Today we did an updated census on the Cuiabá River. It's been almost a year since we had first visited the families. The majority of the families are still in the same situation - some families have their children in school in the cities and other families without relatives in the cities can't enroll their children. The Gós family, who lives about twenty minutes downstream from Porto Jofre, have been put in a major bind for educating their four children. Their oldest daughter, Isadora, is seventeen years old, has never attended school, and consequently is illiterate. Isadora and the two youngest children are currently living in Cuiabá with relatives. The second oldest, Jorge Junior, at fourteen years old, and can read, write, and do basic math, but has decided that school in the city is no longer worthwhile. The Gós' fish for a living, and the Cuiabá River has not been good this season, so making ends meet has been difficult. The Gós' have to send money to the city for their three children there, and have been spending more money than usually on gas for their boat as they must go farther and farther downstream to catch any fish. The fishing situation has partly to do with the luck of the season, but more recently it is has had more to do with the influx of tourists that vacation in Porto Jofre. The Gós' were cheered by the pictures of the painted school, but are still aware of the long empty promise of a school in the Pantanal.
We also had an interesting visit at one of the larger ranches on the river, Fazenda Maia. We had the good fortune to meet and talk with the owner himself, Maia, and the great surprise to be spoken to in the best English we have heard in Brazil by his wife who had spent two years in Minnesota. Maia lives in Cuiabá and typically visits the ranch on the weekends, and he expressed great interest in the school as it is nearly impossible to hire workers without accessible education and healthcare for their families. Maia has expressed a desire to partner with us as we figure out the details for boat transportation to relay back to the secretaries of education. We also hope to partner with a large American-owned ranch downstream, São Bento, which has several working families and a recently-built but empty school-house. The ranch is connected to Panthera, an NGO that works to protect cats in the Pantanal, but besides the attempted school appears to have little involvement in the community.
I'd been reading a bit about rural exodus, and it's amazing how palatable it is here in the Pantanal. From talking with the families, few seem to want to move to the crowded cities, but all agree that their children need an education to make a decent living. It's said that by 2030 in Africa, more people will live in the cities than in rural areas. If more families are moving to the city in search of education and opportunity then the cities obviously need much better infrastructure and services to handle this swelling population. But being here, it is impossible to imagine that this wetland will be close to uninhabited besides eco-lodge workers and tourists, creating a vast sort of natural amusement park. So in addition to bettering the cities, a way must be found to make rural areas a place to raise a family again, with the children receiving an education that equips them for the modern world.