SILVER, SWORD AND STONE is a vibrant, sweeping history of Latin America, told through three compelling lenses.
The first, precious metal, of which silver is an enormous part, is an obsession that burned brightly in pre-Columbian times, consumed Spain in its relentless conquest of America, drove a system of exploitation, and has morphed into Latin America's hope for the future. The second, the 'sword', is the culture of violence: from the Aztec and Inca empires through the bloody nineteenth-century wars of independence to state terrorism, the Shining Path, and today's drug wars. The third, embodied in temples, elaborate cathedrals, or simple piles of rock, is the region's fervent adherence to religious institutions, built in stone.
The result is a dramatic portrait of a continent, brimming with colourful stories that cover a thousand years of history as well as real, living characters: Leonor Gonzalez, a tiny widow and mother of five living in La Rinconada, the highest human settlement in the world, informs the history of mining. Carlos Buergos - a Cuban drug dealer who honed his knife skills in the war in Angola, brought his cunning to America, then became a police informant - echoes the violence of the Aztecs, Pizarro, Rafael Trujillo and Pinochet. And Father Xavier Albo, a Jesuit priest who lives in La Paz, has worked for forty years to keep Catholicism alive among the Quechua and Aymara of the Andes, who would rather believe what their ancestors did.
Vivid and impeccably researched, SILVER, SWORD AND STONE is the definitive narrative history of a region with a tumultuous but little-understood present as well as past.
Arana's strength is the power and passion of her storytelling, and her explanation of what has shaped Latin America over the past half-millennium has the ring of truth . . . [a] marvelous book * WASHINGTON POST * Like a Condor soaring above the Andes, Marie Arana gives a sweeping overview of Latin American history. History is usually written by the winners, but this book throbs with passion for the victims and underdogs. It also celebrates the cultural triumphs, exuberance, and generosity that make Latin America so lovable -- John Hemming, author of THE CONQUEST OF THE INCAS To trace the soul of a continent is an extraordinary feat, and Marie Arana does it with scholarly precision, moral thoroughness, and elegance of style. For anyone interested in understanding what Latin America is and where it comes from, SILVER, SWORD AND STONE has to be the very first step -- Juan Gabriel Vasquez, author of THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING An elegant and incisive writer and observer, Marie Arana has given us a thoughtful and revealing portrait of the fabled - and too-little-understood - world of Latin America. Combining history with contemporary reportage, SILVER, SWORD AND STONE is compelling reading -- Jon Meacham, author of THE SOUL OF AMERICA Through the power and beauty of her writing, Arana brings extraordinary clarity to one of the most complex regions of the world. I have never before read a book of such astonishing breadth and intricate depth, capturing both the magnificent sweep of history and the gripping immediacy of journalism. The stories she tells will break your heart and blow your mind, but they will also give you a much clearer understanding of Latin America and a deep sense of wonder at the strength and resilience of its people -- Candice Millard, author of HERO OF THE EMPIRE Her energy and verve will no doubt attract many readers. -- Carrie Gibson * GUARDIAN * Arana's timely and excellent volume is not a history. It's not one of those cultural safaris one often sees substituted for thoughtful writing about global regions. Her book is a combination of stories, journalism, history and most important, insight... Arana gives us an epic story of stories - of regions conjoined by desire for treasure, power and control, and of the emotional mortar which binds people together through endurance. * NPR *