Clear Water and Traditions

Clear Water and Traditions

    Darcília read the note several times and only understood the message
    when she saw the two bills. She had never received money from a man, but she didn’t
    feel offended, not even sad. She thought she deserved it.
    By Brazzil Magazine


    Mosqueiro is the weekend beach for
    Belenenses (inhabitants of Belém, in the northeastern state of Pará), who
    attempt to beat the heat by flocking to the island’s 19 freshwater beaches on the east side of the Baía de Marajó. It’s close
    enough to Belém for plenty of weekend beach houses, and some welltodo
    Belenenses even commute to the city. The island
    is particularly crowded between July and October. The beaches are not nearly as nice as those on Ilha de Marajó or the
    Atlantic coast, but if you want to get out of Belém for just a day they’re not bad.


    The best beaches are Praia do Farol, Praia Chapéu Virado and the more remote Baía do Sol


    Mosqueiro’s traditional folklore festival, held in June, features the dance and music of
    carimbó and boisbumbás.
    In July, during the Festival de Verão, the island shows off some of its art and music. The Círio de Nossa Senhora do Ó, the
    principal religious event on the island, is celebrated on the second Sunday of December. Like Belém’s Círio, this event is a very
    beautiful and joyous event, and well worth seeing if you’re in Belém at the time.


    Algodoal attracts younger Belenenses and a handful of foreign travelers. This beautiful spot, with its duneswept
    beaches and sometimes turbulent sea, is very remote, with a small fishing village and simple hotels. But all this may change,
    hopefully not too radically, because Algodoal is in the process of being `discovered’. The name Algodoal comes from the
    Portuguese word algodão which means cotton (the sand dunes when viewed from a distance resemble hills of cotton). Ilha de
    Maiandeua, the Indian term for mãe terra
    (mother land), is the name of the island.

    Marudá is a poor fishing village with a couple of cheap hotels and a respectable beach, so it’s no problem if you’re
    stuck there overnight. Cars cannot make the journey to Algodoal and will have to be left in Marudá.

    Things to See & Do

    Lagoa da Princesa is a freshwater lake about an hour’s walk inland from Algodoal. The dark water of the lake is
    surrounded by white sand and native vegetation.

    The tropical forest reserve of Rio Centenário, the largest
    igarapé on the island, has a forest of
    miritizeiros (the Amazonian royal palm) and other native species.

    Ilha do Marco (Praia da Marieta) is about 10 km by boat from Algodoal, and has a petrifiedtree cemetery, interesting
    rock formations and a natural swimming pool.

    There are no local tour operators or guides on the island. You could try contacting the Cabanas Hotel’s manager,
    Lula, who enjoys showing the island to tourists.


    Salinópolis is Pará’s major Atlantic coastal resort, with good beaches (such as Praia da Atalaia) and some mineral
    spas. There are plenty of summer homes here, and during the July holiday month, Salinópolis is very crowded. If you want
    beautiful, deserted Brazilian beaches, this is not really the best place to go.


    Ilha de Marajó, one of the largest fluvial islands in the world, lies at the mouths of the Amazon and Tocantins rivers.
    The island’s 250,000 inhabitants live in 13 municipalities and in the many
    fazendas spread across the island. Although
    visiting the island is fairly straightforward for independent travelers, many travel agencies in Belém offer package tours to the
    main town (Soure) and remote fazendas.


    Researchers have discovered that the island was inhabited between 1000 BC and 1300 AD by successive
    Indian civilizations. The first of these, known as the Ananatuba civilization, was followed by those of the Mangueiras, the
    Formiga Marajoara and, finally, the Aruã. The ceramics produced by these civilizations were ornamented with intricate designs in
    black, red and white. The best examples of these ceramics are displayed at the Museu Emílio Goeldi in Belém.

    The resemblance of these designs to those found in Andean civilizations prompted the theory amongst some
    researchers that the inhabitants of Ilha de Marajó had originally floated down the Amazon from the Andes. In 1991, a team of
    international archaeologists reported the discovery of pottery fragments near Santarém which were estimated to be between 7000 and
    8000 years old. These fragments predate what was previously considered the oldest pottery in the Americas.


