The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas

Eric Rutkow. Scribner, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0390-2
This elegantly written work provides a rich and thorough history of the building of the Pan-American Highway, an extremely long and extensive network of roads that was meant to traverse the American supercontinent. The dream of hemispheric connectivity began with ideas for an intercontinental railway thought up in the 1870s by the eccentric Southern writer Hinton Rowan Helper and taken up by American political figures driven by both the cooperative aim of pan-Americanism and the motive of U.S. economic expansion. In meticulous detail and crisp prose, Rutkow traces the gradual construction of railway lines and then the change to plans for a hemispheric road, which the U.S. believed would help combat communist influence in the region. Ultimately, however, the dense jungles of the Darién Gap in Panama and Colombia proved impassible, at least without grave environmental damage, and the project was halted in the 1990s. In addition to the various political, technical, and environmental challenges the planners encountered, this is also the story of 150 years of U.S.–Latin America relations (involving perennial suspicion toward the U.S.), power struggles in Latin America, the Rough Riders’ expedition, world wars, and more. Both amusing and informative, this work will be the definitive history on the topic. Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher & Company. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2019
Release date: 07/10/2018
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