Monday, February 25, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Beautiful Ruins

'To dream the impossible dream.' That's what I thought as I looked upward in wonder at the Es Salud Building in central Iquitos, Peru. To build a perfect Social Security building for the people of the city so they can live in some state- organised financial security when they age or become injured and so on and can no longer work. And what better way to serve this need than to erect a building so sick that one must bribe the security guard to gain entry into this condemned building and then take ones chances that it won't simply collapse in a heap of rubble as one ascends the multi-levels to the sky. The building is sicker than anyone who might otherwise need to enter it. It's a giant ruin right in the middle of town, a memorial to all corruption of the flesh, a veritable concrete paean to government screw-ups in Third World nations and beyond. To dream the impossible dream, and then to climb the result on the sly. Oh, man, it is a joy to sneak into a building and then pee from the roof top on unsuspecting little ant people down below. I love corruption in government. I want to be the king of the world, like Obama only creepier.

But, corruption aside, I love a nice view of a city with only one high-rise building in it. Climbing so high and looking out so far makes me tingle with urination.

Then I came to my senses. No one can be as creepy as Obama, even one so high as we who climbed the ruined building that dominates Iquitos's skyline.

I've asked over and over what this building is about, what it was meant to be, why it's here and ruined and still standing. It becomes a game to play in my off hours: everyone I speak to about the building has a different story, some very cool, such as the building's concrete lacking gravel to the point it's built of something like pancake dough, that it's so soft it's about to fall over sideways at any time. Or, that it's sinking because it's too heavy for the soil here. That the building is used to supply antennae for the military and the money the owners get is used to pay security guards to keep people out. That didn't work for me. I got in and got to the top with no problem.

The building is only eleven stories high, but it's the tallest building in the city. It's not sinking at all, otherwise one wouldn't be able to enter it from the street. The entrance would be under ground by now, almost 25 years after the fact.

Alfredo is my fix-it guy. He's not impressed by the scene of his hometown.

Locals are used to the big blue beast that rots in the centre of the city.

For me and those few others who climbed it and who will, the building is just good sport, a place to scamper around in, to get a good view of the city and surrounding from, and to brag a bit about having been there.

Eleven stories, and all of them are lies.

I have no idea what the real story is about the building, and I don't really care, as I am sure others don't care. It's a building one can climb up and look around from.

The view inside is less that stellar,

And possibly even disgusting to the over-sensitive,

But with a bit of searching around one finds some pretty sights of the city one cannot find elsewhere.

Being one to push a good thing too far, I decided to climb the final mile.

Until the ladder came loose in the concrete and I faced a long drop down.

So I contented myself with a view of the futility of it all, of nature taking over and reverting to jungle, nature not aware that when nature does triumph, it too must fall and die.

That will be some long time later. For now, man reigns supreme at the heights of the Amazon in the middle of the jungle here in Iquitos, Peru. I content myself with dreaming some impossible dream, some day on a rooftop all by myself looking around at a lovely world. A day in Iquitos. I feel like a king.
A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book:


truepeers said...

Did you check the elevator shaft?

Mexico City is sinking twice as fast as Venice - you can keep it going by adjusting the entrance ways and digging and pumping out.

Dag said...

One would see the damage from the sinking, the cracks, the tilt, and so on. The building looks to be in fair shape so far as sinking goes. I have no idea what the real problem is. I hear that there's not enough stone in the concrete to make it sturdy enough to stand. But it stands just fine. I suspect the real story is one of outright theft, that someone took the completion funds and they have never been replaced, and now never will be.

Of the elevator shafts in Mexico City I have but one small anecdote about the aftermath of the big quake back in the late 80s when I worked at an insurance company there. Perhaps not the company I worked for, but certainly all the others paid criminals to steal bodies from the rubble so they didn't have to pay out for deaths. But the worst story was that the president's brother-in-law was the builder of the city's buildings, all of which collapsed, including the city jail. When the excavation of the elevator shaft was nearly complete there was the odd discovery of numerous skeltons at the bottom, prisoners who died while trying to escape.

Ha, so that's where they were hiding all these years.

The smell? It's a Mexican jail.

In Iquitos I had fun during a fun and interesting hike up the city's tallest building. I felt like a kid again. Until I started climbing that ladder....

Dag said...

OK, so that's two anecdotes. I'm a writer, not a mathematician.