It may be true that most people come to this jungle city to get into farther-out places in the Amazon, but before leaving Iquitos, it’s a good idea to take some time to explore the history of this part of the world. A great way to do this is by visiting The Amazon Historic Boat Museum, which tells the story of the Amazonian rubber trade. It’s a dark history, and it’s a history of what made the Amazon what it is today.
Aboard the Ayapua: a wide-reaching experience
If you take a tour on the Ayapua, you’ll learn about an important part of Amazonian history. It was steamships like this one that helped violent rubber barons reach far into the Amazon to mine their prized export. The stories that you’ll encounter aboard this historic ship also explore the discovery of the Amazon basin, and about Fitzcarraldo, a famous Hollywood film that was made aboard this ship.
A brief history of the rubber trade in the Amazon
The rubber trade in the Amazon was brutal beyond comprehension. There were a handful of barons who controlled the majority of the Amazon. Some were more ruthless than others, and all of them enslaved indigenous people to mine rubber trees in the forest.
The most notorious of the barons was Julio C. Arana. Because of his power, he was never held accountable for his gruesome actions. When a man by the name of Roger Casement eventually wrote up a report in which he made account of Arana’s doings, Arana was brought to trial and found guilty. His sentence? A fine of one penny.
About the historic steamship
It was steamboats like the Ayupua, which was built in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, that made the rubber industry what it was. It’s also the reason why the city of Iquitos grew into existence. When colonialists started using steamboats like the Ayupua, they went farther into the reaches of the Amazon basin, and at faster speeds. The Ayupua worked along various rivers within Brazil and Peru in the early part of the 20th century. Each time that the trip returned from its trips into the jungle, it would be carrying two million dollars worth of rubber.
How is this boat still floating?
It was Dr. Richard Bodmer, an Iquitos-based conservationist, who led-way in restoring the ship between the years of 2006 and 2008. Check out this clip of Dr. Bodmer giving a tour of the Ayapua to a PBS reporter and her film crew:
Visit the museum
location: Raimondi Street | Riverbank below the Ramon Castilla Square, Iquitos 16000, Peru
Phone number: +51 65 235809
Hours: Sun-Sat, 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
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Cover art: Scott Montgomery