Expedition to Seringal Novo Encanto shows that spirituality and environmental preservation need to go hand in hand

Activity promoted by the Novo Encanto Association of Ecological Development was geared towards members of the União do Vegetal and gathered approximately 100 people in the Amazon Forest

Flavio Gut*

August 10th, 2018

A record number of approximately 100 people, including explorers and the support team | Photo: Renata Sant’Anna

The 20th Expedition to Seringal Novo Encanto, that was held from July 16th to 21st, 2018, was a milestone for the commitment of the Novo Encanto Association of Ecological Development to conservation and preservation of the Amazon Rainforest. Paulo Afonso Amato Condé, who is an agricultural engineer with a master’s degree in Agroecology from UFSC (Federal University of Santa Catarina), participated in this expedition. This was a special opportunity to unite spirituality with the commitment of environmental conservation.

The presence of the General Representative Mestre gave this expedition a more precise dimension to how much the União do Vegetal is dedicated to conserving and preserving of the Rainforest, as well as Novo Encanto and the UDV’s commitment to Nature. Mestre Paulo Afonso was accompanied by his wife, Conselheira Lea Maria Dantonino Alves Condé and by a record number of approximately 100 people, including explorers and the support team. Another milestone of this expedition was the high number of women who went. It was a great celebration in the Amazon Forest.

Mestre José Roberto Souto Maior, a member of the Council of the Recordation of the Teachings of Mestre Gabriel was also present in the Expedition. Along with the Central Mestre of the 7th Region of UDV, Antônio Ferreira Gomes, the President of Novo Encanto, Mestre José Roberto da Silva Barbosa (Núcleo Coração do Mestre, Rio Branco-AC), the Executive Director of the Novo Encanto, Mestre Carcius Azevedo dos Santos (General Headquarters, Brasília-DF), and other members of the Board of Novo Encanto.

It was an experience that goes much further than the journey in and of itself, through the land where Mestre José Gabriel da Costa began his life as a rubber tapper and created the União do Vegetal. Expeditions to the seringal (rubber tapping region) are, above all, a journey through the inner world of each participant. All of this was only possible thanks to the infrastructure exists today at the headquarters of the site, which is ready to attend a significant number of explorers.

The Novo Encanto Association was founded by associates of the UDV and today, by means of an agreement of technical cooperation, it is the ecological arm of the União do Vegetal that promotes socio-environmental and conservation campaigns, not only in the rubber taping regions, but also in all of the Núcleos of the União. Seringal Novo Encanto gave rise to the Novo Encanto Association in 1990 and today, the site maintains a preserved area of more than 3 thousand hectares of native forest.

Route of the Explorers

Photo: Renata Sant’Anna

The trip began in Rio Branco (AC) in Núcleo João Lango Moura, where the explorers were welcomed. On Monday morning, July 16th, a delicious breakfast kicked off the agenda. From there, it was a few hours by bus to the banks of the Abunã River, and then to Seringal Sunta, where Mestre Gabriel recreated the União do Vegetal in 1961.

To go up the Abunã River on three boats that were not very different from those which Mestre Gabriel used at the time is an experience that causes one to reflect. Walking the paths that our Mestre and his family trod brings an understanding of the size of the difficulties that they faced. The environment has changed but the place is the same.

At Sunta, it was time to listen to the explanations of a specialist from the area, Mestre Pedro Brás (Núcleo Estrela Divina, Plácido de Castro-AC), who, since his childhood, has learned to live in the rubber tapping regions and knows the area very well. Mestre Pedro said that at that time, it was very difficult to gather many people in one place, even for a party, because of the great distances, but Mestre Gabriel was able to bring a whole lot of people to the Sessions of Vegetal. He said, “At Sunta, Mestre Gabriel showed people how to work with Vegetal in an organized form”.

Vila Plácido

After some time at Sunta, it was time to go down the Abunã River again to reach the then municipality of Plácido de Castro, known at the time of Mestre Gabriel as Vila Plácido, where a big lunch and the loving attention of the brotherhood awaited the explorers at Núcleo Estrela Divina.

It was there in Vila Plácido that Mestre Gabriel directed an important Session of Vegetal for the UDV on January 6th, 1962. These places are part of the history of the União Vegetal. The words do not exist to explain the feeling. From Plácido de Castro to the Seringal Novo Encanto, the journey is long; by paved and many unpaved roads, or “extensions”, as the people of Acre call them. Arriving at the Rubber Plantation Novo Encanto at night and receiving the care (and the great dinner!) of the support crew was very good.

