Brazil - A missionary journey of the past: from Manaus to Iauaretê

26 June 2018

(ANS - Sao Gabriel de Cachoeira) - Even in 2018 there are places in the world that can only be reached through a long and difficult journey. This is the case of the Salesian mission of Iauaretê, at the extreme western border of Brazil, right before the border with Colombia. Here is the story of this long journey in the words of Br Giampietro Pettenon, SDB, Head of "Missioni Don Bosco" of Turin, who arrived at the mission with his team.

We reach Manaus after a long journey from Turin. In the capital of Amazonia the Salesians coordinate the work of the missionary houses among the natives of the region and we take another flight from there to Sao Gabriel de Cachoeira. Here too there are the Salesians, for a good 103 years, and the town develops around the historical nucleus of buildings that were the Salesian college and its large church, which today is the cathedral of the diocese.

The next day we leave for Iauaretê, reachable only by river. Because the journey takes 12 hours, you have to leave in the morning, because traveling in the dark is too dangerous. Wake up at dawn, breakfast, load luggage and off we go!

The skipper of the boat, a native, takes us for an hour up to a check point. We are entering the exclusively indigenous area and the army controls access. Immediately after, we turn and go up a tributary of the Rio Negro, the Rio Vaupes. Since we are still in the rainy season, the river is particularly swollen with water. At a certain point, on the contrary, it seems we are flying, with perfectly smooth water that reflects the clouds! The illusion ends when after a slight mist arrives light and thin rain, but insistent!

Shortly after, the rapids arrive, forcing us to unload all our luggage and continue on a truck in the middle of the forest for five kilometers. Then we reload everything and start again on the boat.

Along the shore we see small indigenous communities, each with a chapel and a small school next door. They are communities founded by the Salesians: the hallmark of the educative and at the same time evangelizing house of the Sons of Don Bosco is a church with a school nearby. Without the education of the young, evangelization risks becoming proselytism. And without a church, the educational work risks becoming a social service.

In the end, after 11 hours of travel on the river, we arrive at Iauaretê, one hour in advance. It went well, today!


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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