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The Amazing Amazon

Maritza Padilla Bueno

16 January 2020

Describing this trip as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” may sound cliché, but there’s no other phrase, from my point of view, that capture my feelings about it.

Although I was born in Colombia where we had access to the Amazon, I couldn’t resist saying yes when my supervisor Dr Vinicius Mariano de Carvalho invited me to join his group there. A trip to the Amazon! The heart of biodiversity and the most abundant river in the world. It was too good to pass up and I was right: my travels far exceeded my expectations.

We stayed on the SSN-9 naval base for the entire week where we were able to live the daily life of the Brazilian marines. This daily life included sleeping in the barracks, the taste of Brazilian food prepared by the marines, and learning more about their job: protecting the Amazon and the inhabitants, both human and animals.

Photo courtesy of Maritza Padilla Bueno

We also had the chance to visit other military bases where we learned about the coordination between the Armed Forces to cover the security needs of the Amazon. Aside from their regular duties of counter drug-trafficking or illegal mining, they also support work against piracy on biodiversity, providing aid after natural disasters and administrating health care to rural settlements. For example, we visited one of the “Os Navios da Esperanza” (Ships of Hope) which is a government-run program between the Brazilian Navy and the Ministry of Health, to provide health care to rural settlements in the Amazon.

As a part of our learning about military life in Brazil, the marines invited us to join them in a demonstration of how to survive in the jungle, where we tasted at least 50 different types of Amazonian fruits, learned how to make fire, and about the plants in which we could find water.

We had so many incredible experiences, I cannot choose which was my favourite.

However, swimming with one of the most beautiful species of mammals in the world, the pink dolphins, (or Boto), truly cemented this trip as the once in a lifetime experience that it was.

Photo courtesy of Maritza Padilla Bueno

The opportunity to travel with other students from King´s, our lecturers and the head of our department was also enriching. This trip allowed us to share our thoughts and cultures, and to make new friends.

Finally, as a researcher in War Studies, this trip allowed me the opportunity to enhance the arguments that I am constructing for my research. Due to the insight into the work of the Brazilian Military, I was able to gather valuable information from the local context, especially from the military in the Brazilian Amazon. Likewise, it was helpful to understand the different dynamics of their work securing Brazil inside their territory. I had the opportunity to interview the military and understand the complexity of the management of the security in the Amazon through their own words. The information I collected from this trip enriched my research and will be an essential contribution to my overall knowledge.  

Photo courtesy of Maritza Padilla Bueno

In this story

Vinicius  de Carvalho

Vinicius de Carvalho

Senior Lecturer in Brazilian Studies

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