On top of being tucked away in the center of Peru, Tingo Maria is emerging from a dark history of terrorism. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, the entire area was under control of the infamous Sendero Luminosos. At first this rogue terrorist group gained the community’s support by publicly hanging thieves and rapists. In the eyes of the towns people this was a welcome act of justice, since the area needed safety. On top of getting rid of criminals, the terrorists brought a new illicit economy to this previously neglected region.

The courtship of this area was no accident, since Tingo Maria is surrounded by coca growing regions. Under the supervision of the terrorists, pasta básica de cocaína (cocaine paste) was openly sold in the markets and exchanged for US dollars. The locals didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, because the terrorists told them that this paste was used to make medicine in other countries. There was no internet or other employment opportunities, so the poor farmers happily obliged. 

Faced with no other options and financial encouragement, everyone in the area openly participated in this bonanza. Thanks to the direct transaction of cocaine paste for US dollars on the PE-5N highway, the entire area used dollars. For a brief moment, the drug trade provided financial stability to a region that the Peruvian government had previously ignored.

Unsurprisingly, drugs and terrorism proved to be a terribly volatile mixture. The sheer amount of money being exchanged on the makeshift airstrip on the highway started to attract robbers. This led to shootouts, planes being blown up and a wave of retaliation murders. The terrorists exacted their revenge on the community and publicly executed anyone accused of being involved in the robberies. On top of flippantly murdering people who were deemed traitors, the terrorists also executed homosexuals and prohibited the intake of alcohol. While the Peruvian people can support a great deal of violence, taking away their alcohol is an act of war.

Fortunately, just when things were getting too out of hand Alberto Fujimori was elected president of Peru. While the previous presidents had taken tepid measures to combat this vicious insurgence, he declared all out war on the terrorists. He sent the military into Tingo Maria, murdered all the terrorists, and armed the communities with rifles so they could patrol the area. The people happily accepted this government help, since they were tired of living under the tyranny of the terrorists.

These heavy handed measures worked, and today Tingo Maria is a safe place for foreigners to visit. While the drug trafficking still exists, it operates well out of the public eye. There are no more public executions or outlandish cocaine transactions on the freeway. In many ways, Tingo Maria is noticeably safer than Lima. We spent an entire week there and met nothing but amazingly friendly people.

The scars of this insurgence still exist, but Tingo Maria has too much going for it to fail. Armed with the untamed beauty of the selva, Tingo Maria is ready to become a haven for tourism. To showcase the artifacts of this once lawless land, we compiled a list of the craziest monuments around Tingo Maria. These are the last ruins of the previous terrorist control, so prepare to be blown away by their outlandish features!

Craziest Landmarks Around Tingo Maria

Landmark #1: El Ovni – This bizarre UFO shaped building was built by the drug capos who operated with impunity around Tingo Maria in the 80’s & 90’s. Despite laying in disrepair, back in its heyday this was a fully equipped discoteca. Decorated with disco balls, strobe lights and lasers, this was a hedonistic bunker. All the biggest drug capos in the area discussed major coke transactions by day and partied by night at this wild building. While the inside feels eerily empty, it still radiates a peculiar rebellious energy that’s impossible to ignore. Lord knows what levels of depravity where reached within its walls. Separating facts from embellished rumors is nearly impossible, so visitors are left to use their imagination…

Landmark #2: Ruta PE-5N – This infamous highway connects the high jungle to the low jungle in the middle of Peru. About 2 hours outside of Tingo Maria before reaching Agauytia, the highway becomes extremely straight for miles. During the height of the unabated narco-traffico during the 80’s & 90’s, this part of the highway was routinely converted into a clandestine airstrip. Armed terrorists would temporarily shut down both points of the highway, which allowed planes loaded with millions of US dollars to use the road as a landing strip.

Once the airplanes landed, the transaction began. The aircrew would hand over the money while the terrorists loaded the plane with pasta básica de cocaína. Once the plane was filled with drugs, it would turn around and use the empty highway as a runway. This outlandishly brazen tradition became so routine that the locals knew money was arriving every time a plane flew in low over Tingo Maria.

Unfortunately, this lucrative opportunity didn’t go unnoticed by robbers. According to locals, multiple planes got blown up on the highway when they were ambushed by armed intruders. These wild shootouts paved the way for the demise of the terrorist control within the area. Despite looking like an innocent highway today, this road holds hidden stories of untold madness. It’s an incredible piece of Peruvian history, and it proves that fact is indeed stranger than fiction.

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