    Ilha de Marajó, slightly larger in size than Switzerland, has close to 50,000 sq. km of land, which divides into
    two geographical regions of almost equal size. The eastern half of the island is called the
    região dos campos. This area is characterized by lowlying fields with savannatype flora, and sectioned by strips of remaining forest. Various palm trees
    and dense mangrove forests line the coast. The island’s western half, the
    região da mata, is primarily forest.


    Marajó has two seasons: the very rainy, from January to June, and the dry (less rainy!), from July to December.

    the rainy season, much of the island turns into swamp and the
    região dos campos becomes completely submerged
    under a meter or more of water. The island’s few roads are elevated by three meters, but are nonetheless impassable during the
    rainy season.


    The herds of buffalo which wander the fields provide Marajó’s sustenance, being well adapted to the swampy
    terrain. There are many snakes, most notably large boas. The island is filled with birds, especially during the dry season,
    including the guará, a graceful flamingo with a long, curved beak. The sight of a flock of deeppink
    guarás flying against
    Marajó’s green backdrop is truly spectacular.


    Soure (pronounced `sorry’), the island’s principal town, is on the Rio Paracauari, a few km from the Baía de Marajó.
    The tide along the city’s shore oscillates a remarkable three meters. With regular boat service from Belém and easy access to
    several of the best beaches and fazendas, Soure is probably the best place to stay on the island, since the introduction of the
    ferry to Câmara, Selvaterra is becoming more popular.

    Like all the island’s coastal towns, Soure is primarily a fishing village, but it’s also the commercial center for the
    island’s buffalo business, and these animals rule the place like kings. The townsfolk work around the buffalo, or sometimes with
    or on them, but never obstruct their passage: right of way in town belongs indisputably to the buffalo!


    Bichos de pé (unpleasant jigger bugs that burrow into human feet) are found in and around the towns, and the
    island has many other nasty parasites. Keep your head on your shoulders and shoes on your feet.


    The bay beaches near Soure are excellent and look more like ocean beaches. The beach is often covered with exotic
    seeds washed down from the Amazon forests. Praia Araruna, the most beautiful beach, is also the closest, just a 10minute taxi
    ride from town. Ask the driver to pick you up at a set hour…and pay then. You can also walk the five km to the beach; ask
    for directions in town. The road passes through farmland where you might spot a flock of
    guarás, then follow two pedestrian bridges across the lagoons to the beach. The bay here, 30 km from the ocean, has both fresh and salt water. At low tide,
    you can walk about five km in either direction. The beach is deserted during the week, and could scarcely be called crowded
    on weekends.

    Praia do Pesqueiro is 13 km from town (a 25minute drive). Ask about buses at Soure. There are
    barracas serving great caranguejo (crab) and
    casquinha de caranguejo (stuffed crab), but lousy shrimp. When you’re facing the sea, the best
    beach section lies to your right. Do not swim in the shallow lagoon between the
    barracas and the sea: it harbors prickly plants.

    O Curtume

    If you head upriver about a 10-minute walk from town, you’ll come to an old, simple tannery which sells sandals,
    belts and saddles made from buffalo. The merchandise on sale isn’t very good, but it’s illuminating to see the production line
    to the finished product. The tannery is located next door to the slaughterhouse.


    On the second Sunday of November, Soure has its own Círio de Nazaré. The festival features a beautiful procession,
    and the town bursts with communal spirit. Everyone in the region comes to Soure for the festival, so accommodation can be
    difficult to find. The festival of São Pedro, on 29 June, is a very colorful celebration, and includes a maritime procession. If
    you’re into buffalo culture, the AgroPecuária fair is held during the third week of September.


    Salvaterra is separated from Soure by a short boat ride across the river. Shuttle boats leave every hour during the
    day and cost $0.50. A 10minute walk from town, Praia Grande de Salvaterra is a long, picturesque beach on the Baía de
    Marajó. It’s popular on weekends, when the
    barracas open, but often windy. This is a good place to see the beautiful fenced
    corrals which dot Marajó’s coastline (from the air, they appear as a string of heart shapes). The corrals are simple fences with
    netting that use the falling tide to capture fish.

