Henry C. (Henry Clemens) Pearson.

The rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela online

. (page 9 of 12)
Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 9 of 12)
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his brothers began to acquire great concessions. They pushed further
and further into the interior, trading with the Indians, practically
ruling them, and avenging any insult or lack of faith most terribly.
One of his brothers was murdered by savages, and it is said that
Nicolas Suarez practically exterminated the tribe to which his murder-
ers belonged.

He employs probably about 4,000 men, and is said to be worth
from $35,000,000 to $40,000,000. A born organizer, he is still a simple,
saving man of the people. But his nephews, liberally educated, living
in Europe, are genuine men of the world.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE RUBBER FOREST COUNTRY OF PERU A RUBBER REVOLUTION FOREIGN
CAPITAL IN PERU IQUITOS AND ITS GROWTH THE "DINING HALL OF THE WORLD"
PERUVIAN INDIANS VARIOUS PERUVIAN RUBBERS THE COMPLETE STORY OF
CAUCHO PARA RUBBER OF PERU.

FULLY two-thirds of the territory of Peru, an immense region of
700,000 square miles, is embraced in the forest lands east of
the Andes, known as the Forest Country, or Monta a, and is
watered by a great network of rivers. These forests are not only rich in
cinchona, vanilla, and cacao, but there is a great deal of india-rubber.
As far back as 1853, Markham visited rubber camps there, and among
other things described the singular vessels used for conveying latex.
They were joints of bamboo, three feet long and four inches in diameter,
and called ypas. These are still used.

Pobrc Peru (poor Peru) was most expressive. Robbed of her
rich nitrate beds by Chile, her rich silver mines owned by British capi-
talists, the cinchona industry ruined by plantations in the Far East,
the railroads in the hands of a British corporation, and the customs
pledged to them, with millions of acres of the best forest lands given
away to the same outside interests, it surely was "poor Peru!"

The mining engineers were the first to appreciate the forest wealth,
and great tracts of land were acquired not only to exploit the minerals,
but rubber and other products. This practically put foreign capitalists
in charge of the best of the Montana regions. Then Brazilian rubber
gatherers in the territory, together with native gatherers, started an in-
surrection, the idea being that the territory became a Brazilian de-
pendency. The government at Lima dispatched an armed force over
the three ranges of mountains and declared Iquitos a closed port. The
soldiers, however, preferred rubber gathering to fighting, and were
supposed to have joined the revolutionists. The result was the appoint-
ment of a commission of arbitration and the discovery that Peru did
not know what her eastern boundaries were. The commission decided
on the river Javary as a boundary line, incidentally cutting off from

150



OF THE AMAZON 151

Peru a very large and rich rubber territory, not purposely, but because
of a mistaken idea as to the direction in which the Javary ran.

In the meantime the great foreign companies were opening roads
and doing much to make the country accessible. One company alone
in nine years opened 270 miles of fine road over the Andes to the nav-
igable waterways of the Montana, and in 1904, 1,300 miles of such roads
had been constructed. The result was that many regions of the Inambari
and Madre de Dios were within three days of Mollendo. In 1902, the
fishing village of Iquitos had grown to a city with a population of 7,000,
made up of Peruvians, half castes, and Hebrews. A fairly good road
way connected it with Lima, the journey taking about twelve days.




SMOKING PARA RUBBER, PERU.

Fifty steamers plied between the city and the interior, carrying supplies
to the various rubber camps and bringing down rubber.

The export of rubber by way of the Amazon at that time had been
for two years a monopoly, controlled by an English steamboat company
who employed five vessels for this purpose, vessels especially built
so that they could navigate the river even at the time of low water. One
result of this steamship monopoly was that freight rates were very high,
sometimes exceeding the price of the cargo. About 1906, however, direct
shipments were inaugurated from Iquitos to New York and Liverpool,
and the city flourished as a result. The following year 7,000 passengers
arrived at Iquitos, all of them connected in some way with rubber in-
terests ; 540 steamers weighed anchor from that port during that year
and 2i local dealers (called negociantes}, all of them foreigners, export-



152



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



ed 7,000,000 pounds of rubber, two-thirds of which was "Para." In
1909, the exports of rubber from Iquitos had increased 33 per cent, over
the last figures given.

