Rubber Boom Slavery

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Rubber Boom Slavery

Dating back hundreds of years the indigenous people of South and Central America had discovered the many uses of rubber, taken from what is known as a "Hevea brasiliensis" or more commonly, a rubber tree. When the latex is extracted from the tree it is hardened and formed into rubber which natives would use for numerous tasks such as making shoes, handles for tools, and even rubber balls for sports (Dean 23). Due to its useful yet uncanny features it created an immediate buzz of curiosity within the European colonies who occupied much of South America during the late 18th century. Word spread and it soon became a resource of high demand back in Europe whose industrialists sought fortune in collecting and selling the rubber. This period of time was known as the "Rubber Boom;" similar to the gold rush in that entrepreneurs hurried to areas such as the Amazon basin and quickly gathered latex from the rubber trees to meet the abrupt demand. Providing such a useful raw material to different parts of the globe that were incapable of producing rubber was a sure way for business capitalists to make fortune. Of course the industrialists who rushed into South America hoping to become rich realized that they had no idea how to extract the latex and compose rubber from these ordinary looking trees. This is when European colonists began their search for natives who were familiar with the rubber making process. Except, just knowing how to do it wasn't enough, they needed help, so they began enslaving the indigenous peoples who occupied much of the Amazon Basin and other surrounding areas populated with rubber trees. Slaves who extorted the rubber from these trees were known as "serengeiros" or more recently, "rubber tappers" (Russell-Wood). Concurrent with the long history of slave treatment the serengeiros were subject to harsh working conditions and long hours for little or no pay. Although the sudden desire for this resource did bring...
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