The sad tale of the conquest and what followed over the next centuries in Latin America has been related many times before, but Arana, a novelist, has turned it into literature. Though meticulously researched, the book’s greatest strengths are the power of its epic narrative, the beauty of its prose and its rich portrayals of character ... 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 ... It is a bold assertion, but by the end of this marvelous book, she has definitively and eloquently made the case.
Arana’s...fluency in Latin American history blossoms in this unique and arresting inquiry into three 'crucibles' which have shaped Latin American life for centuries ... In this masterwork of exploration, connection, and analysis, Arana offers a fresh, gripping, and redefining perspective on a vital and magnificent region betrayed by toxic greed and vicious tyranny.
Marie Arana's new book Silver, Sword and Stone: Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story, gets at the identity conundrum of Latin America with storytelling that is both clear-eyed and evocative ... 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 ... If the sweep and soar of her narrative recalls Victor Hugo, the essence of her voice delivers that feeling which results from knowing what happens when people choose not to understand — that sense of yearning one often discovers in the music and poetry of Latin America's great artists ... 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 ... A reading of Silver, Sword and Stone is a punch in the face — the real impact of greed, violence and religion comes through viscerally. But Arana's book also reveals the paradox which both supports and defies centuries of oppression. It's the Latin American's capacity to endure. More than a lesson on oppression, this is a story about the fatalism of resilience.
Lately, we’ve read and heard and seen a great deal about our southern border and the waves of immigrants seeking to enter the United States, but that’s news, not knowledge. Anyone seriously interested in learning more about the vast areas that comprise the rest of the Americas would be well-served by reading this fine account of their tortured history ... instead of a dry typically historical account of the equal importance of these elements, Ms. Arana wisely personifies her tripartite thesis ... Another plus is the writer and her publisher’s obvious concern for the reader. The book comes with an index, a lengthy bibliography, and more than 80 pages of careful — and most helpful — notes ... a superb shortish geographical, political and cultural history that also happens to be very readable.
... it is the human face that Arana depicts through the stories of Gonzales, Buergos and Albó that helps us understand the long past, its many dates and place names and players. The sweep is enormous and complex, but Arana’s storytelling and her obvious compassion guide us through the past millennium as an absorbing, even poignant, kaleidoscopic journey to places it behooves us all to comprehend.
... beautifully written, meticulously researched ... a must-read for anyone struggling to understand Latin America’s tumultuous past and our fraught relationship with our southern neighbors. Arana has done us a service with her clear, even-handed treatment of the subject.
Blood, treasure, and faith define Latin America, according to this detailed, elegant, lightweight history by Arana ... She...uses the nitty-gritty details of history to make her points ... Arana suggests Latin American bloodshed and tyranny to be inevitable...hammering home a stereotype of Latin America as uncivilized and intractably so ... This polished narrative with a rigid thematic structure lacks space for deeper nuance and context. Readers seeking a general history of Latin American should opt for Chasteen's Born in Blood and Fire.
Arana...skillfully moves between the past and the present in this story about age-old 'metal hunger' and authoritarian strongmen ... [an] impressively concise yet comprehensive history. A profoundly moving and relevant work that provides new ways of thinking about the 'discovery of America.'
Silver, Sword, and Stone, as Arana points out, is not a straightforward history of Latin America. Neither is it journalism. Rather, it’s a hybrid, combining learned historical analysis with in-depth reporting and political commentary ... [Arana's] indictment of the conquistadors is brutal, and she is unapologetic in condemning the operations of the United States government in support of Latin America’s right-wing authoritarian regimes during the Cold War. But she makes clear that the Inca and Aztec empires were ruthless too ... New generations of Latin American writers and thinkers...have sustained the Cosmic Race theory, pointing out, with Marxist flair, that the problem is capital distribution, not skin shade, and that class struggle will eventually take us to a better place. Silver, Sword, and Stone denies these ideas with an informed and authoritative voice, one that deserves a wide audience. Like Arana, I believe that the main problem in Latin America for the past 500 years has been racism, in its varied, nefarious guises and names. As long as the region continues to fail to address this head-on, the enormous promise of its diversity and creativity will never be fully realized, and the stories, and melancholy, Arana invokes will keep repeating instead.