From Newsweek's chief of correspondents, an engaging travelogue of lands from Mexico to Argentina, deftly weaving anecdotes, historical tales that rival the region's fantastical fiction, and ponderings over racial conflict, economic booms and busts, and political violence. As a reporter in Nicaragua during the 1979 revolution, McGuire wrote the hard news of war; here, to set the stage for his account of his 1987 return to Central and South America, he pours out absurd tales of that time: the drunken ramblings of doomed dictator Somoza as his handlers tried to pull him away from the reporter; the female who posed on Somoza's bed for press photos after his fall. McGuire's stories of his six-month drive south of the border in 1987 are equally vivid, and his portraits of the men and women he met manage to convey the essence of their homelands without stereotyping national characteristics. Juan Carlos, a ``child philosopher'' and absent-minded shoeshiner in Quito, Equador, wonderfully illustrates that land's endemic combination of street smarts and naivetÇ; a less-endearing immigrant innkeeper, who displays a portrait of her late husband in his Nazi uniform, provides an oddly sympathetic look at the need for economic stability in Chile. McGuire complains jovially about washed-out roadways and misleading maps, and warns fellow travelers to remove their cars' sideview mirrors when parking outside at night; but he is disheartened to see stoplights across the border into Chile, where he finds the atmosphere ``spruced-up Orwellian.'' It's clear that McGuire's capital helped make these countries such enjoyable places to visit, but for anyone with the same resources, it sounds like a great trip.