…on the Amazon at Iquitos

Part of the Belen District, Iquitos, Peru
Part of the Belen District, Iquitos, Peru

Just upstream from Iquitos, Peru, the Amazon is born.  What you see in today’s picture is the Amazon.  In the foreground is an area of Iquitos known as the Belen District, on of thirteen districts of the Maynas Province. Belen (Spanish for “Bethlehem”) exists at the edge of Iquitos, in the floodplain.  The Belen District consists of 65,000 inhabitants, most of them poor, and many of whom live in extreme poverty, without electricity, none with clean water or sanitation. There also exists an estimated 60,000 people living across the river in outlying areas, also with no electricity, water and sanitation. Most homes will float or are built on stilts, as the river floods some 5-6 meters during February through July. Belen, a unique world community, has been referred to, in travel books, as the “Venice of Latin America”. In Pueblo Libre, a section of Belen on the waterfront, an estimated 14000 people, 30% under age 12, live in a busy river port, where charcoal, bananas, fish, and other goods are brought, mostly by canoe, to be distributed and sold throughout Belen. People there live in overcrowded conditions (90% of homes house 2 or more families; some homes as many as 5) and, in addition to malaria, dengue fever, water-borne illnesses, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and HIV, there are problems associated with severe poverty; alcoholism, crime, prostitution, unemployment, child abuse and domestic violence. Years of deteriorating conditions in Belen have resulted in widespread frustration and hopelessness among Belen residents.  (Wikipedia)

The district runs along the river to the right in this picture.  The homes’ toilets, if they have them, dump waste directly into the Amazon.  Kids swim in the water, people bathe in it and they eat fish from the river.  It is not a pleasant place.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1884, Texas gunslinger Ben Thompson died in a San Antonio theater where accomplices of his longtime enemies ambushed and murdered him.

Thompson’s started young. In 1858, at age 16, he wounded a black youth during a quarrel in Austin, Texas. Local citizens demanded action against Thompson, so he served a short jail term and paid a fine. A few years later, he left Austin and tried to make a peaceable living as a typesetter in New Orleans, but gambling appealed to him more than an honest day’s work.

As with  many other gunslingers, Thompson’s education as a killer came from fighting in wars. Although his record as confederate in the Civil War was undistinguished, he apparently often quarreled and fought with his army comrades. After the war, he became a mercenary to the emperor of Mexico, where his talents as a killer were encouraged and rewarded.

In 1872, Thompson traveled to Ellsworth, Kansas, to join his brother Billy as a professional gambler. A year later, a local deputy angered the two brothers when he intervened in a gambling dispute. The Ellsworth sheriff, Chauncey Whitney, came to his deputy’s rescue and tried to calm the brothers. Whitney thought he had defused the situation, but as he walked across the street with the two brothers, the volatile Billy suddenly pulled his gun and shot the sheriff dead. Thompson came to Billy’s rescue by recruiting a gang of Texas cowboys to intimidate the Ellsworth police allowing Billy to escape.

No longer welcome in Ellsworth, Thompson spent the next decade drifting around Kansas. In 1879, he joined Bat Masterson and others as hired gunmen for the Santa Fe Railroad. With the money he earned working for the railroad, he invested in a chain of Texas gambling houses that eventually returned sizeable profits. Using his new found wealth to buy respectability, in 1880 he returned to Austin and made a successful run for town sheriff.

Thompson’s shift to the side of law enforcement, though, did not end his involvement with the shady world of gambling. In 1880, he quarreled with three San Antonio gamblers -Joe Foster, Jack Harris, and Bill Simms – over a debt Foster claimed Thompson owed him. A few years later, the quarrel led to a gunfight in which Thompson killed Harris, further incensing the other two. In 1884, Foster and Simms laid a trap for Thompson at the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio. Apparently attempting to make peace with his two old enemies, Thompson approached them in the theatre. The men began to argue, and when the dispute threatened to become violent, a volley of shots rang out. Two hidden accomplices of Foster and Simms killed Thompson.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Buddha described the mind as being filled with drunken monkeys who jumped, screeched, and chatted endlessly. Fear, according to Buddha, was an especially loud monkey. Buddha taught meditation as a way to tame the “drunken monkeys” in the mind.



3 thoughts on “…on the Amazon at Iquitos

  1. We are very lucky, indeed. And for the most part, at least when it comes to social things, I like order and reason, too. But I must admit that in my working environment, I rather enjoy chaos. Keeps me from boredom!

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