by Matt Sandy, Time
On the southern crest of the unscathed Amazon rain forest, a storm inundates a wooden shack just off a sodden mud road. Inside, Antonio Bertola sits clutching a $1 beer under a painting of the Virgin Mary, his face ruddy and his clothes tatty from a lifetime of work on the land. The frontier town of Realidade is a mere speck on a changing map. To the north stretch hundreds of billions of trees and more than 1 million species never charted by man. To the south the muddy trail of human conquest reaches back for centuries. In a bittersweet tone of voice, Bertola recounts how his family of migrants had hungered for prosperity, security and, most of all, land to call their own.
Five decades ago Brazil incentivized millions of its people to colonize the Amazon. Today their logging yards, cattle enclosures and soy farms sit on the fringes of a vanishing forest. Powered by murky sources of capital and rising demand for beef, a violent and corrupt frontier is now pushing into indigenous land, national parks and one of the most preserved parts of the jungle.
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