    Salvaterra has restaurants and accommodation along the Praia Grande beach.
    Pousada Anastácia has simple room
    ($18) and a rustic restaurant, Pousada Tropical,
    on Avenida Beira Mar, next to the inlet Córrego da Praia Grande, has very
    basic rooms for $9/12 a single/double. Pousada dos Guarás
    (241-0891 in Belém for reservations) has its own transport and
    guides to take you around to beaches and tourist spots. It charges $64/71 for singles/doubles. The
    pousada also has two and threeday packages with tours included. If you’re in a hurry or want someone else to take care of everything for you, it’s
    a good deal, but there is no other reason to take the packaged option.

    Around Ilha de Marajó

    From Salvaterra, a dirt road goes to Câmara (24 km) and then continues to Cachoeira do Arari (51 km), a very pretty,
    rustic town, which reportedly has a pousada.

    To the north, accessible only by plane is the town of Santa Cruz do Arari, on the immense Lagoa Arari. This town
    is completely submerged during the rainy season, and is famous for its fishing.

    The western half of the island is less populated and less interesting for travelers. There are boat services to the city
    of Breves, which has a pousada. Afuá, on the northern shore, is built on water and also has a
    pousada. Both of these cities are linked to Belém by airtaxi.

    Ilha Caviana, an island lying off the north coast of Ilha de Marajó, is an excellent base from which to observe the
    pororoca (the thunderous collision between the Atlantic tide and the Amazon). The best time to see this phenomenon is
    between January and April, at either full or new moon. Marcello Morelio (Tel.: 2234784) is a local pilot/guide who shuttles
    between Belém and Ilha de Marajó. He charges $200 per $1000 per group (a maximum of six people) for a flight to Ilha Caviana to
    see the pororoca.


    Excursions to Ilha de Marajó are offered by a number of agencies in Belém including Mururé Turismo (Tel.:
    2410891); GranPará Turismo (Tel.: 2243233), at Avenida Presidente Vargas 676; Carimbó Viagens e Turismo (Tel.: 2236464),
    at Travessa Piedade 186; Vianney Turismo (Tel.: 2415638), at Travessa Padre Eutíquio 2296; and Mundial Turismo

    2231981), at Avenida Presidente Vargas 780. Excursions include transport (by either boat or plane) and full board at a
    hotel in Soure or at one of the remote
    fazendas. As a rough rule of thumb, most of these package deals cost around $150 per
    person per day if the trip is done by plane, or $60 per person per day if the trip is done by boat.


    If any project defies superlatives to describe its scale, it is the Projeto Grande Carajás. The multifocal project centers
    around the world’s largest deposit of iron ore, but only $4.5 billion of the project’s $60 billion budget will be directed towards
    the extraction of iron ore. The rest of the money is to be invested in the extraction of the area’s other metals—manganese,
    copper, bauxite, nickel, potassium and gold, all found near the Serra Pelada—and in the development of an industrial zone
    whose size (400,000 sq. km) rivals that of California.

    In the tradition of previous Amazonian scale enterprises, such as Henry Ford’s Fordlândia and Daniel K Ludwig’s
    Jari pulpwood project, the Carajás project started with American support. The venture began as a partnership between US
    Steel and Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), a Brazilian company funded by both private and public capital. When iron
    prices dropped on the world market, US Steel pulled out of the collaboration.

    The minerals are transported along the 900km railroad from Carajás to the Atlantic coast at São Luis, Maranhão.
    There, at the Porto de Ponto da Madeira, large ships are loaded for export to Europe and Asia. In 1994, CVRD boasted a record
    year for iron-ore sales: 100 million tons. Eight million kilowatts of power for the project are already being generated by the
    Tucuruí dam (on the Rio Tocantins), and seven more dams are planned for the Tocantins and its tributaries. The environmental
    effects of clearing this much jungle, burning this much wood and flooding this much land will undoubtedly be stupendous.
    CVRD maintains that they have a responsible attitude towards preserving flora and fauna and limiting the project’s impact on
    the environment.


    At its peak, in 1984, the Serra Pelada gold mines, near the Carajás project, west of Marabá, had 400,000 miners
    and hangerson scraping away at the earth. With the digging done by hand, the site resembled a human anthill. It was not
    the whip but the promise of gold that drove prospectors to work like

    slaves. The mine area, a huge pit with crisscrossing claims, rivaled the pyramids in scale and epic sweep.

