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Soccer and soap operas in the Amazon

Even in a remote Amazon village, TV sets are tuned to stereotypically Brazilian obsessions.

Nair herself stayed away from the TV, tending to the tucunare — a white-fleshed fish among the easiest to catch in the Aripuana River. She fried it in a free-standing clay stove called a fugareiro, on the back porch-turned-kitchen. Onezimo, who has a wizened face but a shockingly full head of suspiciously black hair, stepped in to watch. “Soccer and novelas, we like it all here,” he said.

A few doors down in Dona Maria’s house — all houses are in a straight line along the steep slope that dips down to the river — 10 people were still tuned to the novela.

Toward the far end of the community, the third TV had attracted a smaller audience. Ivaneti Saraiva Rodrigues was plopped on the floor watching the soap with her husband Milton, their 5-year-old son Andre and 8-year-old daughter Graziele.

Ivaneti was thoroughly enjoying the new soap more than the one that preceded it, "Caminho das Indias," which took place largely in India. “I find this one better,” she said. “The other one was really unattractive.” All were mesmerized, but there was some evidence that Andre would have liked to change the channel: He had his arm around a soccer ball.

The fourth TV had one lone viewer: Cleude Braga Paola, one of the community leaders. He had arrived a bit late (“I was over there, chatting with my buddies,” he said), and had flipped on the soccer game, as, like Milton and many of the men, he was not a fan of the soaps. “My daughters like them,” he said. “They go to another house to watch.”

They’d be home soon. In just a few hours, the generator whirred to a halt, the lights went out, and with roosters slated to start crowing at first light, it was time for bed. Make that, time for hammock.