Although Iquitos is the logging capitol of the state of Loreto, there is a growing awareness of the value of the rainforest and increasing social pressure to reduce logging, or at least to force logging companies to engage in sustainable practices.
City of Dreamers - the Pyramid Scheme
Yep - a literal floating scale model of the Great Pyramid of Egypt intended to focus good energies and convert Iquitos into a center of enlightenment and peace. Too bad no-one told the Amazon storm that brought it down after finances ran out and it had idled in the Iquitos harbor for many months.
There are some very talented graffiti artists in Iquitos. And of course some pretty pathetic taggers too. But we do like the inventiveness of this graffiti creation in a building slated to be demolished.
The Iquitos Boulevard - Amazon waterfront
The "Boulevard", overlooking the Amazon river floodplain and the Itaya River, is the focal point of nightlife and dining in Iquitos. On weekends, thousands of people congregate here to watch comedy routines, be amazed by Michael Jackson impersonators or acrobats, and to dine, wine and romance. A "must experience" for anyone who is a people-watcher.
Historic school in Iquitos
Many elegant buildings in Iquitos date back to the rubber-boom era of the late 1800's and very early 1900's. This school was built in the early 1900's and functioned in that role to the present day. Every couple of years, there is a new (sometimes garish) paint job. The tangles of electrical wires throughout the city seem to proliferate with every passing year.
The roads of Iquitos are noisy and congested day and night. No roads connect the city to the larger world (other than one 90km stretch to the small town of Nauta). Many locals, both men and women, ride motorcyles or scooters, and seeing a family of 4 on a motorcycle is pretty common. Over 40,000 motokars (motorcycle-driven rickshaws) are the taxi's in town. Cheap and efficient, and you never have to wait long for one!
This little piggy went to market
Even pigs ride in motokars in Iquitos. So do mattresses, other motokars, sides of beef, building timbers, re-bar, and anything else that can be put on, though, or otherwise attached in some fashion!
A masterpiece of rubber-era architecture, the former municipal hotel of Iquitos now serves as military headquarters for the Peruvian Amazon. With tiles and metalwork imported from Portugal, Spain and Italy, this beautiful building deserves a visit from any visitor to the city.
Azulejos of Iquitos
Intricately painted and sometimes textured tiles are characteristic of rubber-era buildings constructed in Iquitos. The tiles not only were aesthetically attractive, but also served to protect the buildings from the hot and humid climate and were impervious to mold and mildew. Dozens of different styles and patterns can be found throughout the historic center of the city.
The Iron House
Iquitos' most famous building, the Iron House is also a great example of an early modular buildings. Locals will tell you it was designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, of the Eiffel Tower) and exhibited at the Paris World Fair before being dismantled and shipped to Iquitos. Romantic as the story is, it is also likely not to be true, but don't try to tell that to an Iquitos native! For more of the story, visit a New York Times article from 2014.
Leap of Faith
Build on the banks of the Itaya River, what we like to call the "Leap of Faith Church" is just one of 1000's of buildings built on stilts in order to escape the annual floods. At high water, parishioners can step off their boat and through the front door. Probably best not to get your seasons mixed up when leaving church after a stupor-inducing sermon though!
Walking banana tree
OK, plaintain tree, actually! A porter follows a women down the street after she made her purchases in the Puerto de Productores marketplace. Every morning, tons of local produce is sold at the market. Starchy plaintains, a banana relative, are an Iquitos staple, and are boiled, roasted or fried.
The artist dedicated this piece to the "people of Iquitos". It is certainly just as colorful and expressive as the people of Iquitos!
Plaza de Armas military parade
Parades by all branches of the Peruvian military, police, health workers, teachers, students and other groups are commonplace in Iquitos. Most Sunday mornings there is a flag-raising ceremony in the Plaza de Armas. This parade was on the occasion of the inauguration of incoming Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on 5 January 2016. To the surprise of many visitors, women are well integrated into all branches of the military and police in Peru, and Peru was the first South American country to graduate female fighter pilots.
One of our favorite azulejos, this pattern is not only colorful but also full of texture. These tiles adorn the exterior of a popular mini-market a short distance from the Plaza de Armas.
Cohen & C - The Jewish Influence
During the rubber-boom era, Iquitos attracted immigrants from around the world including a sizable number of Jewish men from Morocco and eastern Europe. Jewish surnames can be found on many buildings throughout Iquitos. While some returned to the old world after finding their fortunes, most married Peruvian women and settled permanently in Peru. There is still a small active Jewish community in Peru, and some descendants of Jewish settlers are now seeking to recover their heritage. A few have emigrated to Israel.
A Jungle Nativity
Where else but Iquitos might you witness a Nativity scene featuring a giant black caiman, as well as anteaters, tapirs, monkeys, sloths and piranhas? Christmas is huge. Families gather to set of fireworks at midnight, followed by a big meal. Since there are no chimneys for Santa to squeeze down, gifts are probably left by benevolent jungle spirits.
Bring your umbrella!
Although all-day rains are rare, shorter heavy downpours are common during the rainy season from November through May. Come prepared!
How hard does it rain?
Five to six inches of rain in an hour is not unheard of. When that happens, the city largely shuts down for the duration of the rain. Although all motokar taxis have "rain-skirts" that are installed in the event of rain, they are largely ineffective against a rain like this one.
Floating homes, built on rafts of light-weight balsa or sandbox trunks are a common feature on the floodplains that border Iquitos on three sides. With limited room for expansion on higher ground, the city continues to spread over the floodplain and rivers.
Local fishermen process their catch in their boat on a street in the Belen district of town. At high water, everyone moves to the upper floor of their homes, abandoning the lower level to catfish and mud.
Disco on the Itaya
A popular disco, "Climax" is built on a log base and floats on the Itaya River in the Belen district of town. As more and more patrons come aboard, the raft sinks lower and lower, and people are often dancing in several inches of water.
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