Book Review – Latin America: The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux Reviewed by Mark D. Walker I recently came across an interview of Paul Theroux in “New York Times’” “By the Book” in which he reveals that ”The Mosquito Coast” was his favorite most personally meaningful book. He goes on to say, “…Over a period of two years, knowing it was a great idea and plot, I wrote confidently in rainy cold sedate London , and it is of course a book set in sunny warm anarchic Honduras,” at which point I realized that although I’d seen the movie, I’d never read the book! I’d […]

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Book Review – Latin America: The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics

The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics Edited by Greg Grandin, Deborah Levenson & Elizabeth Oglesby Reviewed by Mark D. Walker The Guatemala Reader is an impressive compilation of 200 texts in a broad, comprehensive introduction to Guatemala’s history, culture, and politics. I wish I had this when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 70s, or when studying for my Masters at the Institute of Latin America at the University of Texas later in the decade, not to mention over eight years working with different organizations, as these materials provide a wealth of insights into the beauty and […]

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Book Review – Latin America: Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala

Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala By Daniel Wilkinson Reviewed by Mark D. Walker While researching for a documentary on the immigration crisis in Guatemala, I came across the reference of this book being one of the best books on the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted thirty-six-years and claimed some 200,000 people, the vast majority of whom died (or “disappeared”) at the hands of a U.S.-backed military government. The title sounded familiar, so I checked out my bookshelves and, low-and-behold, it surfaced and I’m so glad it did. The author was a young human […]

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Book Review – Latin America : The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen

The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen Reviewed by Mark D. Walker After being thrown off his small farm on the Rioverde located in northern Ecuador after years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and then as a local farmer by his local partner Ramon, the 63-year-old author, embarks on a desperate journey on a second river—this one is in Brazil. The trek proves to be a time of reckoning, assessing and reflecting on his life, which he perceived was coming to an end. This book would be the third of the author’s four literary […]

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Book Review – Latin America: The Rigoberta Menchu Controversy, Arturo Arias, Editor

The Rigoberta Menchu Controversy, Arturo Arias, Editor Reviewed by Mark D. Walker I learned of this book while helping produce a documentary on immigration problems in Guatemala, “Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands,” when I announced that I was planning to recruit anthropologist David Stoll to work with us. I’d read his excellent studies, “Between Two Armies” and “Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans,” which he researched with extensive interviews in the Ixil Triangle region of Guatemala. But when I announced his involvement, a number of our advisors said they’d abandon the project if we included Stoll. Evidently, […]

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Book Review – Latin America: Pedro Páramo

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo Reviewed by Mark D. Walker I first learned of what is considered “one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century world literature” while reading Paul Theroux’s, “On the Plain of Snakes.” In his critique of Mexican literature, he mentions “Pedro Páramo” because, unlike many Mexico’s best-known authors, Rulfo wrote about rural Mexico. He mentions that the book was published in 1955 and was one of procurers of “magical realism”, which influenced many of Latin America’s best authors. When I told my Guatemalan wife about the book, she told me she “hated it.” Evidently, the Belgium nuns who […]

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Book Review – Latin America: Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond

Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond By Carol Karasik Illustrated by Alfonso Huerta García Reviewed by Mark D. Walker Lidar image technology and a series of National Geographic specials have introduced a growing number of people to the ancient Maya civilization. This book invites in even more readers into the worldview and the mystical realm that reflect the heart of the Maya people. Through captivating stories and exotic illustrations, it also draws upon ancient myths and lore and gives life to their quirky gods. Michael Coe, respected anthropologists, and author says of Maya Gods & […]

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Book Review – Latin America: The Lost City of the Monkey God

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglas Preston Reviewed by Mark D. Walker As soon as I opened this book, I realized it offered many of the things I enjoy most: a good travelogue, lots of adventure, a historic mystery, including flesh eating bacteria, all of which reveal who the population was centuries ago, as well as something about modern Honduras. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I was pleased to learn that two Peace Corps Volunteers were instrumental in discovering an ancient ossuary, which would turn out to be the most important archaeological find since discovering Copan. […]

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Book Review – Latin America: Bolivia 30: Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s

Bolivia 30: Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s Frank T. Darmiento (Bolivia ), author and editor CreateSpace April 2015 172 pages $24.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) Frank Darmiento, the author of Bolivia 30 provides a unique perspective of life in the Peace Corps in Bolivia by sharing in great detail his own story of the training process in the U.S. as well as when serving in Bolivia with his young wife. His book also includes dozen stories of others who were in his training group, which added to the texture and broadened […]

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Book Review – Latin America: Blue Country

Blue Country By Mark Wentling Reviewed by Mark D. Walker I’ve been looking forward to the author’s next book after thoroughly enjoying “Africa’s Embrace,” which is part of his African Trilogy. I reviewed his book “Dead Cow Road,” which took place in Somalia, so I’m familiar with the author’s ability to spin an interesting yarn about far off places. Although the author was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, he was also a volunteer in Honduras for five years, so I’ve been waiting for a story that took place in Central America. The author’s work and travels span more than […]

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