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Iquitos guards amidst its steamy foliage and the mysterious murmur of the Amazon River, a collection of architectural jewels that take visitors by surprise, both for their beauty as well as their unique style: these are the legacy of the past of the rubber barons, who turned Iquitos into a veritable commercial paradise at the end of the nineteenth century.
It was the era known as the rubber boom, a golden age for European adventurers who amassed vast fortunes from the gum trees that covered hundreds of hectares in the region, and which supplied the raw material that was indispensable for the flourishing industry of the time. Cities like Iquitos -which up until then had been a small port town- turned into one long party, where no expense was spared, nor eccentricity nor luxury lacking.
As part of the legacy of this age of abundance, Iquitos still bears traces of the extravagant taste of the rubber barons: mosaic tiles in Italian-style palaces, the bustling riverside walkway or the famous residence designed by Gustave Eiffel and which was built from metal sheets carried by hundreds of men through the jungle. Today, in the city of Iquitos, the modest local homes -not without a certain kitsch charm- exist alongside French mansions, today largely used as public offices.
Over time, with the invention of nylon and other alternative products, demand for rubber dwindled, signifying the end of the rubber barons. The memory of this past filled with abundance, however, lives on in the eccentric buildings which testify to an exuberant and wild era.
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