The province of Loreto, of which Iquitos is the capital, is so rich
in forest products that Humboldt spoke of it as the "dining hall of the




SHIPPING RUBBER AT MOLLENDO, PERU.

world." Iquitos, a few years ago only a collection of palm thatched
huts, is a rich thriving city to-day. With mean temperature of 75 to
80 F., it is comfortable, and with fourteen to twenty feet of water in
the broad river upon which it is situated, it can accommodate ocean
going steamers. The Amazon, called Maranon there, is navigable some
300 or 400 miles beyond the city. In other words, there is a good nav-



154 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

igable waterway from Manaos up the Amazon for about 1.600 miles.
More and more steamers go to Iquitos and, eventually, it will be a city
of great commercial importance. The Peruvian Montana is as rich as
any part of the tropical world, and when its quarter of a million Indians,
many of whom are excellent workers already, awake to the dignity of
labor, a greater wealth than that possessed by the Incas will be pro-
duced by them.

Speaking of Indians, one of the most important tribes, the Campas,
located on the Ucayali, number some 40,000, and are said to be descended
from the Aztecs. Less important are the Peros, Conibos and Ship-
ibos. These are expert canoeists and hunters, very courageous and
keep contracts most faithfully. These Indians wage relentless war-
fare against the wholly savage tribes, capturing them whenever they




STEAMER OX THE MARANON ABOVE IQUITOS, PERU.

can, and bringing them to the rubber camps where they insist on their
being taught to gather rubber. The general Indian word for rubber
throughout Eastern Peru is "sandouga."

A great many interesting stories come from the interior, as is
natural. For example, it is said that the Indians of the upper Amazon
had a telephone system of their own, using rubber in its construction,
and there the story ends.

There are three distinct kinds of rubber gathered in the Amazon
provinces of Peru: (i) Caucho, which is the product of the Castilioa
Ulei; (2) seringa, borracha or jebe fino, which comes from a Hevea;
and (3) the orco-jeringa or "weak fine" Hevea. There are a number of
theories regarding the reason for the shortness of fiber in the weak
fine. The common belief is that, as it is found on high lands far above




H W
M W
O



156



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



the sea level, it is due to location, where the Hevea is not at its best.
It is possible, however, that it may be caused by the admixture of
another latex with that of the Hevea.

The tree producing caucho was for a long time unidentified, and
little was known about it, except that the rubber was gathered by a
system that involved the destruction of the tree. This method still
obtains and is as follows :

Near the base of the tree a broad V-shaped cut is made and the
latex is caught in an earthen vessel, or sometimes in a waterproof bag.
After all the latex has been drained out of such incisions, the tree is
cut down. Then circular incisions are made about the trunk, about two
feet apart, and the latex is caught in basins or calabashes. The milk is




RUBBER GATHERERS'^ HUTS, PERU.



next passed through a sieve to remove bark and leaves, and then is
ready for coagulation. . Very often the rubber gatherers hew a trough
in the soft wood of the fallen rubber tree in which to coagulate it,
while others dig a hole in the ground and pour the milk into it. If the
natives have soap or the juice of the Peruvian vine called leche camole,
the latex coagulates very rapidly, and the result is a. square block known
as caucho, or Peruvian slab. This slab, cut in slices, forms what is
known as caucho strip. The grade of rubber known as caucho ball is
made up of the strings of rubber that coagulate in the incisions on the
tree and are stripped off a couple of weeks after it has been cut down.
For the sake of convenience in handling they are made into balls.
For a long time caucho came only from Peru, but it is now found



OF THE AMAZON 157

to be distributed widely throughout the Amazon valley. The caucho
gatherers in large parties disappear into the trackless forests and travel
sometimes for hundreds of miles over territory never before explored,
destroying trees wherever they find them. It is claimed that the gatherers
get from 15 to 25 pounds of dry caucho from one tree. It has often
been suggested that the latex could be taken out much as the Hevea
latex is. Native gatherers, however, claim that such cutting of the bark
results in destruction of the tree by either disease or insects. It is also
claimed that, when the tree is cut down, shoots spring up from the




TAPPING PARA RUBBER TREE, PERU.

stump that in a short time become thrifty trees. It is said that every
eight years a cauchal, which is where the caucho trees flourish, can
be harvested.

When one considers the slow growth of trees in the dense forest,
however, the Bolivian contention that it takes twenty years to renew a
cauchal seem more reasonable than the Peruvian.