    During the 1980s, the CVRD, which operates the nearby Projeto Grande Carajás, claimed the mineral rights to the
    area and attempted to wrest control of the mines from the prospectors. The enraged prospectors protested strongly, staging
    a march on Brasília and threatening to raid the Projeto Grande Carajás. In 1984 the government compromised by paying
    $60 million to CVRD in compensation and then recognizing the prospectors’ claims.

    In 1995 there were a mere 3000 or so miners endeavoring to scrape out a living or save enough money to leave.
    Without the resources to maintain and drain the open cut, mining has become too dangerous and unworkable to be very
    productive. It seems that CVRD is biding its time until the area is abandoned.


    Santarém is a pleasant city with a mild climate (22°C to 36°C), Atlantic breezes, calm waters and beautiful forests. The
    region around Santarém was originally inhabited by the Tapuiçu Indians. In 1661, over three decades after Captain Pedro
    Teixeira’s expedition first contacted the Tapuiçu, a Jesuit mission was established at the meeting of the Tapajós and Amazon
    rivers. In 1758 the village that grew around the mission was named Santarém, after the city of that name in Portugal.

    In 1867, a group of 110 Confederates from the breakaway Southern states of the USA emigrated to Santarém, where
    they attempted to start new lives as farmers or artisans. Only a handful of these settlers managed to prosper; the rest drifted
    away from Santarém, were killed off by disease, or accepted the offer of a free return passage on an American boat to the USA.

    Later developments in Santarém’s history included the boomandbust cycle of the rubber plantations, and a series
    of gold rushes which started in the 1950s and have continued to this day. The construction of the Transamazônica
    highway (in 1970) and the SantarémCuiabá highway (completed six years later) attracted hordes of immigrants from the
    Northeast, few of whom were able to establish more than a brief foothold before abandoning the region for the
    favelas of Manaus or Belém.

    The economy is based on rubber, hard woods, brazil nuts, black pepper, mangoes, soybeans, jute and fish. The past
    20 years has seen rapid development, with the discovery of gold and bauxite and the construction of the CuruáUna
    hydroelectric dam. With the deterioration of the road links to Santarém the area is suffering from its isolation from the rest of Pará.
    There is a popular movement to form a new state of Tapajós, to guarantee that government funding reaches the area.


    Santarém lies 2½° south of the equator, at the junction of the Tapajós and Amazon rivers, about halfway between
    Manaus and Belém, and only 30 meters above sea level. Although it’s the third largest city on the Amazon, Santarém is merely a
    sleep backwater in comparison to Manaus and Belém.

    The city layout is simple: the Cuiabá-Santarém highway runs directly to the Docas do Pará, dividing the city into
    old (eastern) and new (western) halves. East from the Docas do Pará, where the large boats dock, is Avenida Tapajós, which
    runs along the waterfront and leads to the marketplace and commercial district.


    Walk along the waterfront of Avenida Tapajós from the Docas do Pará to Rua Adriano Pimentel. This is where
    drifters, loners and fisherfolk congregate. Include a stop at Mercado de Peixes (Fish Market) and the floating market.

    Centro Cultural João Fona

    The Centro Cultural, at Praça Barão de Santarém, features a collection of pre-Columbian pottery.

    River Beaches

    Santarém’s natural river beaches are magnificent. As elsewhere in the Amazon, the seasonal rise and fall of the
    waters uncovers lovely white river beaches, and sweeps them clean of debris at the end of the beach season.


    The Indian Festa do Sairé and the Christian ceremony of Nossa Senhora da Saúde have been celebrated on 23 June
    at Alter do Chão since 1880. The Sairé is a standard which is held aloft to lead a flowerbedecked procession. This is
    perhaps a reenactment of the historic meeting between the Tapuiçus and the Portuguese, or possibly a ritual which originated

    the Jesuits introduced Christianity to the Indians. The patron saint of fisherfolk, São Pedro, is honored with a river
    procession on 29 June, when boats decorated with flags and flowers sail before the city.

    Fishing enthusiasts should note that October and November are the best months to fish for
    pirarucu and tucunaré in the Rio Itaqui and Lago Grande de Curuaí.

