Memoir of building a life in the remote Brazilian jungle.
In 1989, with their children grown and an itch for change, Le Breton (The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang, 2008, etc.) and her husband Robin left Washington, D.C., and purchased a farm in an isolated mountain region in southeastern Brazil. They named the farm Iracambi, a Tupi Indian word meaning “Land of Milk and Honey.” However, it was anything but, with no electricity, no plumbing, no phone, mud roads that became impassable when it rained and a bridge to their property that threatened to collapse at any minute. Robin, an agricultural economist, was more prepared for the challenge of their new life, but Le Breton, a concert pianist, doubted her abilities and willingness to make Iracambi her permanent home. Perhaps more troubling was the insular and conservative nature of their new neighbors, who were passive in the face of generations of grinding poverty and deeply suspicious of outsiders. But there was work to be done, and slowly life on the farm began to improve. Iracambi became a successful cattle ranch, and Robin began plans for a new farm house. To help them, they hired a number of local people, and through such contacts they formed mutual bonds of respect and, eventually, love. Le Breton and Robin became a catalyst for much-needed change in the region, hiring women to work on seeding forest land and encouraging their new friends to take local elections seriously and elect leadership that would actually do something for them. Change did come, with new schools, paved roads, health services and, in the local village, the universal sign of progress: “a forest of television antennae.” The author changed as well, coming to love Iracambi and finding herself more capable than she thought.
A good read for armchair travelers.