In 1962 a friend of a friend of Antonio Pedro Marcelino came across a very old book that had survived a flood.
It told of Jesuit priests and the treasure they buried along the Santa Catarina coast. The riches were so vast that they couldn't bury them all in one place. The book contained detailed instructions on how to find each deposit. It also contained detailed instructions on how to cast spells of witchcraft to deter ones enemies.
The treasure consisted mostly of gold from the United States, said the book. It represented the savings of sundry North Americans who had entrusted their family nest eggs to the priests back when banks were few and far between. When the Jesuits came to be persecuted by authorities and ultimately sentenced to death, they took the money and ran. Or sailed. Southward to Santa Catarina.
Antonio Pedro's buddy Milton borrowed the book, and the pair studied it carefully. They prudently ignored the witchcraft, of course. "I skipped those parts," says Antonio Pedro. Except the part about sending a frog with its mouth sewn tight to knock off your nemesis.
Armed with the book's inside information, Antonio Pedro and Milton formed a partnership and set out to do some spadework along the King's Road, the royal right-of-way path that still parallels the Atlantic in some places, where the gold was buried.
Antonio Pedro and Milton weren't the only ones after these riches. A chap from Encantado beach moved more quickly and found a treasure that was marked by three rocks. Undeterred, Antonio Pedro kept looking. Along the beach in the city of Imbituba, he spotted a sign that he recalled from the book. He ran to his sister's house for tools. But when he returned, the treasure was gone. "I saw a guy with a sack slung over his shoulder," he says. "He ran away. Otherwise the government would have taken away part of his money."
Another time, Antonio Pedro and Milton set out in search of a stash said to be buried on a nearby island. This island happened to be inhabited by one of the region's toughest characters. Antonio Pedro and Milton found the place pockmarked with freshly dug holes. All in the wrong places, according to the book. The two partners snuck around the back way and found the right spot, appropriately marked with an X. Just as they were about to break ground, the local bruiser burst upon them.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Researching what? This island is mine!"
Rather than risk a catastrophic confrontation with the local bully, the fortune hunters slunk back to their boat.
"The guy had a dream about the treasure," recalls Antonio Pedro, "and he was digging all over to find it."
Another lost opportunity.
Besides the fact that he hasn't found any, Antonio Pedro says that there is only one downside to treasure hunting: "The book said that whoever finds the treasure will lose the person that he most cares for."
God help Antonio Pedro's still vibrant wife. At 71, he still seeks a mule footprint on a rock. If he finds it, he'll wait until sunrise on January 1. A friend measuring precisely 1 meter 60 centimeters will climb atop the boulder. Where his friend's shadow hits will mark the spot where two mule loads of gold and silver are buried.
Photo courtesy of Bebeto of The Rosebud Pousada.
Bill Hinchberger's visit to Praia do Rosa was made possible by the support of the Associated Inns of Rosa (PROA), New Age Tour Operator, and Transbrasil. For more information about whale watching, ecotourism, surfing, or whatever along this slice of the Santa Catarina coast, visit the PROA website.