Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Knife Fights with Cachaça, Brothels and Gold Digging. The garimpeiros – unregistered miners - live life at a knife's edge, where the land and its resources are up for grabs. Deep in the Amazon they compete amongst themselves, sometimes blowing up competitors with the same dinamite they use to search for gold. Ramshackle bars and brothels appear with names like 'The Doves' and 'The Toucans', all ready to cater for the sums of money to be made. But the true price for the garimperiero is high; tropical diseases and probable injuries with no medical services for miles.
Everyday, thousands of scavengers, called guaqueros, wade through the black and muddy Miners River looking for sparkling green precious stones, known as emeralds. Colombia´s emerald mines are by and large, violent places, and a refuge to bandits and fugitive drug barons. Over the past years many of these same guaqueros have turned treasure hunters hoping to find an estimated eight billion dollars hidden around a 4,000 hectare farm, buried 15 metres deep. 'Treasure' once belonging Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha alias the "The Mexican" the now dead leader of the Medillín Cartel, who killed those who knew his secret. The government has since promised 30 percent of the treasure to the guaqueros, while the rest will be shared between the government and the army. In the end though with so much money to be made, there are no alliances.