Highways are powerful symbols for expansion and discovery. While the construction of highways creates new opportunities for the exchange of human and natural resources, it often facilitates destruction and exploitation, especially for remote communities previously protected from the impacts of modernization.
After decades of planning and construction, a 1,600 mile-long trans-continental highway connecting Peru's Pacific ports with Brazil's Atlantic coast was completed in 2012. According to The New York Times, the Interoceanic Highway cost approximately 2.8 billion dollars, was supported by leaders of 12 South American countries, and was funded primarily by Brazil to facilitate trade with Asia.* This feat of engineering included the construction of over 20 bridges and traverses some of the most beautiful and remote areas in the world including the Andes Mountains and the Amazon basin in Peru. But highways are change-makers for better and worse. While highways create opportunities for expansion and development, they can destroy ecosystems, displace communities, and disrupt cultures.
The Interoceanic Highway is the first paved route that will connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across South America. The benefits to the highway include access to goods and employment opportunities to remote communities in Peru and Brazil, and a boost in trade within, between, and beyond these countries—particularly with Asia. The negative consequences include immigration and unplanned migration, drug trafficking, the devastation of indigenous cultures, and ecological destruction in the Andes Mountains and Amazon jungle.
In this photo essay, "La Carretera: Life and Change Along Peru's Interoceanic Highway," Roberto "Bear" Guerra documents life along the highway starting in 2010. Guerra's photographs show the haunting beauty of the road's expanse and the human and natural landscapes it traverses, as well as the destructive impacts on people and place.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. W.9-10.2 and W.11-12.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Common Core English Language Arts. SL.11-12.1.c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
Connections to National Standards Common Core English Language Arts. SL.9-10.5 and SL.11-12.5. Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understandings of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Geo.6.9-12. Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.