Eyewitness Accounts during the Putumayo Rubber Boom

Manuel Antonio Mesones Muro—the Madman of the Marañon River, Cárlos Oyague y Calderón—the State Engineer, and Roger Casement—Not of the Real World Humanitarian

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Between 1870 and 1915 Peru experienced a rubber-boom, extending into the Putumayo River region in 1893. This huge region of Amazonian forests was controlled by the Peruvian Amazon Company (P. A. Co.). Although Peruvian, they had British company directors and a British-Barbadian workforce. Their methods of extraction generated unimaginable degrees of human and ecological violence. Roger Casement, a British diplomat, was sent on a harrowing mission to investigate these allegations made by travelers. His Amazon Journal takes precedence; however, Peruvians also responded to the situation, reporting to the Geographical Society of Lima. Included are two forgotten yet influential Peruvian explorers: the geographer Manuel Antonio Mesones Muro and the engineer Cárlos Oyague y Calderón. By highlighting some of the early debates that circulated between Europe and Latin America on the natural resources and people of the Amazon forests, the focus is to draw out textual examples of perceptions on race, environment, and early consumer responsibility. Supported by coloniality/modernity theories, it also asks whether this form of travel writing was functioning as a resistance literature to imperialism for the time. Thus, this study investigates alternative readings that might also inform twenty-first-century scholars and activists as they articulate environmentalist and even social and ecological positions.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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