Go South, Young Man (Aug, 1954)
Go South, Young Man
Amazonia, a land of fabulous unclaimed wealth, beckons now to men of vision.
By Lester David
THIS is the story of the richest treasure trove in the world today and of frontiersmen who are tapping bonanzas from a land of incredible opportunity. It is the story of a territory that has a welcome sign up for venturesome pioneers, backed by a promise of untold wealth. It is, in short, the story of the mammoth Amazon River basin in South America, by far the greatest storehouse of unworked natu- ral resources on the face of the globe.
Dangerous—impenetrable—a green hell. That’s what the area has been called. But the strongbox is finally being unlocked by Americans as well as pioneers from other countries.
There’s Robin H. McGlohn, for one.
McGlohn used to fly planes for Pan-American World Airways and for years was imbued with a restless urge to make the southward trek. Finally he took the plunge. Now he controls a vast empire of rubber, hides, lumber, gold and precious stones.
When McGlohn first ventured into the Amazon a few years ago, he did pretty well and persuaded two former Navy fliers, John Paul Sammons and Philip N. Blotner, to come down and join him. Blotner made a trip up the Tapajos River, one of the Amazon’s tributaries, and came back with an exciting story. A firm known as the Alto Tapajos Company was old and tired and its holdings were for sale. “The whole river above the rapids,” he reported, “is on the block.”
“Let’s buy it,” McGlohn said promptly.
“Sure,” replied Blotner, “but they want $300,000 down.”
“Okay,” said McGlohn and took off for New York City to raise the necessary capital. He buzzed around the city, talking up the wonderful opportunity and in a short time raked together the cash. Then he went back to the Amazon and found himself overlord of 400,000 acres of land on the Upper Tapajos, 24,000 acres on the island of Gurapa and about 4,000 jungle Brazilians who dwelled on his holdings. McGlohn is doing fine and is convinced that other hardy pioneers can do the same. He knows from firsthand experience that the region holds the largest deposits of highgrade iron ore in the world and that there’s enough there to supply all the nations of the earth, not for years, but actually for centuries. And iron ore isn’t all. McGlohn has an office in the Brazilian city of Belem just crammed with samples of tin, bauxite, copper, lead and even gold ores. Each is a symbol of a potential mine, great and rich, somewhere in the broad, oak-leafed basin which stretches across six countries of the continent.
Then there’s young George Nale. George used to run a sawmill in California and for a long time he read and heard stories of the fabulous frontierland. The idea took root, wouldn’t be dislodged and ultimately he pulled up stakes and headed south.
Now understand this: The world’s greatest timberlands lie in the Amazon jungles. There is such a super-abundance of valuable woods that skippers of small craft plying the rivers actually stoke their boilers with logs of rare mahogany! Name a tree and you will find millions of them in the vastnesses of Amazonia. There are more than 20,000 different varieties, bearing the choicest woods for the construction of fine furniture and cabinets. American, Canadian and Russian forestlands are picayune compared to these.
George Nale knew when he went down; that’s why he went. He cast his eye on a large tract of virgin timber not far from Belem and is now in the sawmill business there, selling his lumber on the local market.
They say there’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, but there are a lot of rich men, too. Listen to the story of a push-cart peddler who founded an empire more fabulous than any maharajah’s.
Back before the turn of the century, Francisco Matarazzo was one of a group of immigrant Italians, Germans, Britons, Slavs and other Europeans who settled in Brazil. Many of them began small business enterprises that flourished well, but most spectacular of all was the man who started a tiny lard-rendering business after he had saved enough money from working as a day laborer.
Matarazzo reinvested his profits, expanded his enterprise, launched new businesses until today his son runs an organization called Industrias Reunidas F. Matarazzo, the most incredibly successful organization of its kind in the world. The firm employs 30,000 workers in its 367 plants which consist of textile factories, food enterprises and 80-odd other miscellaneous products.
Count Francisco Matarazzo, Jr., is a rich man indeed, but he’s not the only wealthy gentleman in Brazil. Talk about your Texas millionaires—they move to the rear when some of these Brazilians come into view. Some of their moneyed exploits make the spending hi-jinks of the Texans seem penny-ante stuff.
The count, for example, recently mar- ried off his daughter and really made a job of it. He brought 800 guests down to the city of Sao Paulo by private train and tossed around gold gifts like rose petals. Now the count had a yen for a special kind of cheese and since he couldn’t get it at the corner supermarket he simply imported a large herd of Italian buffalo to provide same. And the womenfolk had to have their hair done up in extra-special style—so what could be more natural than to call in a couple of French hairdressers? He got them from Paris, of course, by plane!
Francisco Pignatari, 36-year-old nephew of the count, is another Brazilian gentleman of means. He took over the family’s metals plant a few years ago and made it into the largest non-ferrous rolling mill in South America. When he had to have a house for his bride, he built her a million-dollar mansion complete with two Turkish baths, bowling alley and two swimming pools, one indoors, one outdoors. The indoor one is like an Arabian Nights fantasy. It’s 130 ft. long and at one end is a stunning waterfall 30 ft. wide and 21 ft. high. One swims beneath the cascade and emerges in a breathtaking grotto equipped with a bar, lounges and all the refinements of leisure.
