Peru's Ciudad Constitucion: A Dream Never Realized
Perhaps the most remarkable place in the Amazon: Pozuzu
A few crumbling dwellings mark Terry's dream
Many capital cities were changed around in the last 100 to 150 years, some being built from the ground-up. The one that stands out is probably Brasilia which rose from the jungles of Brazil in 1960 and, after many problems, is now accepted as that country’s capital, although the emotional heart of the land is still Rio de Janeiro.
It was Brasilia which gave Peru’s president, Fernando Belaunde Terry, a trained architect, the idea to do a similar thing in Peru and move that country’s capital from Lima to a location in the exact center of the country.
It would be called Ciudad Constitucion and its location represented a huge headache for planners. For a start, there were no adequate roads out that way at all. The two towns on the route, Satipo and Pozuzo, could only be reached by unmade roads, paths really, made by missionaries as they tried to reach tribes in the jungle and little improved since.
Terry did get his plans for the continuation of the road, started in the 1920’s, approved and it was cut through the intervening mountains and jungle. This road has provided the tenuous life-blood for the towns on the route, but many travelers have died going off the road into canyons and rivers thousands of feet below.
The jungle part of the road is still impassable in the wet season, becoming a river of mud only passable by people on foot or mule back.
It’s hard to tame the Amazon and it fights back! It can give
you a host of nasty diseases, including the ubiquitous malaria.
Its green swards are populated by snakes and various
arachnids with nasty venom; the constant humidity, torrential rainfall and freezing nights are only bearable by the indigent tribes. Clearing and infrastructure won from the jungle is soon returned to nature again by the attacks of insects, fungus and plants which grow while you watch them!
The President did complete one phase of his dream, he managed to extend and improve something of a road on to the site of the planned Capital; many peons died on the mountainous stretch and they still do today. This did open up the jungle, and trade between the centers of Satipo and Pozuzu.
The funds set aside for the foundation of Constitucion were attacked by another typically South American malaise, this one man-made: corruption. A few large building were built and then the idea was forgotten as the money mysteriously disappeared.
Today - even in Peru - few remember the grand plans for the new capital. Plans are in place to widen and tarmac the road into the Amazon. Maybe then, new impetus will be garnered to change Peru’s capital city into the center of this mysterious land…but few are holding their breath at the moment.
Perhaps more interesting than the failed Capital, which is nothing more than a few houses with indigent families using them today, is the compelling Austrian/ German colony, founded in 1859, in the middle of the jungle at Pozuzu, 472 miles along this road from Lima.
Said to be the only such colony in the world, it has succeeded against impossible odds for 150 years. There are some quite lovely homes and commercial buildings built through the years by the immigrants.
The people have tried to keep old traditions, values and their language alive. They have had to adjust occasionally - for example, their “appel” pie, from the old country, is now made with bananas!
It’s other-worldly to see this apparition appearing from the green selva: the lovely houses and well dressed little blonde kids running around saluting each other in old German!
They are friendly to outsiders and appear happy to get news and swap stories. They also get a lot of German and Austrian tourists slogging along the tortuous track just to see this marvel in the jungle. It emphasizes the resilience of the German races: both then and now.