Inside the Brazilian Amazon With VEJA


IT’S A GRAY JUNE MORNING in Brazil’s Amazon, and Julio Barbosa de Aquino is carving a long, shallow line into a tree outside his home in the state of Acre. The tree’s bark looks like a patchwork quilt: Semi-horizontal and vertical grooves cover just about every inch you can see.

Seconds later, a white liquid that almost resembles Elmer’s glue fills the space where Barbosa has carved, and it flows down diagonally into a separate vertical line. Finally, a few beads drip into a small black bucket that’s attached to the bark.

This is the morning’s main event: This is how you get wild rubber.

Julio Barbosa demonstrates the proper way to carve the trees to extract the wild rubber outside his home in Brazil’s Amazon. Photographs by John Lonsdale

TO REACH THE CHICO MENDES EXTRACTIVE RESERVE where Barbosa lives, you have to drive down a long, bumpy dirt road until you reach a river. Then, a short boat ride across the water later, you climb up a steep path to the top of the hill. The Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve is named after Barbosa’s best friend, Chico Mendes, who led a peaceful movement in the ’80s to protect Acre’s rubber tapping community from deforestation and farming, and was killed in 1988. Today, Barbosa, 64, is the president of the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve Residents and Producers Association Xapuri, AMOPREX.

This is just one of eight associations where Veja, the sustainable French footwear brand, works with rubber tappers, or seringueiros, who collect wild rubber from the forest that goes into Veja’s popular lines of sleek and stylish sneakers like the Esplars, the Campos, and V-10s—all of which are made with the wild rubber.

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