Lost Boys of the Amazon.
By Mike Collis
Omarino and Ricudo
Two Huitoto slaves brought to the UK in 1911
Kuiru, is an amazonian native, a member of the Huitoto Tribe from the
area between Peru and Colombia in the region around the Putumayo
River. Over a 100 years ago the rubber barons enslaved, tortured,
raped and killed over 30,000 indigenous amazonian indians. Fany
recently discovered some old photographs of some of her ancestors
including one of Omarino and Ricudo (above). Fany found that her 2
ancestors were rubber slaves during the rubber boom and were taken to
England and never returned.
rubber was very much in demand during the latter part of the 19th
century and the early part of the 20th.
Then the American company Goodyear discovered a process called
vulcanization which made rubber harder and more useful in the
manufacture of car tyres. After this prices of raw latex rubber
skyrocketed. Thousands of native indians were rounded up and forced
to work collecting the raw latex from the jungle. The rubber barons
or caucheros did not like to get their hands dirty so they imported
black west indians from Trinidad and Jamaica to capture the indians
and force them to work. These West Indians were known as muchachos.
They were heavily armed and ruthless in their objective to bring in
more and more rubber.
the latter part of the Rubber Boom the British Government sent Roger
Casement to the Amazon to investigate the exploitation of the
indigenous tribes and the atrocities carried out against them.
Casement was well qualified for the job as his previous assignment
was in the Belgian Congo investigating abuses against the indigenous
people there. In 1910 the now British Consul Roger Casement was
presented to two rubber slaves who were both Huitoto indians named
Omarino and Ricudo. These were Fany’s long lost ancestors.
Casement exchanged Omarino for an old pair of trousers and then he
won the younger Ricudo in a game of cards. One year later in 1911
Roger Casement returned to England with Omarino and Ricudo . He
wanted to show the world the horrors he had discovered in the Amazon.
The two bewildered indians found themselves in cold London as museum
objects and people lined up to stare at them. The English national
newspaper at that time The Daily News coveted them. The two boys were
taken from venue to venue and were the talk of the town. Through an
interpreter Omarino told the Daily News that they were sent deep into
the jungle to get the rubber, and if they failed to bring enough back
they would be tortured or even shot. It is estimated that over a
short 12 year period over 30,000 indigenous amazon indians were
enslaved, tortured, raped or killed just to satisfy the hunger for
rubber for the emerging motor car industry in Europe and North
America. It is also claimed that to this day there are uncontacted
indians in the Amazon rainforest who are the descendants of the
survivors of the rubber boom slaves who ran away to escape the
atrocities and epidemics that were wiping out the indian tribes.
Fany saw the photographs of Omarino and Ricudo she said “
Every nation did its best to exterminate indigenous people. Peru was
the mastermind accomplice to this holocaust and Colombia neglected
the victims. England financed it, Brazil forcibly moved indians to
work in the rainforest collecting the rubber and the United States
government actually paid Brazil $100 for every slave captured”.
one knows what happened to the two slaves but Omarino said “London
is very wonderful, but the great river and the forest where the birds
fly, is much more beautiful. One day we shall go home”. It is
not known if either of them made it back home to the Amazon.
interviewed in 2011 Survival International Director Stephen Corry
said ‘The rubber boom may seem like remote history, but its
effect is still with us today. When the West began its marriage to
the motor car, its love letters were written in indigenous indian
blood. It provoked a gross crime against humanity which was
perpetrated by a British company in the Putumayo area. The parallel
should not be exaggerated, but today there are still British
companies, such as Vendanta Resources who are planning the theft of
tribal land, this time in India. It’s time to put a stop to
these crimes and start treating tribal people like human beings.”
its just over a 100 years since the Daily News first introduced
Fany’s ancestors Omarino and Ricudo to the British public.
Fany Kuiru, a Huitoto Indian now living in Colombia, is appealing
to the outside world to help us uncover the fate of our
indigenous brothers … so that our ancestors’ spirits
can rest in peace.
Huitoto slaves in the Putumayo
young Amazon Indian slave bares horrific scars of the Rubber Boom
of Amazon Indians were enslaved and killed during the rubber boom