Deep in the heart of the Amazon, an entire region has lived under the control of one notorious land baron: Josélio de Barros. Josélio cut a grisly path to success: he arrived in the jungle with a shady past, quickly making a name for himself as an invincible thug who grabbed massive tracts of public land, burned down the jungle and executed or enslaved anyone trying to stop him.
Enter Dezinho, the leader of a small but robust farm workers' union fighting against land grabs, ecological destruction, and blatant human rights abuses. When Dezinho was killed in a shocking assassination, the local community held its breath. Would Josélio, whom everyone knew had ordered the hit, finally be brought to account? Or would authorities look the other way, as they had hundreds of times before?
Dezinho's widow, Dona Joelma, was not about to let that happen. After his murder, she stepped into the spotlight, orchestrating a huge push to bring national media attention to the injustices in the Amazon.
Set against the backdrop of Bolsonaro's devastating cuts to environmental protections, Brazil's rapidly changing place in the geopolitical spectrum, and the Amazon's crucial role in climate change, Masters of the Lost Land is both a gripping epic into one of the last wild places on Earth and an urgent illustration of how people are fighting for – and winning – justice for their futures and the environment.
Heriberto Araujo is a journalist, author and speaker. He was previously China correspondent for The Times and the Telegraph and he has written for other publications including the Guardian and the New York Times. He is co-author of China's Silent Army.
"An arresting examination of the history of extreme deforestation and violence in the Brazilian Amazon [...] Excellent"
– Kirkus Reviews
"Gripping [...] Araujo's accretion of detail has a powerful effect"
– New York Times
"[A] deeply researched report from the front lines of the battle for the Amazon."
– Publishers Weekly
"A gripping true crime mystery that transports readers into the heart of the Amazon to witness the human toll of its destruction and the incredible will of its people to fight for the future of this unique place – and the planet. Masterfully reported and engagingly written, this is a must-read."
– Greg Grandin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The End of the Myth
"This is journalism at its absolute best, made even more impressive when one considers the obstacles, obfuscation and threats so often encountered there when trying to ferret out the truth [...] an essential book."
– Joe Jackson, author of The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire
"With a journalist's insight and a scholar's scrutiny, Heriberto Araujo tells the timeless story of dominance, displacement, murder and social injustice that drive large-scale environmental destruction"
– Roman Dial, author of The Adventurer's Son
"A tour de force [...] Araújo's masterful reporting from the frontlines in the war for the world's most important tropical biome should be required reading for policy makers, and for anyone who cares about the fight for social and environmental justice for Amazonia's forest peoples."
– Jeremy M. Campbell, author of Conjuring Property: Speculation and Environmental Futures in the Brazilian Amazon
"Heriberto Araújo, drawing on his years of research, has written an essential journalistic account of the murder, mayhem and mind-boggling corruption surrounding the assault on the Amazon."
– Dr. Gary Sick, Columbia University, Board Member of Human Rights Watch
"Heriberto Araujo does a significant service to Amazonia by providing a look into the social hell that accompanies the destruction of the Amazon rainforest [...] No one can read this account without coming to the conclusion that we must prevent such events from continuing."
– Philip M. Fearnside, National Institute for Research in the Amazon