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Revista Brasileira de História

Print version ISSN 0102-0188On-line version ISSN 1806-9347

Abstract

BRITO, Cristina. People, Manatees and the Aquatic Environment in Early Modern Americas: Confluence and Divergence in the Historical Relationships Between Humans and Animals. Rev. Bras. Hist. [online]. 2019, vol.39, n.81, pp.162-184.  Epub July 15, 2019. ISSN 0102-0188.  https://doi.org/10.1590/1806-93472019v39n81-08.

The manatee (manati of the West Indies, also called manatim or iguaragua in colonial Brazil) was highly valued and presented a broad historical geographic distribution in coastal, transitional and fluvial areas of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Documental and iconographic sources of the 16th and 17th centuries show us that it was used as food and for medicinal purposes, to manufacture tools or even as a pet. Moreover, its economic and symbolic value was equally relevant. Continued overexploitation led to the disappearance of many populations of manatees, which are currently at the brinck of extinction. We will explore, from the point of view of marine environmental history, the pragmatic and symbolic meaning of the manatee in close connection to the importance given to rivers and watercourses. We also expect to contribute to place manatees and their ecosystem at the center of the discussion about the environmental and sociocultural contexts and interactions of indigenous and colonial societies in the Americas of the modern period.

Keywords : marine environmental history; humans and non-humans; riverine ecosystems; early modern age perceptions.

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