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Story Publication logo November 26, 2007

The Last Commons: Drilling in the Peruvian Amazon

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Oil and gas finds are turning the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains and the adjacent Amazonian...

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"We wait until the sun comes up," Alcides said.

"Ivochote?"

"Across the bridge. There. Better to sleep now."

At daybreak we got our bags and walked with the natives toward the sound of the river. They were Machiguenga mostly. A few peasant colonists, mestizos, sleepily blinking, carrying sacks, pushing wheelbarrows. We made a wet, muddy, pitiful procession. On all sides, the jungle canopy slumped under the rain.

"Ivochote!" yelled Alcides.

I saw the top of the bridge, then below it the Urubamba River, rain-charged and tumbling out of the Andes. Ivochote itself was a mere trace in the mist but plenty visible to seem dismal. We crossed the bridge and went down the rock bank to wash off the mud. Ivochote was like most Amazonian supply towns: edgy, filthy, on the verge. A mudslide the day before had blocked the road, but this didn't bother Alcides Huinchompi, my guide, who was built like a fullback. He took off his boots, rolled his jeans, and said something in Machiguenga that made the women give the babies to the men...

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