The miniseries begins at the end of the 19th century, continues through the 1940s and moves to the 1980s.
In the first phase, it tells how Acre, previously Bolivian, becomes Brazilian at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1899, Acre was a refuge for Northeasterners fleeing the drought and foreigners and adventurers seeking to make their fortunes through extractivism. Latex from rubber trees was a major raw material during the Industrial Revolution, and, at that time, the Amazon was its sole producer.
The conquest of Acre and the peak in rubber production are illustrated with life on the Santa Rita rubber plantation. The sagas of the humble Bastião family, which works the plantation, and the rich Firmino family, which owns the plantation, intersect: there is the friendship of the youngest children, Bento and Augusto; and the romance between the oldest children, Delzuite and Tavinho. These relationships extrapolate the inequality and economic dependence between them.
Then, there is the Spaniard Luís Galvez, who under the cover of a zarzuela company drops anchor there and rapidly wins over the people, from laborers to rubber barons. He declares Acre an independent state, for which he is proclaimed President. He creates good public projects, such as sanitation and literacy, which do not always coincide with the ideals of the wealthy. However, he ends up being ousted by the Brazilian government for diplomatic reasons. The government returns the region to Bolivia, and Galvez is exiled to Recife. Alone and without resources, he must beg for aid to return to his native land.
In the second phase, during the 1940s, the miniseries shows how the omission of the Brazilian government in defending what was won unites rubber workers and barons, turning them into revolutionaries. Led by Plácido de Castro, an agronomist from the south who abandons his military career for the cause, they engage the Bolivian army in the fight to make Acre a Brazilian state. A Bolivian victory would mean the leasing of the lands for exploitation, for more than 30 years, by the Bolivian Syndicate, a consortium of North American and English capitalists. Financed by the rubber barons, Plácido transforms the laborers into soldiers, among them is the young Bento, and wins Acre’s revolutionary fight. After the victory, Plácido returns to civilian life in Rio de Janeiro, but resolves to return to Acre to start his own rubber plantation. With this, he is killed by an enemy in an ambush.
With the Second World War comes a new apogee in Amazonian rubber. The Getúlio Vargas administration decides not to send many soldiers to Italy so they may be allocated to the region, to help handle the emergency demands from North America. During this time, rubber is also being produced in Malaysia, after being pirated from Brazil, but with the Pacific plantations under attack from the Japanese, the Amazon regains its former glory. Bento, now a made man, returns to Santa Rita and finds Augusto continuing the baronial tradition of his father. He receives the rubber soldiers, recruited from the Northeast, and puts them to work on the plantations. Men, such as Heraldo, arrive believing themselves heroes, only to be forgotten when the war ends.
In the third phase, during the 1980s, the decline of the rubber barons and the promise of the TransAmazonian Highway lead to the expansion of pasture lands. Previous rubber barons, like Augusto, give way to cattle ranchers, like Tavares, who buys up the land without a thought for either the rubber workers he is forcing out or the rainforest he is destroying. Thus arise the question of agrarian reform, the timber extraction cycle and the leadership of rubber worker Chico Mendes, who heads the peaceful resistance movement against the predatory occupation that has been practiced since the 1970s. Through ‘deadlocks’, Chico uses words as weapons to stop deforestation and look to sustainable development. He becomes unionized, together with old Bento, and creates the first extractivist reserves. With his alliance with environmentalists, come international repercussions to the question of the fate of the Amazon Rainforest. Constantly threatened, he is murdered in 1988. Following this, his partners, friends and family continue the struggle that has become so important in this age of global warming and new challenges to the planet.
45 x 45'
Photo Gallery - Click to enlarge
Plácido de Castro
More Titles in Limited Series