well you can’t really throw anything away”. This impacted me- heavily. No, you can’t really throw anything away. Where is “away?!”  Everyday in the US you throw things away- you take your trash out.. but where does the trash actually go? So, yes- there is trash in the river, but where else is it supposed to go?