Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland~

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 7.22.49 PM.png

Aging vehicles are stored in the old workshops of Fordlândia, Brazil, a community founded in 1928 by Henry Ford. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

FORDLÂNDIA, Brazil — The Amazon jungle already swallowed the Winding Brook Golf Course. Floods ravaged the cemetery, leaving behind a stockpile of concrete crosses. The 100-bed hospital designed by the acclaimed Detroit architect Albert Kahn? Plunderers destroyed it.

Given the scale of decay and decrepitude in this town — founded in 1928 by the industrialist Henry Ford in the far reaches of the Amazon River Basin — I didn’t expect to come across the stately, largely well-preserved homes on Palm Avenue. But there they were, thanks to the squatters.

“This street was a looters’ paradise, with thieves taking furniture, doorknobs, anything the Americans left behind,” said Expedito Duarte de Brito, 71, a retired milkman who dwells in one of the homes built for Ford managers in what was planned to be a utopian plantation town. “I thought, ‘Either I occupy this piece of history or it joins the other ruins of Fordlândia.’”

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 7.23.44 PM.png

A statue of a man harvesting rubber stands near Fordlândia’s church. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

In more than a decade of reporting from Latin America, I made dozens of trips to the Amazon, lured back time and again by its vast rivers, magnificent skies, boomtowns, lost civilizations and tales of hubris consumed by nature. But somehow I never got to Fordlândia.

That finally changed when I boarded a riverboat this year in Santarém, an outpost at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, and made the six-hour trip to the place where Ford, one of the world’s richest men, tried turning a colossal swath of Brazilian jungle into a Midwest fantasyland.

I explored the outpost on foot, wandering the ruins and talking to gold prospectors, farmers and descendants of plantation workers who live here. Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago.

~~~  CONTINUE A GOOD STORY  ~~~

 

One thought on “Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s