The Seringal preserves an environment similar to that of UDV origin

Experience in the rubber tapping regions | Photo: DMC

Seringal Novo Encanto is an area that is very similar to the environment where Mestre Gabriel lived during the time he worked as a rubber tapper in the Amazon and still preserves the rubber tapping roads (the rubber tappers’ paths), rubber trees and other trees native to the forest, including Mariri and Chacrona. It is located in the Amazonian municipality of Lábrea, on the border with the State of Acre.

In the midst of World War II (1943), the Brazilian government, aiming to increase the extraction of latex from rubber trees, native to the Amazon rainforest, recruited an army of “rubber soldiers” and gave young northeasterners the option of going to the Amazon to collect latex. In 1944, Mestre Gabriel embarked on a ship to Belém (PA), bound for Porto Velho, the then capital of the Guaporé Federal Territory, now the State of Rondônia. In the region, he worked in different rubber plantations in Acre, Rondônia and in Bolivia, where he found the Vegetal.

Since then, much has changed, especially due to deforestation in the area. Because of this, the Novo Encanto Association of Ecological Development plays a fundamental role in the work of revitalization and conservation of the forest areas where Mariri and Chacrona are native.

Moved by an ideal

Mestre José Roberto, President of the Novo Encanto, and the explorers | Photo: DMC

With the situation of deforestation that pronounced itself at the end of the 1980s, Mestre Luiz Maciel da Costa (in memoriam) and Luiz Gonzaga Alves Filho (Núcleo João Lango Moura, Rio Branco-AC), now a representative of the state of Acre, joined together to accomplish an ideal: to obtain an area of the forest that could be preserved.

A poet once said, “a dream that is dreamt together is reality.” In order to make this “dream” a reality, a group of environmentalists who shared the same spiritualized view of nature, led by Mestre Raimundo Monteiro de Souza, founded the Novo Encanto Association of Ecological Development on January 30th, 1990. With the financial assistance of Jeffrey Bronfman (now Mestre in the União do Vegetal, M. Jeffrey is responsible for the Authorized Vegetal Distribution of Hawaii – USA and Vice-President of the General Directorate) bought the seringal that gave the name to the Association.

Currently, the integration between the União do Vegetal and the Novo Encanto activities is growing stronger. The General Representative Mestre and the President of the General Directorate, Mestre Tadeo Feijão, are members of the Board of Directors of Novo Encanto, demonstrating the importance of the Association for the Center’s activities.

In the experience in the forest, the explorers make contact with intact nature and can perceive the grandeur and wealth of a balanced environment. The contrast with devastated areas, especially for clearing pasture is evident. “Our objective with these explorers is to make it so that more people give credence to the importance of environmental conservation and that the members are aware of the work that still needs to be done to ensure the preservation of this area,” said the President of Novo Encanto, Mestre José Roberto.

“During the five-day visit, we prepared an agenda that allowed the explorers to see the way of life in the Amazon rubber plantations forests, the simple life and its principle difficulties, as well as the abilities that this way of life provides, especially the visit to the Seringal Sunta, cradle of the Creation of the União do Vegetal “, added Mestre José Roberto.

The result is that the explorers could see in practice what a rubber tree is like, the wooden houses were the rubber tappers would stay and their rubber highways (as the paths that were traditionally used by the rubber tappers are called) and the traditional form of harvesting latex. Besides making contact with the main native species of the forest, such as Apuí, Samaúma, Castanheira, Pau-d’Arco, Mulateiro, Imburana-de-Cheiro, Carapanaúba, Massaranduba, Copaíba and Andiroba, among others.

Support from UDV associates for preservation

Mário Marques, Central Assistant Mestre of the 7th Region, recalled that the objective is for this expedition to spread and reach the Núcleos of the União do Vegetal. “We are living in the União do Vegetal at a time where the Novo Encanto is directly integrated with the Center. The seringal is a native forest, on the banks of the Rio Iquiri, a very rich place. We have the support of the partners of the Center to preserve this paradise,” he said.

For the General Representative Mestre, the experience in the seringal increased the friendship between explorers and organizers. “In addition to living in the forest, learning about the main trees that comprise it, their practical uses and medicinal uses, going swimming in the river, the historical facts of the time when rubber was extracted and the peace felt during the days in contact with nature, the explorers and the organizers of the gathering created strong and lifelong bonds of friendship,” he observed.

*Flavio Gut is a member of the Instructive Body of Núcleo São João Batista (Mairiporã-SP) and Communications Advisor of the Novo Encanto de Desenvolvimento Ecológico.

Translation Coordinator: Isabel Cavalcante, member of the Body of Counsel of Núcleo Jardim Florescendo (Gainesville, FL – USA) | Translated by Patrick Medina, member of the Instructive Body of the Núcleo Claridade Divina (Seattle – WA, USA) | Revised by Martin Brendecke, member of the Instructive Body of the Núcleo Claridade Divina (Seattle – WA, USA).
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