Iquitos is a city that is full of contrasts. To walk the streets of the city is to feel the effects of a deep history that isn’t easy for outsiders to understand. It’s a story of colonialism that is full of greed: wealth for the few and enslavement of the many. It the story of a long-past age that is now in decline. Nowhere is this story more evident than in the architecture of Iquitos.
In the city center of Iquitos, along the malicon (boardwalk), it’s likely that you’ll be taken away by the colors, sounds, and plants that surround you.
There is history within the design of every building. The architecture that you see was constructed during the rubber boom when ships would regularly return from trips into the jungle with millions of dollars of rubber on board. Their product was harvested by enslaved natives who were frequently tortured and killed without a second thought.
When the rubber boom was at its peak, between the years of 1879 and 1912, people came from all over Europe to cash in. It’s during these years Iquitos’ most historic buildings were constructed.
But any visitor will notice that these times have long passed. Iquitos has blossomed into a city of more than 400,000 people, a very large portion of whom live in poverty. Along the other side of the boardwalk from Iquitos’ historic center, you’ll see a different story.
Over the last decades, many thousands of people have continued immigrating from their villages in the far reaches of the jungle, leaving behind their quiet homes and their traditions. Many find their way to the shores on the outskirts of Iquitos.