This is my second time in Iquitos having first arrived here from the journey down the Rio Napo from Ecuador. The town is a one of a kind place with a one of a kind history. I like that.
This place has a very tragic (relatively recent) history. It is a classic example of the worst of human behavior. Tragic and horrible consequences result when one group of (invading) humans equipped with ‘higher technology’ who are locked into a personal power trip begin to use their power. The human beings who lived here prior to the encroaching invaders had a hard enough time adapting to the survival terms dictated by Nature.
I am referring to what recent history calls: The Rubber Boom.
The Iquitos rubber boom likely would not occurred if it hadn’t been preceded by another boom in another part of the world. That boom started with the discovery of the black liquid that oozed out of the ground and was first commercialized in Pennsylvania (of all places) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_oil_rush
Along comes a man whose vision is to do away with the horse and buggy… and get fabulously rich in the process. Henry Ford. The one that was born in 1863 and died in 1947. The Henry Ford who historians credit with inventing ‘mass production’… the assembly line. The Henry Ford whose 4 x 6 foot portrait graced the walls of a fellow named Adolf Hitler. The same Henry Ford who visited Iquitos to observe the process that provided his cars with the pneumatic rubber tires on which they rode.
History has threads. Following those threads is the only way a person now alive can make any sense of how social orders got to be the way they are.
Let us review, shall we? Automobiles required several conditions to exist in order for them to become ‘practical’. 1. Lots of coal to make lots of steel. Check. (Thanks Andrew)2. An easily produced and available fuel to run the engine. Check.(Thanks John) 3. A network of roads upon which to operate them. Check. (Horses and buggies required roads too). And finally 4. The new mechanical horse and buggy needed reliable, durable, and ‘comfortable’ wheels that made contact with the road surface. Check. #4 had complications… but was ‘under development’. Thanks to couple other USA fellows from the midwest: Charles Goodyear and Harvey Samuel Firestone.
(Was all this developing really a ‘good idea’ in the long term scheme of things? I purport to have no definitive answer, I merely encourage the reader to ponder the question in the privacy or their own mind)
Notice that all of those discoveries, inventions, and men converged at nearly the same time. They all looked at it as ‘progress’. Goodyear: 1800/1860, Rockefeller: 1839/1937, Carnegie: 1839/1937, Ford: 1863/1947, Firestone: 1868/1938
Back to Iquitos. In one of the local museums there is a photograph of Henry Ford standing next to one Julio Cesar Arana del Aguila. Julio was the man who set out to solve the resource problem for Firestone and Ford. The natural latex that drips out of trees when slashed (Natural rubber) existed only in the Amazon basin at that time. Julio’s plan included the old tried and true method of marshaling a huge labor crew in short order: slavery. (A brief history of Julio Cesar Arana – http://www.iquitostimes.com/julio.htm
And where might Julio find the humans who would be best adapted to the local conditions and who knew what a rubber tree looked like? Why, the local indigenous Amazonian tribal peoples, of course. Problem was, that they didn’t ‘slave’ well. The solution: A few dozen other psychopaths equipped with guns who would be willing to bring these primitive folks ‘in line’ for a fee and some special privileges of their own. Add that to the proclivity of government folks to ‘grant privileges’ to corporations for a small fee and the ‘rubber boom’ is off and running. Some items from one of Aranas boats. The photo on the wall is of the captain of the vessel.
All of this stuff happens because having power over other human beings releases the worst in human behavior and acts like a dangerous drug in the hearts and minds of those who have it. (Noted by John Dalberg-Acton – http://www.acton.org/research/lord-acton )
More later… have to leave the computer and go explore the local environs. May look at a piece of land on the Nanay river… a half hour from Iquitos in a small powered canoe. 20 acres, with full legal title (many properties do not have ‘legal title’ status) Modest price. Opportunity knocks… or is that me doing the knocking and opportunity is a seductive siren beckoning? Who knows?