The word caucho, really the Spanish for caoutchouc, has been the
cause of a great deal of misunderstanding. Many writers speak of
"caoutchouc" and of its destruction in Peru. Readers suppose they



158 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

mean that Hevea trees are cut down as well as the Castilloa, which is
not the fact. Nearly all writers on Peru and Bolivia make this mis-
take, and even the official publications are not always clear. The word
caoutchouc means rubber of any and every kind. Indeed it is a synonym
for india rubber. Caucho, on the other hand, is a specific trade name
of worldwide acceptance for the product of the Castilloa Ulei.

The gathering of caucho is clone by bands of 80 to 100 Indians,
organized and led by two or three white men. While the band are
able to shoot some game and thus live on the country, they also carry
supplies as they are liable to be lost in the forests for months. Their
food supplies consist of dried iguana, monkey and parrot flesh, fried
fish, farinha, cachaca, tobacco, and so on.

In searching for caucho trees, they look on the ground and locate




SETTLEMENT SHOWING EDGE OF THE GREAT MONTANA, PERU.

the great laterals that extend many feet from the tree trunk. They
speak of two kinds of caucho, the white and the black. The difference,
however, is only in the color of the bark. The latex of the caucho
coagulates by itself if left in the clay lined holes into which it is poured.
The invariable custom, however, is to mix soap with it and leave it over
night. The coagulated mass in the morning is said to throw off the
most disgusting odor which kills even the hardy mosquito of the Montana.
Caucho gatherers suffer from rheumatism, enemia and dysentery, but
the death rate among them is small. The Indians like the work and it is
very easy to secure laborers. The gatherers carry very few tools. An
American axe does most of the cutting. Instead of tin cups they take
certain leaves, fold them ingeniously and sew them, replenishing them
at each fresh cauchal.



OF THE AMAZON



159



The gathering of Hevca or Para rubber, which is also a large
factor in Peruvian exports, is guarded by laws that are quite similar




VEGETATION ON THE RIO UCAYALI, PERU.



to those in force in Bolivia. These laws are of two sorts. One form
of contract is for the leasing of the lands containing rubber trees ; the



i6o



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



other for the renting of cstradas of 150 trees each. For the first the
concessionaire pays a royalty of a trifle less than a cent a pound for
the rubber extracted (2 soles per quintal) which is collected with the
export duty. Under the second form, the government charges about
10 cents a year for each hectare (about 2^' acres) of land upon which
the estate is situated.

The Peruvian government allows these contracts to become effec-
tive only when the land is viewed by an expert surveyor and approved. It
also demands a guarantee from the concessionaire in the way of the
purchase of interest bearing bonds, which are held for the purchaser's
account, the interest being paid to him. The government has been




PERUVIAN MACHINE FOR SMOKING HEVEA LATEX.

exceedingly generous with those taking up lands and has voted many
valuable concessions to the companies that have constructed roads.

Americans, that is North Americans, believe firmly that they are
the only real inventors on their own particular hemisphere. To them
is submitted a picture of Morinha's rubber smoking apparatus* invented
by a native Peruvian. It is very simple and "fool proof" enough to
be used by the most stupid Indian gatherer. The ordinary smoking cone
is employed, above which in a rectangular closed chamber is a revolving
drum turned by hand so that the latex may be evenly treated by the hot
smoke.

The government export tax on rubber is 14 per cent.



* See Appendix.



\ CHAPTER XX.

"O ACRE" THE RICHEST RUBBER TERRITORY IN THE WORLD ROMANTIC HIS-
TORY OF A TROPICAL "NO-MAN'S-LAND" THE ACRE WAR IT BECOMES BRAZILIAN
FEDERAL TERRITORY OWNERSHIP OF UPRIVER ESTATES ADMINISTRATION OF LAWS
IN THE ACRE MORTALITY IN RUBBER DISTRICTS THE SEASONS.

PERHAPS the most interesting of all rubber producing territories
in South America is O Acre, or The Acre not a state but a
Brazilian Federal territory. It lies in the upper Amazon valley,
close to Peru and Bolivia, and is watered by a labyrinth of rivers great and
small. Of these rivers the Amazon, the Javary, the Ucayali and the Madre
de Dios, with others, either form boundaries for the territory or make
the forests of easy access. It is probable that no other part of the world
is richer in rubber than is the Acre. Most of the rivers are navigable,
some of them for hundreds of miles, and the territory is easier to reach
from Para and Manaos than any other large Brazilian rubber producing
territory. The country is healthful and the flood seasons brief. The
climate is not as humid as in the lower Amazon valley, and the heat is
not so unbearable as in the latter regions.

