Old Rubber Plant in Fordlandia

Old Rubber Plant in Fordlandia

Deep in the Amazon rain forest, on the banks of the Rio Tapajos which flows north into the enormous Amazon River – the thickest artery of a watershed that produces twenty percent of the world’s fresh water – lies an abandoned, crumbling Midwestern town. A few squatters live there now. It is called Fordlandia.

CW_50.tifI remembered hearing something about it years ago, then I ran across a book written by Greg Grandin a few years ago — a history of the place. It was founded in the 1920’s by the Ford Motor Company as a plantation to supply rubber for the Model T’s tires, and became a case study in how not to do such a thing. It is an Ozmandian testament to American hubris, a “we know how to do it best” attitude that scorned native advice. Ford wanted to impose his own ideas of an ideal community with modern housing, modern work rules and a lifestyle of clean living and regimen. It was a miserable failure and was finally abandoned to the jungle after World War II. Its coup de grace was the invention of synthetic latex. Now it is overgrown, yet hauntingly fascinating. Owned by the Brazilian government, it is populated by a handful of squatters. Many photos of it are available online for the curious.

fordlandia-powerhouseThe place fascinated me. I wrote a novel about it – it and the Brazilian rain forest as well, a precious and endangered place that holds many secrets. Some might even save the human race.  See