    Things to Buy

    Artesanato Dica Frazão, a clothing and craft shop, is at Rua Floriano Peixoto 281. The proprietor, Senhora Dica,
    creates women’s clothing from natural fibers, and patchwork decorated hammocks. Loja Regional Muiraquitã and
    Souvenir Artesanatos, both on Rua Senado Lameira Bittencourt, sell local handicrafts.

    Places to Eat

    Succulent species of local fish include
    curimatá, jaraqui,
    surubim, tucunaré and
    pirarucu. Local dishes are cassava:
    maniçoba is made from pork and
    cassava while pato no tucupi is a duck and
    cassava-root concoction.

    Restaurante O Mascote, at Praça do Pescador 10 (just off Rua Senador Lameira Bittencourt), has music in the
    evenings. Fish meals start at $7; try the caldeirada de peixe
    and tucunaré recheado.

    Restaurante Tapaiu, in the lobby of the Hotel Tropical, also has a pleasing menu. Try
    Peixaria Canta Galo on Travessa Silva Jardim for good fish dishes.
    Restaurante Lumi, on Avenida Cuiabá, not far from the Hotel Tropical, has
    Japanese-style food. Casa da Vinoca, on Travessa Turiano Meira, has good-value snacks and ice cream. Mascotinho on Rua
    Adriano Pimentel, is an outdoor bar where you can enjoy a beer, pizza and snacks overlooking the Rio Tapajós.

    Boat—Anticipate three days to Manaus, three days to Belém and 12 hours to Itaituba. Cabins are normally already
    taken in Manaus or Belém. Docas do Pará, the deepwater pier, is where most of the boats to Belém and Manaus depart. The
    various private companies have booths in front of the main gate to the Docas, where you can check schedules and buy tickets.
    Ticket prices with Agência Tarcísio Lopes (Tel.: 5222034) are $61/96 per person in hammock/cabin accommodation to Belém,
    $45/84 to Manaus. The ENASA office (Tel.: 5221934) is at the Eletrocenter shop, at Travessa Francisco Correa 34, and is
    open Monday to Friday from 7.30 to 11.30 am and 2 to 6 pm, and on Saturday from 8 am to noon.

    The river trip between Santarém and Belém includes an interesting section downstream from Monte Alegre: the
    Narrows, where the boat passes closer to jungle. It’s a breezy ride; the endless view of long, thin, green strips of forest and wider
    bands of river and sky is OK for the first day, but after a while, you’ll start talking to your hammock and chewing on the life belts.

    There is also a twiceweekly boat service ($21/18 in 1st/2nd class, two days) between Santarém and Porto Santana,
    the major port, 20 km down the coast from Macapá (Amapá state).


    Alter do Chão

    The village of Alter do Chão, a weekend resort for the people of Santarém, is upstream on the Rio Tapajós. Alter do
    Chão has good fishing, a beautiful turquoise lagoon and whitesand beaches. It was once a sacred site for the Tapajós
    Indians. Due to improved access, many travelers are now finding it a more attractive option than Santarém.

    Centro de Preservação da Arte Indígena

    Cultura e Ciências

    This excellent and comprehensive exhibit of Indian art and artifacts, located on Rua Dom Macedo, far surpasses any
    such museums in Manaus or Belém. Established by an American expatriate and his Indian wife, the highquality museum is
    quite a bizarre find in such a tiny village. Admission costs $3.50. The museum has a shop, with a large variety of items for
    sale, though the items are generally more expensive than those in FUNAI shops elsewhere.


    Green Lake and Tapajós River have good beaches for swimming and walks.

    Places to Stay & Eat

    The Pousada Alter-doChão
    (Tel.: 5223410), at Rua Lauro Sodré 74, has simple
    apartamentos with fan for $24, and a great view of beach from the verandah. The
    Tia Marilda, at Travessa Antônio Agostinho 599, has double rooms with
    shower and fan that cost $18. The Pousada Tupaiulândia
    (Tel.: 5232157), on Travessa Pedro Teixeira, offers
    apartamentos for $24 with fan, and $36 with aircon.

    Encontro das Águas

    The meeting of the waters (águas
    barrentas) where the clear Tapajós and the light-brown Amazon merge, is worth a
    boat excursion, or at least a glimpse from Praça Mirante, near Restaurante O Mascote. The tourist agencies arrange trips
    from around $25.

