Manaus is the last of the large cities as you travel west up the Amazon. It’s history is a story of boom and bust. During it’s heyday 1890-1920 Manaus was one of Brazil’s major hubs/sources of rubber and was home to huge numbers of entrepreneurs (rubber barons). They made Manaus into “one of the gaudiest cities of the world”. Two of the sites we visited today, Teatro Amazonas and the Municipal Market, were built during that period.
The rubber barons built great houses (one even had a private zoo) but they were lost them when the rubber bust occurred. During the bust hundreds of rubber barons went broke. The baron that built this house eventually died penniless in Paris.
Also Manaus was the first city in Brazil to have electric lights. However when the rubber boom was over, the city could not afford to keep the generators operating and the lights in Manaus when out for decades and the city fell into decay.
Manaus experienced a brief boom between 1942 and 1945 when the Indonesian rubber fields were under Japanese control.
Our first stop today was the “Teatro Amazonas”, a grand opera house, with vast domes and gilded balconies, and using marble, glass, and crystal, from around Europe. The opera house cost ten million (public-funded) dollars. As with everything else when the bust occurred the opera house went dark. It was re-opened during the 20th century. We were privileged to attend a concert there during our visit.
Our final stop (you guessed it) was at the Municipal Marketplace.
The market was constructed between 1880 and 1883 and was based on the Les Halles marketplace of Paris, France. The building’s metal structure was built in Paris and sent to Manaus by ship. The market is one of the largest open markets in the city and offers fresh fruits, spices, fish, and souvenirs, as well as homemade traditional indigenous medications (in plastic bottles).