Silver, Sword & Stone: Three Crucibles of the Latin American Story

Marie Arana. Simon & Schuster, $30 (458p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2247-8
National Book Award finalist Arana (American Chica) provides a sweeping history of Latin America through the lenses of the region’s three most significant cultural factors: minerals and imperial exploitation (silver), violence (sword), and religion (stone). In each part, she connects the overarching element to a person from the present day. In Part I, the story of Leonor Gonzáles, a contemporary woman working in an illegal mine, is interspersed with the narrative of plunder, murder, and enslavement by Spanish conquistadors of the 15th and 16th centuries, including Columbus, Cortés, and Pizarro. The story of Cortés’s capture of Montezuma depicts the Aztec leader with more intelligence and agency than is usual in history books. In Part II, readers meet Carlos Buergos, a Cuban immigrant to the United States who has a checkered past, and Arana connects 17th- and 18th-century slave uprisings against the Spanish to the 19th-century revolutions led by Simón Bolívar in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama. Part III traces religion in the region from the sun gods of the Incas and Aztecs to the 2013 appointment of the first Latin American pope, Francis I, weaving in the life story of Xavier Albó, a Jesuit missionary who came to Buenos Aires in 1952 and stayed. Arana’s history is as captivating as it is comprehensive. It’s a marvel for covering so much ground. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/25/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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