This book underscored just how technology has revolutionized communications. In the early 1880s a British woman, Maria Soltera, intrepid and courageou...moreThis book underscored just how technology has revolutionized communications. In the early 1880s a British woman, Maria Soltera, intrepid and courageous traveler fluent in Spanish, decides to travel to Central America after a single off-handed comment about a job opening in San Pedro Sula, Honduras as a school teacher. This book is her travel diary. The story begins when she is in San Francisco (having traveled already across the Atlantic and then across the US by train) as she prepares for a steamer trip to the Pacific port of Honduras at Amapala.
Soltera was brave. She was single woman traveling alone with modest funds and little idea of what to expect in this region. When she arrives in Honduras, she organizes her plans to travel across the country with two hired hands, one a native assistant/guide, and the other a "mule trainer".
Honduras in 1880s was akin to the Wild West (but a tropical environment) - most likely even less development and infrastructure. A traveler had to innately trust the people around them. You traveled until you saw a house, and then you stopped and it was expected that these strangers would provide food and boarding for you and your animals. This concept is pretty foreign to the modern mind.
I was hoping for more descriptions of the land and the people through her journal. While she provided some small details, she writes more of her conversations with people along the way. These offered some interesting topics of life in Honduras at that time - of particular note was the hope that the transnational railway (funded and promised by the British) would be completed. (And unfortunately, it never was - a great "fleecing" of the Honduran government by both Europe and America with promise after promise of funding development...)
In the end, when Soltera finally arrives in San Pedro Sula, she realizes that there is no school, therefore no need for a teacher... she has been the victim of a con - an especially drawn out long con that involved thousands of miles of travel. Which brings me back to my original point: while Soltera was brave, courageous and headstrong, she was also incredibly naive and gullible. She had no way of checking references and seeing if this man (who advertised the job) was even real - she just set out and made this huge journey. She was too trusting - unsavory con-men surely existed in the 19th century, and she fell for it.(less)
Found this book in a Google book search as a free e-book courtesy of the University of Virginia library. Oh Google, I can't quit you.
Cecil Charles tra...moreFound this book in a Google book search as a free e-book courtesy of the University of Virginia library. Oh Google, I can't quit you.
Cecil Charles travels to Honduras in the 1880s and writes this book for fellow Americans who want to strike it rich in Honduras, taking the country for all it is worth. (No kidding, more on this later...) Heavy in descriptions, Charles describes each leg of his journey, from the Pacific coast to Tegucigalpa, where he spends a good deal of time, hobnobbing with fellow Americans and Europeans, visiting American companies (specifically silver mines), and making friends with the Honduran president. Charles takes this cultural task very seriously, offering up paragraphs of advice on things like public health (wash your hands! don't go barefoot!) to relationships with the "natives", who are not quite the savages that you would imagine them to be (his words!) and will work for very little. He propagates every last stereotype, but then comes around and says how much he loves the country and his time there. In fact, this is the model of the book: COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN (riding on burros and mules, muddy roads, poor lodgings, dim-witted guides and porters, insufficient food) and then say "Oh, I love it here because their coffee is good." It is truly laughable.
Perhaps the most enlightening to a modern reader is latter half of the book, where Charles describes how best to exploit all the resources the country has to offer: lands free for the taking! timber! plantations! I mean, he really thinks that he is offering some sort of major service to his fellow countrymen (which I suppose he might have to the industrious fortune-seekers who were completely on-board with American imperialism in both the financial and cultural sense). His most shocking diatribe - the one that made me gasp and my jaw drop to the floor - was reserved for a racist rant against the "Caribs" of the North Coast (presumably the Garifuna people in coastal Honduras and Belize). Until that point, I was ready to accept "ol' Cecil" as a typical gringo with his "white people problems" - but that rant was unforgivable (and totally unnecessary in the context of the book, truthfully. I guess his racist feelings just ran so deep that he felt he needed to mention them as a side note? Inexcusable, even for this time...)
That being said, this book is a rare glimpse into the world of 1880s Central America - right as American and Europeans were beginning to flood to the various country to strike it rich. It's a telling portrait, and a harbinger for what was to come for the Isthmus (and Honduras in particular) in the coming decades.
I will refrain from rating this book - it is just too controversial and dated, but it was a goldmine for my research into the region during this period, so for that reason, it was extremely useful.(less)
One thing that really appealed to me about this book was the amount of visual data - there are charts, graphs, and many photographs. Alongside the vis...moreOne thing that really appealed to me about this book was the amount of visual data - there are charts, graphs, and many photographs. Alongside the visuals, there is a very readable history of the region from pre-Columbian times to the present. It is a solid primer on the isthmian geography, politics, economics, and culture, and I learned a lot from it. (less)
I was happy to find this book by a Central American scholar in translation. While I admit to skimming some sections, the ones I focused on (first 2/3s...moreI was happy to find this book by a Central American scholar in translation. While I admit to skimming some sections, the ones I focused on (first 2/3s of book) were engaging and well-researched. Perez-Brignoli is methodical in his approach, and each country is examined in succession through the time periods. I liked this style as it was easy to compare what was happening in (example) Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in a certain span of years. (less)
A great introductory text for the geography, history, and culture of Honduras. I particularly liked the sections about the various ethnic groups and t...moreA great introductory text for the geography, history, and culture of Honduras. I particularly liked the sections about the various ethnic groups and the cultures within the county - many more than I knew about beforehand. The book has a lot of web links for enhanced study - a helpful tool for students and researchers. (less)
Too often, Honduras gets the short shrift in favor of its neighbors, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Chapters are written about those two countries while Hon...moreToo often, Honduras gets the short shrift in favor of its neighbors, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Chapters are written about those two countries while Honduras sees (maybe) a few paragraphs. Acker's book gives the most complete and detailed history of the country that I have read, with primary focus on the late 19th-century to the 1980s. It sets Honduras in context in the tapestry of Central (and the greater Latin) Americas while focusing on the frequent political upheavals and foreign interests and investments, and the subsequent economic and social ramifications for the country and its people.
This book provided me with the most complete picture of this country and how it became what it is today. (less)
Solid contextual piece for the Central American wars and skirmishes during the late 19th and early 20th-century. Chapters focus primarily on Nicaragua...moreSolid contextual piece for the Central American wars and skirmishes during the late 19th and early 20th-century. Chapters focus primarily on Nicaragua and Honduras, although Guatemala and El Salvador come into play.(less)