In October 2005, I came to the Amazon to do research on a book for Viking Press on Henry Wickham, the Victorian wanderer who stole 70,000 rubber seeds from the Amazon in 1876 to give the British Empire the world monopoly in natural rubber. This was a highly specialized trip, calling not only for a wide knowledge of history, botany, and zoology, but also requiring the services of a Portuguese-to-English interpreter and local guide. This is a tall order for any guide, but Gil Serique was up to the challenge and, it proved, perfect for the job. Starting in Santarem, we hit Henry Ford's failed rubber plantations in Fordlandia and Belterra, the site of Wickham's first failed plantation at Piquiatuba, several villages along the Tapajos River that figured into the story, and visited examples of primary forest that would have approximated the conditions in Victorian times. We unearthed tales of riots in Fordlandia that had never been documented and solved a historical mystery concerning the origin of the seeds that created the British Empire's lucrative rubber trade. We stopped at Taperhina, one of the most famous sites of Victorian-era biological exploration, as well as at obscure villages along the river in which I stumbled upon ideas for subsequent books. The gathering of information in a quick and efficient manner is extremely important for any writer or journalist working on a deadline: Gil understood this, did his research ahead of time, and was able to squeeze what turned into an incredibly rich research journey into a mere six days.
The greatest stumbling block that I anticipated was the language barrier, but Gil was a natural interpreter, able to anticipate my questions as or before I asked them. It was as if there was no language barrier at all. Not only does Gil have wide experience in the logistics and pitfalls of guided tours, but he is intellectually engaged in solving the kinds of problems and challenges that writers, researchers, filmmakers and scientists normally encounter when traveling to a different country for creative work. Gil is both fun to be with and extremely smart, and within a day or two of my arrival I knew that I could depend upon him totally, more as if he were a collaborator in the work than a paid guide. That seems to be his ethic: he becomes a collaborator, and wants the project to succeed as much as anyone. I cannot recommend Gil highly enough for work like this, and I anticipate collaborating with him again in the future for research on a novel once this nonfiction manuscript is submitted. I would be happy to recommend his expertise to anyone.
Joe Jackson Author:
A Furnace Afloat
A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen
How I Left the Great State of Tennessee and Went on to Better Things
|A must for those who likes Amazon History|