I traveled for three days on a section of the Interoceanic Highway from the Pacific Coast of Peru to the Brazilian Amazon. The highway continues to São Paulo, Brazil, over 3,900 miles away. The highway spans three time zones, and is the first to cross the entire continent of South America. Many have called it one of the greatest construction projects in Latin America since the Panama Canal. Since its completion, the Interoceanic has raised Peru’s GDP by 1.5% a year. However, the highway has had many detrimental impacts on the local people and environments. The remote Peruvian Amazon was once five to seven days from Cusco Peru by truck. But now the trip takes less than 9 hours. Illegal gold mining and logging has increased exponentially in the last 5 years and residents of Puerto Maldonado, a dusty, frontier boom town, have expressed their concern about the benefits the highway promised to bring.
I asked Malena, a women who worked at the Tarapoto Hostel how the Interoceanic has changed the town. “It hasn’t brought more jobs, it’s actually taken them away,” she replied. “Miners and other people like that just come here, take everything away, and destroy the nature we have here,” Malena added. “The highway has also brought in a lot more delinquency and crime.”
The impact of the highway is being felt especially hard in the remote regions of the Amazon where 15 tribes have been displaced. The Interoceanic now runs through the heart of their homeland, bringing diseases, disrupting wildlife habitat, and ruining their sustainable lifestyle. The Amazon, one of the worlds great ecosystems, is still rich and plentiful, but for how much longer will it remain?
Born and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.