Fordlândia (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɔʁdʒiˈlɐ̃dʒɐ], Ford-land) is a now-abandoned, prefabricated industrial town established in the Amazon Rainforest in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford to secure a source of cultivated rubber for the automobile manufacturing operations of the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Ford had negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government granting his newly formed Companhia Industrial do Brasil a concession of 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi) of land on the banks of the Rio Tapajós near the city of Santarém, Brazil, in exchange for a 9% interest in the profits generated. The project was ultimately a total failure.
History and decline
Ford intended to use Fordlândia to provide his company with a source of rubber for the tires on Ford cars, avoiding the dependence on British (Malayan) rubber. The site was developed as a pre-planned community. Ford forbade alcohol, women and tobacco within the town, including inside the workers' own homes. The inhabitants circumvented this prohibition by paddling out to merchant riverboats moored beyond town jurisdiction and a settlement was established 8 kilometres (5 mi) upstream on the "Island of Innocence" with bars, nightclubs and brothels.
The land was hilly, rocky and infertile. None of Ford's managers had the requisite knowledge of tropical agriculture. The rubber trees, packed closely together in plantations, as opposed to being widely spaced in the jungle, were easy prey for tree blight, sauva ants, lace bugs, red spiders, and leaf caterpillars, a problem absent from the Asian rubber plantations, where transplanted Amazonian rubber trees faced no natural predators. The mostly indigenous workers on the plantations, given unfamiliar food such as hamburgers and forced to live in American-style housing, disliked the way they were treated—they had to wear ID badges, and work through the middle of the day under the tropical sun—and would often refuse to work. In 1930 the native workers revolted against the managers, many of whom fled into the jungle for a few days until the Brazilian Army arrived and the revolt ended.
Despite repeated invitations from residents and periodic promises to do so, Henry Ford never actually visited his ill-fated jungle city.
The government of Brazil was suspicious of any foreign investments, particularly in the northern Amazonian region, and offered little help. Ford tried again, relocating downstream to Belterra where better weather conditions to grow rubber existed, but by 1945 synthetic rubber had been developed, reducing world demand for natural rubber. Ford's investment opportunity dried up overnight without producing any rubber for Ford's tires, making Fordlândia a total disaster. In 1945, Henry Ford's grandson Henry Ford II sold it for a loss of over US$20 million ($208 million 2013 dollars).
Legacy and depictions
- The 6th installment of the Franco-Belgian comic series Marsupilami by Yann and Batem, published in 1991, is titled "Fordlandia" and takes place there.
- Singer/songwriter Kate Campbell has a track entitled "Fordlândia" on her 2008 album Save the Day.
- Argentinian writer Eduardo Sguiglia wrote a novel entitled Fordlandia.
- In November 2008, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson released an album entitled Fordlandia.
- In 2009, Greg Grandin published his nonfiction account, "Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City," and Montreal artist Scott Chandler photographed Fordlândia.
- German television production company gebrueder beetz included Fordlandia in episode 4 of their 5 part series Modern Ruins.
- British artist Dan Dubowitz photographed Fordlândia in 2012.
- British actor and comedian Michael Palin's 4 part TV travel documentary Brazil with Michael Palin featured Fordlândia in episode 2 shown on BBC1 on 31 October 2012.
- In the PC game The Amazon Trail, the player travels back in time to meet Henry Ford there.
- American author Buell Hollister explores Fordlândia's history and uses the area as the setting in his 2015 novel Leeram in Fordlandia.
Notes and references
- Dempsey, Mary A. (1994). "Fordlandia". Michigan History 78 (4): 24–33.
- Grandin, Greg (June 2009). Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City. Metropolitan Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-8236-4.
- "Rubber Plantations". Thehenryford.org. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
- Galey, John (1979). "Industrialist in the Wilderness: Henry Ford's Amazon Venture". Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 21 (2): 261–289. ISSN 0022-1937. JSTOR 165528.
- Chandler, Scott. "Fordlandia". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- Modern Ruins – Fordlândia | gebrueder beetz filmproduktion
- Megalomania - Fordlandia | Dan Dubowitz / Civic Works
- (French) Michel Braudeau, « Henry Ford vaincu par la « rouille » », in Le rêve amazonien, éditions Gallimard, 2004 (ISBN 2-07-077049-4).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fordlândia.|
- The Ruins of Fordlândia, by Alan Bellows, from Damn Interesting, posted 3 August 2006. Includes pictures.
- Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City - Democracy Now, broadcast 2 July 2009, Video and Discussion (transcript available).
- Fordlandia - Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, UK edition, published by Icon Books
- Fordlandia on Flickr - Historic images from the Benson Ford Research Center, a library and archive located at the Henry Ford Museum.