Project

In Hot Water: God, Oil, and Peru’s Boiling River

Three hours from the nearest city, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, a powerful geothermal anomaly hides quietly between the trees. It’s a boiling river, stretching about four miles long, protected by “maestros,” shamen whose ancestors guarded the same site and told the tale that anything that fell in would die.

The boiling river lives next to Peru’s oldest oilfield, Agua Caliente. Ironically, the area is one of the lushest places in the jungle, and scientists are still working to explain exactly why the river, boiling to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, emerges and disappears in this location. Peruvian geophysicist Andres Ruzo first visited the site in 2011 to find there is nothing protecting the zone from the threats of deforestation.

Ruzo wants to declare the area a national monument, with the help of the local communities and cooperation from Agua Caliente Oilfield.

This is the story of the people who visit and live in this place, their drive to protect it from deforestation and other threats like climate change, and the changes brought about by tourism—but also how some of the most destructive forces are the very people who depend on the jungle's resources.

Natalie Hutchison investigates the relationship of the people with the river, the laboratory of life surrounding them, and the climatic challenges they’ve witnessed. She traces the link between their cosmology and spirituality to show how this has propelled their political engagement and view of their surroundings.

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