the story of Fadel Hatoum in the Bolivian territory of Acre(Brazil)

   Brazilian Arabesque         By Milton Hatoum

Early in the 20th century,                    
 at the height of the “rubber boom,” my paternal 
grandfather Fadel Hatoum traveled from Beirut to the then Bolivian territory 
of Acre, where he traded goods on a river between the cities of Rio Branco 
and Xapurí. He was one of the first to migrate in my family. Eight years later, 
he returned to Beirut with images and words of the Amazon, which he passed 
onto his children and relatives. 
They say he told Kafkaesque stories of shipwrecks, duels, floods, 
epidemics, hunting in the forest and fishing in hidden lakes; they also say 
that, before he died in Beirut, surrounded by a bunch of children and 
relatives, he named a countless number of Amazonian fish and animals. One 
episode narrated by my grandfather Fadel – and recollected by my father – 
has a tragicomic pitch: he said that, before landing in the port of the Acre 
river, he found himself in the middle of a shootout. He jumped off the boat 
he was on, swam to the riverbank, and crawled toward the forest. My 
grandfather was crouched down amidst the plants and leaves when someone 
gave him a Winchester rifle and shouted: “Long live Acre’s revolution.” He 
then started shooting at the other side of the river. Unbeknownst to my 
grandfather, he was taking part in the final battle against the Bolivians, who 
were defeated and lost a vast territory. Shortly after, the Brazilian state 
definitively annexed this one-time Bolivian territory. 
“If I had swum to the other bank of that river,” Fadel recalled 
to my father, “I could have been killed or taken prisoner, and 
that would have been the end to my Brazilian adventure.” 
My father grew up listening to these fantastical stories and decided to….
Read more:
 Brazilian Arabesque

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