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This account of Hardenburg's journeys through the Putumayo region of South America is complete with the original photographs, maps and illustrations of the people and places described.
Walter Hardenburg undertook his travels through the intense wilderness to contact the natives living in the dense forests of South America at the beginning of the 20th century. Over roughly four centuries prior to his journey, the native peoples and tribes had suffered atrocious mistreatment at the hands of colonial settlers who would murder, rape or enslave natives with near-impunity. Owing to these horrors, the Putumayo region gained the grim nickname: 'The Devil's Paradise'.
Exposing the consequences of these terrible injustices was the primary purpose of Hardenburg's trek. In his journey and photographs we discover a people whose diverse beliefs, traditions and hitherto undisturbed way of life had been destroyed by successive invasions of colonial explorers. Their numbers and habitat depleted, Hardenburg encountered many natives who were demoralized and miserable following generations of ruthless exploitation.
Hardenburg recounts stories of how better armed and organised newcomers to the region were able to cause great devastation to the tribes of the region. Lands were seized and great tracts of rainforest cleared for profiteering plantations of rubber and other lucrative materials. Yet the sustainability and planning of many operations was poor; many closed after a mere handful of years in operation, leaving only empty, barren plains behind.
The Putumayo is a grim and eye-opening book which in many ways foreshadows the modern environmental disasters confronting Peru, Brazil and the greater Amazon rainforest region. As such, it is a history of immeasurable value, gravity and importance.