Mick Bonamer
Student explores his roots on UC study tour

The biennial UC honors study tour to the Brazilian Amazon attracts adventure-seeking students for a variety of reasons. For freshman Mick Bonamer, the trip was a chance to explore his family’s roots.

Their motivations for embarking on the University of Cincinnati honors study tour of the Brazilian Amazon were as diverse as the 16 students themselves.  

For some, it was the chance to set forth on an adventure of epic proportions in a place teeming with some of the world’s most beautiful, but deadly creatures. For others, it was a journey into an ecological treasure whose depths and riches are unimaginable but for those who experience its majesty firsthand. Others still wanted to immerse themselves in the rich culture and social fabric of Brazil’s Amazonas region. 

For Mick Bonamer, the 10-day study tour offered a more personal connection: the chance to better understand where he came from – and where he wants to go.

A freshman majoring in chemical engineering, Mick had grown up hearing the fantastical tales of his father Andy’s formative childhood years in the Brazilian Amazon. Upon arriving to the Amazon, he quickly realized that his dad’s oft-told stories, as colorful as they were, “paled in comparison to the real thing,” he said.

It was Mick’s grandfather and his work in the mineral and metallurgy field that brought the family of eight to South America, first to Argentina when Andy was four, and then six years later, to the Brazilian city of Macapá, located near where the mouth of the mighty Amazon River meets the rush of the Atlantic Ocean.


Over the next four years, the Bonamer family embraced their new lives in their adopted city straddling the equator. For 10-year-old Andy, the Brazilian Amazon also became a place of irresistible exploration in a world many children only read about in books. 

Andy often regaled his sons at the dinner table with tales of carefree snowball-like mango fights among the neighborhood kids, of diving deep along the banks of the Amazon River to scoop up clay for art class projects in the village’s one-room schoolhouse, and of how the entire block would hear when he got in trouble, thanks to his home’s breezy open windows.

He spoke of grand parties hosted by his parents, Don and Sue, who owned the only record player in the village; of buying bread and milk from a vendor who made his rounds daily by bicycle; and how one measured time not by watch, but by the predictable 6 a.m. sunrise and 6 p.m. sunset. 

“He said his favorite thing to do was to go swimming in the rainy season during a downpour and go underwater so that everything was quiet and you could see the raindrops hitting the surface of the water above you,” Mick recalled, of his father’s stories. 

“It was always this exciting, fantasy world he would tell me,” he said “[The UC study tour] gives me new appreciation and respect for my father. It’s not that I didn’t respect him before, but I couldn’t understand really everything he had experienced in his childhood.”   

Andy Bonamer, right, shown here with his family at a hut where the family had a barbeque lunch in the Brazilian Amazon. Andy, whose son Mick Bonamer is a freshman at UC, lived in the Amazon from the ages of 10-14. Mick signed up for the UC Honors study tour of the Brazilian Amazon in an effort to better understand his family's roots.  Photo courtesy of the Bonamer family
Mick Bonamer

Being in the Amazon and seeing the supportive family structures of the Brazilian people in the villages and cities also helped him better understand the close-knit unity of his father’s family, which has carried over to the next generations, said Mick.

“It brought them closer together,” he said, of the region’s strong emphasis on family. “The Bonamers have been out of Brazil for a long time, but there are still elements of that familial structure. When my dad and his siblings were in college, the older siblings provided financial support for the younger siblings.” 

One tradition that’s persisted: The singing of “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese at family birthday celebrations.

While he’s not sure yet what he wants to do professionally, Mick says he’s now considering tacking on a minor in environmental studies to supplement his chemical engineering major, so that he can better understand the environmental ramifications of the products and chemicals he’ll later help produce.

Being in the Amazon and experiencing the hum and roar of the jungle and all the wonders harbored within, he explains, has ignited an even greater passion for the environment and greater sense of responsibility to preserve it.

“I’m seeing a different side of science,” he said.

Now, when the family gathers at the dinner table for another round of his father’s incredible tales about his childhood in the Brazilian Amazon, this time, Mick says, he’ll have his own stories to share.  


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