The Forgotten Continent (and My Trip to Costa Rica)

Crsusnet (photo credit of Jaco sunset)

I’m spending three weeks in Costa Rica starting mid-June. My first week will be around Playa Samara (where I’m taking Spanish classes, four hours a day for four days), second week probably around Flamingo, and third week probably around La Fortuna / Arenal volcano. Some of these nights I’m looking to crash with friends of this blog — if you know anyone there, drop me a line or leave gen’l tips in the comments.

In preparation, I’m reading Michael Reid’s terrific (and dense) book The Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul. Reid has edited The Economist‘s Americas section for years. Here’s the premise of the book:

Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape.

This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America’s efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world’s most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries—including Brazil, Chile and Mexico—democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chávez’s oil-fuelled populism, and much is at stake. Failure will increase the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe, jeopardize stability in a region rich in oil and other strategic commodities, and threaten some of the world’s most majestic natural environments.

A full review and notes will be posted later.

5 comments on “The Forgotten Continent (and My Trip to Costa Rica)
  • Reid seems to be confused– Latin America is not a continent. South America is, but Latin America includes Mexico and Central America, which are part of the North American continent.

    By rights, ‘Latin’ America should include California, and all the Southwestern states, plus parts of Colorado and Wyoming, since the U.S stole this territory in the so-called Mexican-American War of 1848 from the sovereign nation of Mexico, which had so recently fought its own war of independence against Spain in 1821.

    And let’s not forget Texas, which was still Mexican soil when Anglo settlers moved in and fought for an independent Anglo republic, declared in 1836.

    I’m curious to know how deeply Reid penetrates the subject of European colonialism in Latin America, and its destructive legacy.

    We today may not mourn the destruction of the Aztec empire where the religious sacrifice of thousands of living victims who had their still-beating hearts ripped from their chests was routine.

    Yet the casual slaughter of tens of thousands of the Aztec people– men, women, and children, by marauding Spaniards bearing the cross of the Catholic Inquisition would hardly inspire us to empathy for gold-hungry murderers.

    When I faced the very comfortably bourgeois birthplace of Che Guevara in Rosario, Argentina, I considered the fate of the political ‘enemies’ he murdered with such light-hearted dispatch, and how the Native American citizenry of Latin America is still disenfranchised socially and politically.

    The western European powers, predominantly Spain and Portugal, invaded the vast continent of South America to extract its riches– filling the coffers of their royal treasuries and gilding the chapels of their cathedrals.

    One consequence of this invasion that the ‘white’ descendants of those European invaders might choose to forget is the deliberate and systematic genocide of Native American males, so that the ‘white’ invaders could have free ‘love’ with their women.

    I could puke when I think of it.

  • A close friend of mine has been living down in Costa Rica for over a year. She’s a good kid, and I can try to get you in touch with her if you’d like.


  • Vince, get a life. That is the most tired and old criticism of the Western world and the United States of America. Everyone’s heard it, and most people realize it for what it is: foolishness.

    Before you start railing against the “evils of the white devil”, please consider all the good that Europeans, Americans, and other “evil whites” have done for the world. A few of the terrible things they’ve spread around the globe include democracy, wealth, scientific knowledge, and numerous inventions including the computer you are you using to type away your fury against the evils of the white race, and the internet you are using to read and comment on this blog. There are uncountable other horrid acts committed by those vile Anglos, but that is just a small sampler. How dare they!

  • Hey JC, I’ve got a life. You’ve got nerve putting words in quotes I didn’t write.

    Your thinking isn’t very clear or consistent– in 1848, Mexico was ruled by those “white devils” you claim I’m railing against.

    One of my points was that few of the “whites” are as purely European as they like to believe.

    I should know– I’m a descendant of the “evil whites” Anglos who invaded Texas in 1832 with Stephen Austin’s settlers from Missouri.

    I’m also a descendant of the so called (by civilized savages?) uncivilized savages and owners they displaced.

    Apparently you missed what I wrote about the bloodthirstiness of the Aztecs.

    You should read more closely before you go jumping to conclusions and start banging away at your keyboard. Your comment reads more like something written in “fury”.

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