GUATEMALA: Central America's Living Past by Lila Perl

GUATEMALA: Central America's Living Past

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Perl does her usual workmanlike job of describing Guatemala's physical geography, ancient Mayan culture, the Spanish conquest and its effect on the country's culture and social structure, and the present distinction between the Indians (about 43 percent of the population), who live mostly in the highlands and maintain the ancient ways, and the Ladinos, who may also be of Indian blood but who speak Spanish and participate in the nation's ""mainstream."" The Indian farmers, she notes, are poor and uneducated and ""lack sufficient land""; the present economic and political system is designed to keep them in their place; and US ""paternalistic practices have often brought about more problems in Central America than existed prior to American intervention."" (The United Fruit Company, though, is described as a strong monopoly which nevertheless ""improved certain features"" of the country.) Yet Perl sees ""Communist Cuba"" as ""a more immediate threat"" than the US, and views the indigenous guerrilla activity as a leftist extreme to be combated--not by far-right measures but by some ""moderate, centrist program,"" which she acknowledges has not appeared, ""in which the rights of both landowners and peasants, capitalists and workers, would be recognized."" Wishy-washy political analysis, but most librarians will go along, if only for Perl's broad background coverage of a currently prominent subject.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow