Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Peter Ford

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-82827-0
Publisher: Viking

Englishman Ford (Middle East correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor) travels by sea and by foot along the Caribbean coastline from Belize to Panama in this cool-blooded exploration of the convoluted culture and history of the Miskito Coast. The origin of Central America's Miskito Indians, and of their name itself, has long been lost in the tangle of liaisons between conqueror and conquered, native and newcomer along this particular stretch of Caribbean beach. Largely insulated from traditional Latin American culture by thick jungles, poor or nonexistent roads, and a lack of natural resources that distant governments found worth taking, the inhabitants of the Miskito Coast today, Ford finds, suggest a fascinating if unsettling mixture of African, English, French, West Indian, Spanish, and Indian influences. When not being used by the CIA to revolt against the Sandinistas or requested by visitors to reminisce once again about the days of the last Miskito king, coastal residents live according to a slow, fatalistic rhythm that here often drives Ford wild with impatience. Boat connections are missed while Ford fights a battle for proper immigration papers; a Nicaraguan guide gets lost and leads him to a hostile coast-guard station in Costa Rica; the Panamanian police order him out of the country without explanation, abruptly ending Ford's journey as he flies directly home. In short, if traditional Central American culture has not found its way unadulterated to this insulated coast, its bureaucracy has—less of a surprise, certainly, than Ford's inability to adapt, after six years as a journalist in Latin America, to inept treatment at the hands of his bored or frightened governmental hosts. A tale of terminal incompatibility—short on introspection, but sporadically entertaining nonetheless. (Maps.)