Monday Must Read: A New Book About the Americas


It is important to know the history of the places you travel, especially where you source production from or produce in your company. Now, along comes a book to help you study the Americas. Actually, I switched my college major to International Studies, with a focus on the Americas, and have read about this hemisphere my entire life. THIS book is really good.

The entire Spanish conquest of this hemisphere was driven by 'God, Glory and Gold'. To this author, those evolved into Silver (mining), Sword (war) and Stone (religion). Really an amazing read, one that can help you better assimilate in your travels. 

The NY Times thinks so too, and this is their review. If you want to pick up the book itself, “Silver, Sword, and Stone” by Maria Arana is available here.

A History of Latin America Embodied in ‘Silver, Sword, and Stone’
NYTimes: Aug. 27, 2019

Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story
By Marie Arana

Toward the end of “Silver, Sword, and Stone,” Marie Arana remarks on the difficulties of arriving at general conclusions about the history of the vast and diverse Latin American continent. It’s a complicated task, and not only because of the size of the land, the age of many of the cultures and the magnitude of the human migrations it has received.

The oldest grievances of Latin America — economic inequality, lack of access to justice, pervasive violence — feel as urgent now as they were in the 19th or the 16th centuries, and it’s hard to conclude anything about a story that keeps repeating itself. The problem with never-ending narratives, of course, is that they don’t have a conclusion.

As Arana, a Peruvian-born journalist and the author of a prizewinning biography of Simón Bolívar, meditates on the fragility of recent, still insufficient, progress in improving living conditions in the region, she includes a melancholy line that resounded deeply with my own sense of what it means to be Latin American: “We have learned to witness history with a certain helplessness.” It’s a small confession but an important one — a yielding to personal observation in a book that is otherwise carefully factual, a window onto a soul contemplating the continent’s troubled experience of the world.

Aren’t all histories brutal? Don’t others feel the divergence between what their countries should be and what they are the way we Latin Americans do? Why are we so prone to point out what we do wrong? Hasn’t our peculiar creative genius been resilient enough? Are our gifts to the world irrelevant? What about chocolate, corn, potatoes and tomatoes? The coronary bypass, oral contraceptives, a leprosy vaccine? Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Jorge Luis Borges and Frida Kahlo?

Arana is proud of her Latin American heritage, but she has a point when she writes that until there is a full reckoning with the legacy of racism and other forms of injustice the region’s citizens must remain self-critical. Read More