Colonial Buildings of Manaus
The city of Manaus is a vibrant town filled with interesting colonial architecture – perhaps none more interesting than the facades that are currently covered in ivy and falling down stone by stone, brick by brick, near the port. Located about 1,000 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean at the confluence of the Amazon, Negro and Solimoes rivers, it was known as the Paris of the Amazon during its heyday during the gold-rush-like height of the rubber industry in the 19th century. A busy modern-day metropolis has grown up on top of those foundations, resulting in some stunning visual contrasts.
Deadly Madeira-Mamore Railroad
Legend has it that a corpse is buried under each and every sleeper of the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad linking the Brazilian cities of Porto Velho and Guajará-Mirim. Built between 1907 and 1912, it gained the nickname ‘Devil’s Railroad’ due to the fact that literally thousands of workers died from tropical diseases and violence during its construction. The railroad wasn’t even the first bloody attempt to give Brazil access to the profitable rubber markets of Bolivia; other efforts ended similarly, but on a smaller scale. Estimates of the worker deaths run between 7,000 and 10,000 from causes like malaria, accidents and murder. The railroad was ultimately abandoned in 1972 as natural rubber plummeted in value and the Trans-Amazonian Highway made it redundant. Author Errol Lincoln Uys wrote of the railroad in his novel ‘Brazil,’ a snippet of which can be found on his website.
Enchanted Land Theme Park
It wasn’t too long ago that Terra Encantada, Brazil’s ‘Enchanted Land’ in the middle of a luxury neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, was filled with thousands of excited people. The 200,000-square-meter park opened in 1998 as one of the most modern amusement parks in Latin America, celebrating Brazilian culture and history with roller coasters, bars, restaurants and shops. The park’s bigot roller coaster, Monte Makaya, held the world record for the most inversions for four years. But the expectations of the builders and financiers never quite met up with reality, or those of the public. What people wanted for their money was something like Disney World, but the park didn’t have enough attractions to satisfy them. Then, a series of injuries – including a 61-person riot and the death of a woman who was thrown from one of the rides due to structural and mechanical failures – led to a steep decline in ticket sales. The park was deemed unsafe, and closed in 2010. Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen to its remains, though the impending 2016 Olympics may result in its demolition.