martes, 8 de mayo de 2012

Norte de La Paz: "Explotación de la goma"

A la goma, siringa o caucho (Hevea brasiliensis), los originarios peruanos la conocían como “cauchuc” (impermeable). La “fiebre del caucho” constituyó una parte importante de la historia económica y social de países con territorios amazónicos como son Brasil, Perú, Ecuador, Colombia y Bolivia. Esta fiebre está relacionada con la extracción y comercialización del caucho (goma). La fiebre del caucho a nivel mundial vivió su auge entre 1879 y 1912, experimentando, tiempo después, un renacimiento entre los años de 1942 y 1945. El descubrimiento de la vulcanización (en 1939 por Charles Goodyear) y de la cámara neumática en la década de los años 1870 dio lugar a una fiebre extractiva del caucho.

Se denomina caucho al jugo o látex de una variedad de plantas o árboles de gran tamaño. Hay diversas variedades de gomas, entre ellas se tienen: jebe, balata y gutapercha. Los árboles que proveen esta sustancia son las heveas, guayule, el ficus elástico y la Castilloa ulei.

Fue en la selva amazónica donde se desarrolló la actividad extractora del caucho a partir del árbol del caucho o seringueira (en portugués), un árbol que pertenece a la familia de las Euphorbiaceae. Del tallo de este árbol es extraído un líquido blanco, llamado látex, compuesto en un 35 % de hidrocarburos, destacándose el 2metil1, 3 butadieno (C5H8) comercialmente conocido como isopreno o monómero de caucho.

Los originarios centroamericanos fueron los primeros en aprovechar las particulares propiedades del caucho natural. La primera fábrica de productos de caucho surgió en ParisFrancia en 1803.

PRIMERA FIEBRE DEL CAUCHO EN EL BRASIL (18791912)

El desarrollo tecnológico y la Revolución Industrial de Europa fueron los detonantes que convirtieron al caucho natural, hasta entonces un producto exclusivo de la Amazonía Sudamericana, en un producto con alta demanda a nivel mundial, generando ganancias para cualquiera que se aventurase en el negocio. La Guerra del Acre (1899 a 1903) entre Bolivia y Brasil se produjo por los árboles de goma.

El fin del monopolio amazónico del caucho se dio en 1912 debido a que los ingleses plantaron árboles de caucho en Malasia, Ceylán (hoy Sri Lanka), India y en el África Sub Sahariana, con semillas y plantines extraídos ilegalmente del Amazonas por el inglés Wickham. De esta manera los precios del caucho a nivel mundial cayeron y la explotación de la goma sudamericana (boliviana, brasilera y peruana) ya no era rentable.

EL CAUCHO EN GUANAY Y MAPIRI (PROVINCIA LARECAJA)

Entre 1879 y 1912 Bolivia exportaba goma para la fabricación de llantas de vehículos y otros usos.

Recordemos que André (18531931) y Édouard Michelin (18591940) fueron unos industriales franceses inventores del neumático (llanta de goma).

La goma era extraída de las selvas de Guanay, Mapiri, Apolo, Ixiamas, Beni y Pando en forma de “bolachas” (bolas de goma de 80 centímetros de diámetro). En Guanay y Mapiri existían las sociedades gomeras de “Gunther y Berg”, “Benedicto Goitia”, “Andrés Pérez” y otros. En Apolo habían concesionarios gomeros de las “estradas” como Gregorio Gámez y otros. En Beni y Pando existió un enorme apogeo a la cabeza de Don Nicolás Suarez quien tenía como base a Cachuela EsperanzaPando.

La goma producida en Mapiri y Guanay era transportada desde Mapiri, en 7 días, en mulas, hacia Sorata, a la ex Casa Gunther, que era un centro de acopio o rescate y luego la goma era exportada fuera de Bolivia por Puerto Pérez en el Lago Titicaca y posteriormente por Puerto MollendoPerú, en el Océano Pacífico hacia los países de ultramar.

En Guanay y Mapiri actualmente existen plantaciones silvestres de goma, cuyo látex es utilizado para impermeabilizar saquillos de azúcar y harina, que luego son usados para el transporte de objetos en los ríos (“salvavidas” y “engomados”). En el mercado de Guanay se pueden encontrar “engomados” y “capas de goma” para la lluvia. Asimismo existe una pequeña bolsa de goma de 15 x 30 centímetros que sirve para llevar la coca.

SEGUNDA FIEBRE DEL CAUCHO (19421945)

En la Segunda Guerra Mundial, las fuerzas japonesas lograron dominar militarmente el Pacífico Sur durante los primeros meses de 1942, invadiendo Malasia, así el control de las zonas caucheras pasó a manos del Japón. Es entonces que Estados Unidos insta al Brasil a aumentar la explotación de sus árboles de goma (caucho), fiebre que llega también a Bolivia (Guanay, Mapiri, Apolo, Ixiamas, Pando y Beni).

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