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Story Publication logo March 23, 2020

Conquering El Dorado: Why Bolsonaro is Winning in the Wild Amazon Jungle (Spanish)

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Image by Heriberto Araújo. Brazil, 2019.
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As the world's largest consumer of soy, China's hunger drives Brazil's sales. How the Amazon fits...

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Soldiers pave some of the last miles of BR-163, a highway cutting through the Amazon basin which Bolsonaro had pledged to complete. For years, trucks carrying grain for export have lumbered along this slow, muddy road. Its completion significantly reduces transport time. Image by Heriberto Araújo. Brazil, 2019.
Soldiers pave some of the last miles of BR-163, a highway cutting through the Amazon basin which Bolsonaro had pledged to complete. For years, trucks carrying grain for export have lumbered along this slow, muddy road. Its completion significantly reduces transport time. Image by Heriberto Araújo. Brazil, 2019.

In order to understand the conflict between preservation and destruction in today's Brazilian Amazon, one must consider the basic principle of the frontier. Frontier is not understood as a boundary or limitation, but as an area of expansion and opportunity defined in the terms of the American historian Frederick Jackson Turner. A contemporary El Dorado that must be conquered by a pioneer whose calling is to bring wealth to himself and his nation using the rich resources that await his discovery.

The world's largest tropical forest and the extraordinary Amazon River—the largest river by volume of them all—has fascinated the West following the conquest of the Americas. Its majesty is spellbinding. But the massiveness of the jungle and its unruly territory made the region almost unfit for human development. And there were those who tried hard to develop it, like Henry Ford, who in 1928 built a factory city on the banks of the Tapajós River where he would be able to produce rubber for his cars. Two decades and tens of millions of dollars later, he had to close it, in a paradigmatic example of how the Amazon was capable of quashing plans—even those of the father of modern industrialism.

To read the full story in Spanish, click here.

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