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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 52

region he has explored have begun to tread the road of civilization. They have taken the first steps toward becoming Christians. It may seem strange that among the first-fruits of the efforts of a Positivist should be the conversion of those he seeks to benefit to Christianity. But in South America Christianity is at least as much a status as a theology. It represents the indispensable first step upward from savagery. In the wilder and poorer districts men are divided into the two great classes of “Christians” and “Indians.” When an Indian becomes a Christian he is accepted into and becomes wholly absorbed or partly assimilated by the crude and simple neighboring civilization, and then he moves up or down like any one else among his fellows.
  Among Colonel Rondon’s companions were Captain Amilcar de Magalhães, Lieutenant João Lyra, Lieutenant Joaquin de Mello Filho, and Doctor Euzebio de Oliveira, a geologist.
  The steamers halted; Colonel Rondon and several of his officers, spick and span in their white uniforms, came aboard; and in the afternoon I visited him on his steamer to talk over our plans. When these had been fully discussed and agreed on we took tea. I happened to mention that one of our naturalists, Miller, had been bitten by a piranha, and the man-eating fish at once became the subject of conversation. Curiously enough, one of the Brazilian taxidermists had also just been severely bitten by a piranha. My new companions had story after story to tell of them. Only three weeks previously a twelve-year-old boy who had gone in swimming near Corumb&á was attacked, and literally devoured alive by them. Colonel