The rubber rush in the Amazon led to the death of thousands of indigenous people

Human history has very dark and little known events. The rubber storm was one of them. It was developed in the Amazon region in South America and had the “weeping tree” as its protagonist. That’s what the natives called it and extracted rubber or caoutchouc from it.Rubber tree - tree

Advanced technology sparked the rubber frenzy

It’s Hevea Brasiliensis, which emits a milky white substance that turns out to be an elastic polymer that turns into rubber when processed. Charles Goodyear discovered that the extracted latex was converted into a multi-use product through boiling and subsequent treatment.

Years later, John Dunlop invented bicycle tires with the Goodyear Discovery. Finally, with the invention of the automobile, rubber fever was triggered.

The construction of a railroad that caused thousands of deaths

It was in the mid-19th century when property seekers, opportunists, and others in search of rubber invaded the Amazon. Julio César Arana, an unscrupulous merchant, acquired large areas and enslaved indigenous tribes for their extraction and transportation.

Meanwhile, the Englishman Henry Wickman extracted 70,000 seeds from the rubber plant. In the so-called first case of biopiracy, the seeds were shipped to Asia.

Transporting the rubber had many problems and turned out to be very expensive. In order to reduce costs, building a railroad was considered, although building it was also an inhumane problem. Frequent and abundant rains, earthquakes, insects, poisonous snakes, the attack of jaguars, and disease made work hell.

Madeira-Mamoré Railway Locomotive – Wikipedia. Image from 

There were no hospitals or doctors in the middle of the jungle. It is estimated that 6,000 people died while building the railroad. Although the total debacle came when the train was ready to go because the price of rubber fell and it never reversed that trend.

This economic disaster was a result of Wickman’s theft of seeds. He planted them in Malaysia and kept the cost as low as possible. More acceptable terrain, good planning and layout drew investors’ attention to the English colonies in Asia.

Financial failure and court verdict

The rubber fever triggered in the Amazon region resulted in the deaths of 40,000 indigenous people. In 1909, an American engineer named Walter Handenburg brought the world to the attention of the atrocities that Arana and his brothers had inflicted on indigenous tribes in the area.

Thousands of indigenous people were enslaved and killed during the rubber drunkenness.
© W Hardenburg

In various articles published in Truth magazine, the young man described the abuses committed by the Arana brothers and the news reached the English Parliament. In 1910 a commission was sent to investigate the accuracy of the complaints.

It is not convenient to describe the atrocities that were committed in the Amazon. Suffice it to say, they only killed for pleasure. You were found guilty by the UK court and it was the end of the company.

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