Prior to 1899 the Acre was practically unknown, was called "No-
Man's-Land," and actually belonged to neither Bolivia or Brazil. This
triangular block of heavily forested territory, more than 66,000 square
miles in area, was not coveted by any one until rubber began to come
out of it in ever increasing quantities. This rubber exploitation was
accomplished almost wholly by Brazilians with Cearenses for laborers.

The territory had two natural outlets one through Bolivian terri-
tory over the Falls of the Madeira and into the Amazon, the other
down the Purus through Brazilian territory and into the Amazon. The
last named was the best of the two because of the open waterway to
Manaos.

Although there were only two seringaes belonging to Bolivia in
the Acre, a Bolivian custom house was established in 1899 on the Acre
river and duty collected on most of the rubber that came out of that
territory. Four months in that year Bolivia collected duty on 2,605,992

161



1 62



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



pounds fine and 370,636 pounds coarse. Then the Brazilians in the Acre
rebelled, started a revolution under Galvez, and formed what was known
as the Independent Acre Republic. The leaders offered citizenship to
all residents in the district, Bolivians and Brazilians, with the exception
of Nicolas Suarez, who was declared ''dangerous/' The population
of the territory was then about 18,000, and as rubber collectors were
able to get all the way from 13 to 55 pounds of rubber a day, they
fully appreciated the value of the territory. For some little time it







INUNDATED FOREST IN THE PURUS RIVER VALLEY.



was practically a free state, although the leaning at Rio Janerio was for
Bolivian supremacy.

In 1902 Brazil formally granted the territory to Bolivia and helped
that country to recover the Acre from the hands of the revolutionists.
Shortly after this Bolivia granted the whole territory to an American
syndicate. This caused a great deal of feeling in Brazil, and the treaty
ceding the territory to Bolivia was withdrawn. Brazilians seemed to
feel that in the granting of such a concession the United States would



OF THE AMAZON 163

gain control of the upper Amazon, and their daily papers were filled
with articles predicting calamities of various sorts.

The inhabitants of the Acre, backed by the state of Amazonas,
were particularly bitter in their denunciation of Bolivia's act. They
considered it a great wrong for a private corporation organized under
foreign laws to receive any such grant. They claimed that the Acre
belonged to Brazil ; because of its configuration ; since all of its rivers
flow into the Amazon, being the only practical outlet from the country ;
because there was no Bolivian population there ; and finally that the
Bolivians had shown utter inability to develop the territory and leased
it to foreigners.

This inaugurated the "Acre war." . Bolivia raised money and sent
i, cxx) men over the mountains. It took this expedition four months to
reach the seat of trouble. The warfare was of the guerilla type.
For example, the revolutionists attacked Nicolas Suarez and sacked and
destroyed two of his rubber warehouses on the Acre river. The old
man himself escaped to the Orton river, raised a force of rubber gath-
erers, came back and thoroughly trounced the revolutionists. A few
days later, however, the colonel in charge of the Bolivian forces sur-
rendered unconditionally to the revolutionists.

In the meantime Brazil was in a position to put on the screws,
and she did it. She refused to allow supplies for the syndicate to go
up her rivers and not only that but no member of the syndicate, em-
ployee, or laborer was allowed to use her waterways. A commission
from the American syndicate had in the meantime made application
to England, Germany, and Belgium and proceeded up the Amazon as
far as Manaos. There is no record of their getting any nearer to their
lands than that point.

About this time, however, the dispute was settled, Brazil paying v
a cash indemnity to Bolivia, granting her perpetual free transit through
her territory, and outlet through the Amazon. Brazil also agreed to build
a harbor on the Madeira river, a railroad around the Madeira Falls, and
purchased the concession owned by the American syndicate. In return
the territory became wholly Brazilian and is administered as a federal
possession.

