Charles Brewer-Carías isn’t a man you expect to have a devoted Queen West fanbase. The 74-year-old Venezuelan looks and acts as if he stepped out of a bygone era of Victorian gentleman-explorers. (Think Up’s Charles Muntz.) He’s made his life’s work the exploration of the jungles of Venezuela, and he has been very successful.
Trained as a dentist, Brewer-Carías speaks six languages, including that of the tiny Yekuana tribe. He’s had 28 species or orders of flora and fauna named for him, holds the record for the fastest fire made with sticks (2.7 seconds), and has discovered what could be the world’s oldest living organism, a 317,000 year-old coral-type silica. He believes he knows the location of the mythical lost city of El Dorado, but unspecified difficulties with the Hugo Chavez regime prevent him from going there.
Last Saturday at The Great Hall, at an event sponsored by U.K. organization The Adventurists (“Hell bent on fighting to make the world less boring”), 150 urban professionals and creative-class types listened as Brewer-Carías explained that he is “not well understood in [his] own century.” The crowd wanted to fix that.
As Brewer-Carías, clad in a safari jacket and sporting old-timey moustache, finished his presentation, the audience mingled over gin and tea. “I couldn’t do what he does,” said Yvonne Liaw, who recently started a skin care products business. Despite this, Brewer-Carías’ message resonated with her. “You have to keep that spirit of wonder,” she said.
As the event came to a close, Brewer-Carías posed a rhetorical question: “How can you discover something new in the 21st century?” As the crowd paid rapt attention, he answered cryptically, “Well, that’s the magic.”