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What’s left of Fordlândia, the transplanted Midwestern town in the Amazon

Feb 24, 2017

In the 1920s, demand for rubber shot way up. With more cars being made, the auto manufacturers needed rubber for tires, hoses and other things.

Henry Ford decided he would go right to the source for his rubber. In 1928, he planned a rubber tree plantation and what essentially was a model Midwestern town along the Amazon River in Brazil.

An aerial view of Fordlândia.
Credit Jeso Carneiro / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

He called it Fordlândia.

Simon Romero, Brazil bureau chief for the New York Times, recently visited Fordlândia (or what's left of it). His recent article is titled Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland. Romero joined Stateside to tell us the town's story.

"Fordlândia was really one of the most incredible places I've ever been in Brazil," Romero said. "I had been to the Amazon numerous times before. I've explored parts of various river basins up there, I've seen remnants of lost civilizations and I've also come across ruins in different parts of Brazil, but I never saw something like this."

This American-style, Midwestern town was built on the banks of the Tapajós River, about six hours upriver from the city of Santarém. There's a water tower, paved roads, sidewalks, street lamps, bungalows, a working sewage system, a hospital and some buildings designed by famous architect Albert Kahn (who designed numerous structures in Detroit, among other places).

However, the town was plagued by problems from the start, and ultimately failed when Ford sold the land back to the Brazilian government at a huge loss in 1945.

Listen to the full interview above to hear the full story of Fordlândia, what led to the town's downfall and what its like today.
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