Henry Ford's Detroit suburb in the Brazilian jungle

Michigan History Magazine has an in-depth feature on Fordlandia, Henry Ford's bizarre planned community/company town/rubber plantation deep in the Brazilian jungle. Fordlandia was built to resemble the bucolic Detroit suburbs that hosted Ford's auto-plants, and had social practices that were a combination of corporate policy and local subversion (I've heard that Ford personally outlawed the traditional Caipirinha in favor of the Tom Collins, a more "civilized" drink).

Fenced in by jungle, Fordlandia was transformed into a modern suburb with rows of snug bungalows fed by power lines running to a diesel generator. The main street was paved and its residents collected well water from spigots in front of their homes–except for the U.S. staff and white-collar Brazilians, who had running water in their homes. The North Americans splashed in their outdoor swimming pool and the Brazilians escaped the sun by sliding into another pool designated for their use. "Villa Brasileira," as one area of the town was known, boasted tailors, shops, restaurants and shoemakers to serve the local workers. The sweet smell of bread wafted from a bakery; the butcher shop offered beef, pork and chicken at subsidized prices. On paper, it sounded like a dream…

"I'm a worker, not a waiter!" a Fordlandia employee reportedly yelled in the food line one day, sparking the plantation's most notorious riot. Workers armed with machetes joined the protest against the self-serve mid-western cuisine in a country where food traditionally was served at the table. The seringueiros demolished the cafeteria as North American officials scrambled to the dock, jumped into boats and waited in the middle of the river for Brazilian troops to quell the melee…

"A workman's mess hall was set up but native workers did not like the wholesome Detroit-style cooking and complained bitterly of indigestion. North American fare in the jungle no more pleases the customers than a quick change to Amazon fare would please you or me," Wilson wrote in a Harpers magazine article titled "Mr. Ford in the Jungle." Furthermore, the natives did not choose to square dance on the village green or to sing the quaint folk songs of Merrie England or to treasure Longfellow."


(via Beyond the Beyond)

SoL sez, "Here's a Damn Interesting article about Ford's doomed Brazilian experiment with pictures."