This talk begins by examining an unfortunate riddle about mines and women, which became a constant refrain in the illegal goldmines of Peru’s Amazonian region of Madre de Dios (Mother of God). The fall of the United States dollar and the international rise in the price of gold coincided with the paving of the first road – the Interoceanic – through the tri-frontier region of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. The road has facilitated artisanal gold mining and international traffic in people, plants and minerals. Peru is now the world’s sixth largest producer of gold and the top exporter of cocaine. Drawing on how the difference between women and mines became a circulating riddle, this talk conducts an analysis of the sets of relations in which women and “Nature” occupy the same category of exploitation. At the same time, men find themselves in extractive labor conditions in artisanal mining camps, immersing their bodies in toxic liquid mercury to harness the gold.

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