My grandfather went to Manaus, probably a hundred years ago. I have no idea why he went, except that he was sent there by whichever firm he worked for; I am not even completely sure of what he did, something to do with accounts and accounting. My grandfather had an amazing facility for learning foreign languages, and certainly knew Portuguese and probably Spanish, as well as some languages local to Manaus and the Cape Verde islands which he also visited.

When he was sent to Manaus, which then had a population between 50-75,000 people, he had to travel up the Amazon for nine hundred miles by boat to get there. The city of a million and a half inhabitants is at the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Amazon. Manaus was actually founded at the end of the seventeenth century, and when my grandfather went there it would have been at the height of the boom in rubber. It was known as ‘the city that rubber built’.It was one of the most wealthy and significant cities in South America, and its fine opera house, Teatro Amazonas, was built as part of making it a truly modern and cosmopolitan place. The city went into a decline in the first half of the twentieth century; however, it has become the pre-eminent and capital city of  Amazonas and of major importance in Brazil, and South America.

We can’t escape the World Cup, and although I have no interest whatsoever in football, I am pleased that there are plenty of programmes featuring Manaus on TV at the moment. Every time I watch one, I think of my grandfather.

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