Friday, April 24, 2009

Book #27 (5K #4): "Tiburcio Carias Andino: Anatomy of an Era" by Mario R. Argueta

Disclaimer:I'm not feeling very coherent today, so this review will be pretty short. And it probably won't make a lot of sense, because my brain is only running on turtle speed today. Apologies for the incoherence. But here goes.

This could have been a very interesting book. It deals with a decisive period in Honduran history, starting from about 1923 and ending in the 1964, following the political life of dictator Tiburcio Carias Andino. It's a detailed and thorough account of every aspect of Honduran history during this time period--an era of civil wars and political strife that set Honduras back 50 years. We still haven't recovered from all the mistakes our country's leaders caused at the start of the century. It was a time when despotic politicians practically sold the entire country to powerful American companies, who in turn controled our politics to best suit their needs. It's the same sad story of most Latin American countries: weak, power-hungry men enriched by corruption while progress of every kind was halted for almost 50 years.

It's a terrible legacy, and the author makes sure to point out how even today our politicians are repeating the strategies of the past; trying everything they can to hold on to power, and screw the consequences. It's the same families that have been ruling our country for decades. No wonder we're stuck in the third world.

The book itself, however, left me feeling cold. It reads like a recitation of facts, with names being thrown around with no follow up or context. It has a lot of facts, yes, but sometimes I just lost interest, or just completely lost the thread of what the author was saying. It was more like a government report, and it wasn't involving. For example, he tells us he'll talk about Carias' political life, but he mostly just throws out names and numbers and important dates. There's no real connection to the history we're reading; perhaps if he had talked more about how the politics affected Honduran society in general, it would have helped. As it is, it feels like reading a boring, bland textbook with a lot of tables and lists. Only very rarely does the author analyze what the facts mean. I had the hardest time not falling asleep as I read it. I confess I even skipped a lot of pages filled with nothing but detailed accounts of how many bananas the United Fruit Company exported. Without any sort of context as to what it means, who the hell is going to care?

It's a shame, really. I read it to learn more about the history of my own country, and specially about a time period that my own parents and grandparents lived through. But their stories are far more interesting and involving than just reading a lot of dates and numbers. I wish this book was far more than it was.

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