The Peruvian jungle 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, the powerful landholders who turned the Peruvian jungle 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.
Casa de Fierro: At the corner of Putumayo and Tarapacá streets, the House of Iron is one of the first "pre-fabricated" houses to be brought to Peru. Designed by Gustav Eiffel, who built the famous tower in Paris, it reached Iquitos in 1895 after its purchase by Baca Diez, a rubber tycoon.
The former Palace Hotel: This building of Moorish design was built between 1908 and 1912. An example of the extravagance and splendor introduced into the Amazon during the rubber boom.
The Municipal Museum and Library of the Amazon: One can become acquainted with the history of the Amazon here. The Museum has an assorted display of Amazon fauna as well as crafts from the different jungle tribes. The Library is one of the most important on the Amazon in Latin America, with a newspaper collection, a paintings collection and 132 sculptures, displaying the costumes of the different jungle tribes.