1. Huerequeque Bar

    Project for an expanded documentary

    This project is an experimental documentary based on Huerequeque, an old man from Iquitos who was one of the main characters of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. The documentary is an account of the recent history of the Amazon Basin through the life experiences of Huerequeque, narrated as poems, short stories and free speech. The project includes the reconstruction of the Huerequeque Bar as a platform for these stories, where people can meet the character of Huerequeque as a collection of videos.

  2. Huerequeque Bar

    It is said that in rubber times, by the end of the Nineteenth Century, Iquitos was closer to Europe than to Lima. While the trip to the Peruvian capital took three months, steamboats navigated through the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean to the port of Liverpool in less than twenty days. The boats transported loads of rubber extracted from trees in the Amazon Jungle, and in their way back from Europe, were loaded with goods as diverse as bricks, potatoes, fabrics, tiles, chocolate or soap. In a few decades, the rubber companies established a common relationship of exchange of raw materials for elaborated goods, generating a new society in the Amazon Basin fully connected with Europe and merely isolated from the life of the Latin-American capitals.

    Werner Herzog ingeniously depicted this culture of rubber, at the same time cosmopolitan and colonial, in his famous film Fitzcarraldo. In the movie, a descendent of Europeans dreams with the construction of the Opera House in Iquitos. In order to get the money to do it he tries to find a new land for rubber extraction. To get to this new territory he is challenged to take his boat over a mountain with the help of local indians. The production of the movie became an epic as monumental as the story in which it was historically based. The enterprise of the production of Fitzcarraldo took more than five years, some people died during the film, and some people was born. The production of the film itself became part of the histories and myths of Iquitos.

    Along his adventures in the film, Fitzcarraldo had several companions, one of them was Huerequeque, the drunken cook of the boat that in the course of the movie became the translator and the mediator between the locals and the foreigner. In this sense, Huerequeque became an iconographic depiction of the mestizo. His character was based in the life of Enrique Bohorquez, a Peruvian from Chiclayo that migrated to Iquitos in his youth and that after experiencing several of the difficulties of the jungle, he became a local figure as the owner of a restaurant and bar. In the movie, Enrique Bohorquez represents himself as Huerequeque, condensing fiction with reality in one single entity.

    In 2008 I had the opportunity to meet Huerequeque in Iquitos. In year 2010, I went back to record most of the footage of this documentary about his life, in year 2013 I went back to spend another amount of time recording his stories. At the beginning I was attracted by his participation in Fitzcarraldo; although talking with him, I discovered a person that transcends his own idiosyncrasy to become a narrator of the recent history of the Amazon Basin. What captured my attention was the sense of speech in his narrations, he switches from testimony to fiction and from fiction to poetry indistinctly. As is usual in the Amazon Basin, Huerequeque trusts in orality to transmit the events of history. He uses his own memory to make his stories alive every time he tells them, since none of his stories had been published and they remain poorly preserved as a random pile of notes. 

    My project is a transformation of this oral history into another mean of information which transmits the stories of Huerequeque preserving the vivacity of his gestures. The footage includes the first interview I made with Huerequeque in 2008 and many other interviews we had in the interval of five years. The project also includes two other sections: A video mosaic of contextual-historical images of Iquitos and a video essay based on the idea of cinematographic projection both in the context of Iquitos, Fitzcarraldo and Huerequeque. In this sense, the project proposes three different personas: a narrative character, a contextual-historical individual and a subjectivity transformed by cinematography.

    The bar and restaurant that Huerequeque runs is a special social place of interaction. Is in this place where people get together to transmit the events of the day, for Huerequeque his bar has the same function as a library for a historian. Is in this space were Herzog met him in the early seventies and were I met him seven years ago. I also conducted several interviews and recordings in this space. The theater for my project is a reconstruction of the Huerequeque Bar. In my project, this platform would have a polyvalent functionality, serving as a social space of meeting and as a space of encounter with the stories of Huerequeque.

    The reconstruction of the Huerequeque Bar, can have several configurations. Ideally it would be a floatable structure in which the three sections of the project can coexist in a single space. It can be presented as three different platforms in an open space or it can be installed in three different contiguous spaces.