In the city of Manaos is another fabulously wealthy Brazilian named Agesislau Araujo who operates a host of factories, mills and even a fleet of steamers. He owns 36 ranches and a vast number of trading posts. He’s the proprietor of a tract of land roughly the size of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia combined! Still another Croesus is Antonio de Moura Andrade, whose holdings include a 120,000-acre ranch with 90,000 head of cattle, 2,500,000 coffee trees and a fleet of five planes. And he single-handedly supports a city, called Andradina in his honor, the size of Green Bay, Wis.
Yes, it’s a land of moneyed men and what do they think of the opportunities there? Araujo sums up their feelings with this vital statement: ‘This country is about like the North American west two centuries ago . . . it’s wealth is fabulous.”
It’s a dramatic and revealing remark. Empires, you will recall, were built in America by the men who heeded Horace Greeley’s injunction to “go west, young man, go west.” And now, here’s a new place which offers the same opportunities to men with guts and vision.
What, specifically, is there?
There are fortunes in rubber, minerals, chemical and medicinal resources. There are fully 500 different types of palms which produce such important and commercially valuable substances as waxes, dyes, sugar, resins, oils, fruits, starch and fixatives for perfumes.
The possibilities are limitless and even the wealthy Mr. Araujo finds new wonders almost every day. Not long ago he discovered that workers were tossing away waste fibres from jute plants which could not be used in the manufacture of coarse cloth. There were tons of the stuff around and Araujo figured something could be done with it. He got chemists busy and received his answer in a short time—the jute waste made wonderful wrapping paper. Another industry was born.
What else? Copper, beryllium and tungsten which are in such great demand throughout the world; industrial and even gem diamonds; quartz crystal, vital in the manufacture of precision instruments; inexhaustible fisheries; salt mines—a new one, which is believed to be the largest on earth, has just been discovered.
How about agriculture? Listen to Mrs. Joan Bowen, an American who settled in Goias, a Brazilian interior state. She describes the area as ideal for the cultivation of a list of crops as long as your arm. To name a few: coffee, rice, corn, beans, cotton, tobacco, pineapples, guavas, mangoes, avocadoes, grapes and all kinds of citrus fruits. “Chicken and eggs are very cheap to raise,” she adds, “and can be produced and shipped by plane to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo at a good profit. Hogs are also an excellent business especially profitable because of the bumper crops of corn raised.” And not the least of the inducements: filet mignon steak costs 30 cents a pound!
Then there’s another resource which makes millionaires—oil. Declares Willard Price in his book, “The Amazing Amazon,” “A good part of Brazil, it is believed, floats upon a sea of the precious fluid and similar liquid wealth abounds under the river country of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.”
From one end of South America to the other there is a spectacular business boom unequalled in the continent’s history. Take Venezuela, for example. General Motors, Chrysler and the General Tire Co. are but a few major U. S. firms which have opened plants there. In fact, a vast construction program is now under full steam. The government is spending a whopping $2,-300,000,000 on improvements such as new roads and buildings and already thousands of Americans have funneled into the country to cash in on the bonanza. The point is that when so much money is being spent on improvements there is an enormous market for everything from tractors to shoe horns.
So Americans have set up businesses ranging from Yankee handicraft shops to amusement parks. Sam Bakerman, from New York City, cast his eye at Coney Island in Brooklyn, then looked at Venezuela. He put them together and actually set up a Coney Island in the latter’s capital city of Caracas. Now the residents happily loop-the-loop, grab for the brass rings on the merry-go-rounds and pop away with rifles at clay pigeons, causing the cash to jingle merrily in Sam’s pockets.
Jack Reynolds also figured it right. No miner or engineer was Jack, just an insurance man. With money floating around, he reckoned that he could make himself a tidy little business in Venezuela. So down he went, opened an office and soon was swamped with business. His agency, one of the most active in the entire city of Caracas, writes policies totalling millions annually.
There’s one interesting point to bear in mind about Venezuela. The tax laws are extremely favorable to individuals and corporations. The government receives such a vast revenue from petroleum royalties that it doesn’t need to bother with income taxes which are consequently low.
They are calling Venezuela a Klondike with a Spanish accent because it’s oil-rich, iron-rich and getting richer all the time as developers continue to tap what nature has put into the land.
Head south to the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil and see a metropolis that has increased by 67 per cent in the past decade and which has been called the world’s fastest-growing major urban center. The boom is going on at such a fevered pace that when Walter Gropius, the famous architect, visited the 400-year-old city not long ago, he observed: “Sao Paulo does not grow … it explodes!”
Says one resident: “Go out in any direction and buy land; any land, swamp, hillside, anything. It will be worth ten times what you paid for it before long.”
There’s money to be made in Sao Paulo and Americans are finding it out. Already thousands have poured into the city. One has set up a chain of restaurants, another .has gone into the building business, a third into advertising. All are doing well and all report that the future looks rosy because the city’s two-and-a-half-million persons are rubbing elbows in the crowded streets, fighting for adequate transportation, constantly complaining about the housing shortage.