As always happens during family quarrels, business suffered during
the Acre war. The shipments of rubber in 1898, 2,000 tons, dropped in
1900 to 800 tons. Shortly after this the Brazilian Federal government,
with an idea of stimulating production, reduced the export tax on Acre
rubber frcm 23 per cent, to 15 per cent., allowing it to be shipped from



OF THE AMAZON



165



either Manaos or Para. Manaos promptly protested, claiming that rub-
ber gatherers in Amazonas near the Acre district would smuggle their
rubber over the border and ship it in as an Acre product. The figures
were therefore changed back to 23 per cent., of which 8 per cent, was
to be refunded when .it was positively proved that the rubber came
from the Acre.

One of the first things the Federal government did was to issue
a proclamation forbidding laborers to leave the employ of their masters




"SERINGAL" SEBASTOPOL, ON THE PURUS.



if they were in debt to them. They were heavily fined for so doing as
were also the owners of scringaes who hired them.

Laws' were also issued by the Prefect, requiring owners of ser-
ingdes for two years or more to stake their boundaries so as to obtain
titles. They were required to pay to the Federal government 5/100 of /
a real per square meter for the land. Provisional titles were also issued
to those who explored and took possession of land for six months. Both
territorial and Federal government shared in this fee, making owner-
ship doubly secure. After 30 provisional and 10 or 12 final titles had



i66



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



been granted it was discovered that the Prefect had no authority. This
was the cause of much confusion as some who had lived there for years
and made great sacrifices that the country should be Brazilian were
placed in a position where they practically had no titles for their
properties.

The ownership of rubber estates in the Amazon country is very
interesting. Of course where large seringaes are established and fine
buildings put up, good titles are forthcoming. A great many claims,
riowever. belong to business houses in Manaos and Para. These they




TOWN OF CANUTAMA, ON THE .PURUS.



sell or rent, and get them back again in either case very often. Along the
more accessible waterways the country has. been thoroughly prospected
for rubber and it is all owned. But there are scores of small tributaries,
accessible to steam launches, awaiting discovery and occupation. Taking
possession of a tract is often the only title for years, then perhaps the
nominal owner dies and his chief creditor pays for a survey and pur-
chases the land from the government. The smaller owners of such
estates are often obliged to defend themselves "from rubber thieves and
even the larger estate owners have men with rifles to protect their



OF THE AMAZON 167

property. Years ago the same state of . affairs existed on the lower
Amazon, but disorders of that sort have ceased and it is only far in the
interior that the individual makes and executes his own laws.

Brazil divided the Acre territory into three districts. In each the
Federal law is administered by Prefects and they in turn are responsible
to a Governor. It is a curious fact that Bolivian money is very largely
used for the Acre district, and is the basis of all exchange.

Although the laborers are illiterate, the owners of the sermgaes
are among the most alert and progressive business men in the Amazonian
basin. Some of them control immense properties, own their own steamers,
and are experimenting with new methods of collecting and coagulating













CONFLUENCE OF THE ACRE AND PURUS RIVERS.

rubber constantly. For example, some of them have looked into the
coagulation of latex as it is done, in the Far East. If some such method
were adopted it would be a great boon to the laborers. To-day, the
man who smokes latex over the palm nut fire gets overheated, and then
plunges into a nearby stream to cool off. The result is fever and often-
times death.

The Acre district has a number of towns that are rapidly becoming \
important; it also has newspapers and in 1909 held. a rubber congress.
Among other questions considered at that convention were the protection
of Brazilian supremacy in crude rubber, the systematizing of the business



i68



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



of collection and shipment, and the securing of greater profits. The
spirit of modernism also is growing very rapidly. In 1909, when crude
rubber went to $1.56 a pound, one of the "cities" proclaimed a holiday.
A parade was formed, speeches were made to and by the government
delegate, and the whole population was treated to champagne.

Much of the upper part of the Acre is still practically unexplored.
The isolated rubber gatherers there are visited by peddlers in canoes who
smuggle to them provisions and liquor and get rubber in return. It is
said that individuals on river steamers lower down are not averse to
doing the same thing. Of late years not only have Cearcnses gone up




OUTFITTING RUBBER GATHERERS AT A SERINGAL ON THE ACRE RIVER.



the river but many Barbadian negroes have become rubber gatherers.
The mortality of the rubber districts of Brazil has always been
large. It was reported for example, when the census of the Puriis river
district was taken, that enough immigrants had gone there to make a
population of 40,000 yet the figures showed 16,000 remaining. It is not
probable that all or one-half of the 24,000 missing perished. Still a
great many were victims to disease, as a rule brought on by their


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12

Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 9 of 12)