Hello and good day!
A gathering of 100 Peruvian migrants stood on the bank of the Chinchipe River.
They were soaking wet from the heavy jungle rain.
Across the river, they could see a small makeshift town, and behind the town, up on a hill with a plateau, there was a farm with bright red plum trees that could be seen through the wind and the rainstorm.
Behind the plum farm, the landscape was rolling, bright green forest, with trees growing on hills that went up and down, creating valleys, until the hills reached the back of the canyon, which was enclosed by tall mountain walls.
The river rushed in from the left, coming out from behind a curve that ran through tall, steep mountain faces. It ran straight for a long way, in front of the crowd, before winding off to the right, through flat farmland on either side.
The sky was filled with black rain clouds and the rain sounded like metal ball bearings pouring out on a marble floor. The clattering of raindrops could be heard, even in the midst of the blaring rushing noise made by the river.
On the shore, ten strong men, in wet clothes, had pulled two wooden rafts up against the bank.
One of the men yelled instructions for crossing the river.
"Come here! Come here! Get even closer!" yelled the spokesman, through the rain and over the noise of the river.
The large group tightened in.
"Listen! These rafts are pretty safe. I know it doesn't seem like it, but they are. If you follow our instructions, you will make it across alive."
"Look here! These rafts have guard walls around the edges. They will keep you from falling over. Sit in the middle of the raft. Don't lean on the walls. If the power of the river throws you around, get back in the middle. The most dangerous place for you to be is near the edges."
"The river is very strong. You are going to bounce up and down on it and you will be tossed back and forth. You must stay calm. We will pull you across with the ropes. Do not panic. It is very important to stay calm."
"Almost nobody falls off. But if somebody does fall off, you must try to grab the rope, not the raft. Your hands are not strong enough to hold onto the raft for very long. But with the rope, you can wrap your arms around it and hug it. We saw one person make it across holding the rope."
"That is all we can tell you. Now who will volunteer to go first?"
There were many men who had made the trip alone, without wives and children. They volunteered to go first and filled up the two rafts, with seven or eight in each raft.
"Stand back everybody!" shouted the spokesman.
One of the rope men working the shore put his fingers to his mouth and whistled across to the rope men on the other side of the river. A confirmation whistle came back.
The onlookers watched as the rope men on their side began to let out slack on the rope, slowly, never allowing the rope to go flaccid. On the opposing shore, the men pulled on their ropes and the rafts began to float across.
The current was weak near the shore, but as the rafts were pulled into the middle of the river, the smooth, powerful brown river pushed the rafts.
The river appeared to be made of brown, glassy, floating tectonic plates, with white ripples ridging up into short bouncing, splattering waves, where the tectonic plates crashed into each other.
The ropes pulled tight and angled down river.
Now the men on shore began to grunt and dig their feet in and hold with all their might, letting out the rope, inch by inch, so that the rafts continued across.
On the other side, the rope men did the same, pulling in each inch that was let out. The rafts bounced up and down, sometimes jumping into the air off the waves formed by the crashing bodies of water.
Lucho, Maria, and their two children, watched through the rain, entranced, praying to their God that the rafts would make it to the other side.
And the rafts did make it.
The first group of travelers, all men, climbed out and stood on the shore of the makeshift town, waving back to their fellow travelers.
The rope men pulled the rafts back, and group by group, the entire gathering was able to cross, in the strong rain which never let up, and nobody fell off.
The name of the small town was Puerto Ciruelo (Port Plum, ciruelo means plum in Spanish.)
It was a frontier town that had only recently been established.
There was a road that had been paved by the local government one year earlier, which ran parallel to the river for a quarter of a mile.
On either side of the short road, merchants had built small structures using adobe bricks, to service the pioneer traffic that was constantly coming through on the way back into the canyon to homestead their land.
There was a small hardware shop that sold machetes and plastic tarps.
There was a small cantina that sold beer.
There were several restaurants.
And there was a government building that was larger than all the rest.
The pioneers who had crossed the river formed a line in the government office, in front of a long wooden desk, behind which sat six government officials.
One member from each family stood in line waiting their turn, while other members sat on the floor, against a wall, protected from the rain, which hammered down on the tin roof above.
The government officials were registrars who had stacks of paper lists in front of them.
One at a time, the officials asked to see the identification card of each person in line.
When the official found the person's name on the list, they crossed it off and pulled out a blank title deed from a box underneath the table.
They filled out the titles by hand with a pen and then stamped the paper with a government stamp. The title had the name of the family and the coordinates of the land they now owned.
The new landowners signed their titles and when they were finished, they walked out into the town with their family members to buy supplies at the hardware store and eat in one of the restaurants.
After eating, they waited for their government guide, who would take them back into the jungle, to their new parcel of land.
I will continue on with this story about how the families who sell us cacao ended up in the jungle in the first place.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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