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Amazon Rain Forest

The Amazon rain forest is an enormous expanse of territory that collects the river flow.

The Amazon burst into Peruvian consciousness in the late 19th century during the Rubber Boom. Harvesting the sap from the wild expanses of the rain forest is one of the lesser know tales of adventure and exploitation in the Amazon. Entire native tribes were put in force labor. Iquitos was the center of Peru's rubber trade , while in neighboring Brazil much larger fortunes flowed through Manaus. By 1910, the rubber trade had seen its better days because the British had snatched the seeds of Hevea brasiliensis tree and transferred them to their Asian colonies, mainly Ceylon and Malaysia.

Since the 1950s, the Amazon has been an area of expansion as settlers moved down from the mountains, opening up the foothills and then the broad Amazon plain. In the 1960s, President Fernando Belaunde saw the Amazon as the equivalent of the American west, a frontier with boundless opportunity. He proposed that the Marginal Highway (referring to its local on the eastern slopes of the Andes) transverse the foothills and join the penetration roads into the jungle. But the settlers found themselves unable to sustain profitable agriculture. But the roads were constantly being cut by landslides or turned into muddy ruts that swallowed trucks. Farmers frequently ended up with produce rotting in the fields or in trucks. New government schemes for corn, rice, palm oil, or bananas. In the end, many farmers found out that the only profitable crop was coca, the legendary plant that was chewed to relieve fatigue.

Since the 1970s, the Amazon has been caught between the risks of exploiting its natural resources, like petroleum and natural case, and the growing importance of the cocaine trade in the local economy.

Personal Exposure

The Amazon was not my favorite spot in Peru because I did not like the heat or mosquitos, but it was a fascinating place to travel. I first landed in Peru in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, as a college student in 1971 on a freight flight that took on passengers as a sideline on its run to and from Miami. Round trip cost was $200. With my touring class, we spent a couple of nights in the interior, went hunting with the guide for monkey and then ate it for supper, and got deathly sick with dysentary on my night back in Iquitos.

When I returned to Peru in 1974, I did not make it back to the Amazon for another 10 years. When I became a freelance journalist, I reported on gold mining in Madre de Dios and rice-farming pioneers in the Lower Huallaga valley. I got stranded in Pucallpa when Alan Garcia's campaign plane could not limp over the Andes in 1985. I did multiple stories on the cocaine trafficking that centers in the Upper Huallaga valley.

Natural Resource Development and Controversy

The Camisea Natural Gas Project has ignited a lot of international controversy. The government and the project consortium has made its point of view available in Camisea Project website.

Concerns about the ecological impact of the project caused the U.S. Export-Import Bank to turn down a loan. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) awarded a loan despite strong opposition from environment groups.

Resources: Smithsonian Institute- Peru Project partnership The Torch (October 1998) ::: Amazon Alliance for Indigenous and Traditioanl Peoples of the Amazon Basin ::: information portal ::: Shinai Serjali is a grass-roots non-profit organisation working to support isolated indigenous peoples who live in the remote rainforests of S.E. Peru ::: See the library ::: Cabeceras Aid Project ::: Humid Tropical Deforestation Project - Unversity of Maryland ::: ::: The Living Edens: Manu, Peru's Hidden Rain Forest ::: Plants of the Machiguenga ::: Rainforest Conservation Fund ::: Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation ::: Gone Wild Productions - Lance and Belinda Peck in Puerto Maldonado - Tropical fish ::: Cocha Cashu Biological Station


I am including some links here on the issues of drug trafficking, the War on Drugs and the implications for Peru. When I started pulling together, I came to realize that I was really treading on thin ice. These subjects are not summed up in a few paragraphs and links. Pat answers and kneejerk reactions do not provide insight. Because the War on Drugs is such a polarized issue, there is little neutral ground or uncolored opinion. But avoiding the topic is not going to help understand where Peru is coming from and what chances it has of creating a viable society. This resource is going to focus on the natural resource implications of coca because it fits appropriately with the scope of this site.

Coca Vault ::: MamaCoca ::: Erythroxylum coca ::: PeruVillage and Coca Mate Tea ::: Wikipedia entry for coca ::: Coca, cocaine and crack ::: Coca Museum

War on Drugs: Trinational Institute - Drugs and Democracy