    Floresta Nacional do Tapajós

    This forest reserve covers an area of 650,000 hectares along the Rio Tapajós. The entrance to the reserve is about 83
    km from Santarém on the SantarémCuiabá road. To visit you must first seek permission from IBAMA in Santarém (Tel.:
    5222964), at Avenida 2267. You can then try to organize a visit with their assistance or with Santarém-Tur (Tel.: 5221533), at the
    Hotel Tropical.

    Fordlândia & Belterra

    Fordlândia and Belterra, Henry Ford’s huge rubber plantations, date from the 1920s. Ford successfully managed
    to transplant an American town, but his Yankee ingenuity failed to cultivate rubber efficiently in the
    Amazon. Abandoned by Ford, the rubber groves are now operated as a research station by the Ministry of Agriculture.

    During the dry season, one bus a day makes the trip from Santarém to Belterra, 67 km south of Santarém. The bus
    leaves Santarém at 11.30 am and returns at 2.30 pm. Getting to Fordlândia by boat takes about 16 hours from Santarém. Amazon
    Tours can arrange trips to Belterra and to Fordlândia. The cost is $45 per person in groups of two. $30 per person in groups of
    three to five.

    Curuá-Una Hydroelectric Dam

    The Curuá-Una Hydroelectric Dam is at Cachoeira de Palhão, 72 km from Santarém. It was built to meet the growing
    energy needs of the region, and is open to visitors.


    This national park lies close to the town of Itaituba on the western boundary between the states of Pará and

    Most sources agree that at least 10% of the park’s original one million hectares has been devastated as a result of
    depredação (predatory behavior) by
    garimpeiros and prospective landgrabbers, who face an utterly absurd force of four
    IBAMA employees attempting to protect the park.


    To arrange a visit to the park, you must seek prior permission from Senhor Raimundo Nonato Russo (Tel.: 5181530)
    at IBAMA, Posto do Fomento Estrada, 53 Bis, Km 02, Itaituba, 73 km from the park entrance. Once your visit has been
    approved, you may be given assistance with transport up the Rio Tapajós to the park station. The park administration operates on
    less than a shoestring, so don’t expect too much.

    The administrative station inside the park at Uruá, has rudimentary facilities such as a campsite, but no
    special infrastructure for tourists. From this station, there are rough trails leading into the forest.

    Marajó Buffalo

    Legend has it that a French ship was sailing to French Guyana with a load of buffalo that it had picked up in India. However,
    the boat sank off the shore of Ilha de Marajó and the buffalo swam to shore.

    Today, Marajó is the only place in Brazil where buffalo roam in great number, and there are thousands of them. These are not
    the furry American bison of the American plains, but a tough skinned, hairless buffalo that looks like a macho Indian Brahma bull.

    There are four different uses for buffalo in Marajó: meat, dairy products, traction and breeding. Three qualities make buffalo
    better suited than cattle to Marajó’s environment. First, day can survive the wet season when much of the land turns into swamps or
    lagoons, buffalo can walk on the soft ground with their wide hooves, and they can swim when the water gets deep. Second, their tough,
    three-layered hide is able to withstand the bites of the island’s many snakes and parasites, and third, the buffalo can eat almost anything, and will
    even dive underwater to obtain food.

    The Legend of

    Praia da Princesa

    Legend has it that long ago an enchanting green-eyed, blonde-haired princess lived on Praia da Princesa. Her home was a white
    sand-dune castle, and she appeared only on the night of a full moon.

    At that time, turtles used to lay eggs on the beaches and dolphins would come to play with big fish around the island.

    Wanting to teach men how to take care of the island, she appeared before a young fisherman. The fisherman, afraid of drowning
    in the lake of the big snakes which defended the castle, ran away. The princess cried, saying that if men did not stop destroying the
    island, she would have to go to another beach. Since that time, the turtles have stopped laying eggs on the beaches, and the dolphins and big
    fish have all gone away.

    Several men have drowned at Praia da Princesa It is said they were lured into the water by a green-eyed, blonde-haired woman.

    Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
    Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more
    information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
    Used by permission.

    Buy it at

    Lonely Planet
    Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit

    by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
    Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
    704 pp

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