Just as the discovery of the Americas was "joyfulle newes" to Europeans of the sixteenth century, so will this book affects its twentieth-century readers, both young and old.
Planned for all who desire more than a superficial knowledge of our neighbors to the south, for those who are interested in how poets, musicians, painters, and leaders of government and of the church gradually grew together, rich and poor alike, brown, black, or white, to build a glorious new world, the importance of this book today is evident. It is a rich and illuminating pageant, from earliest times until now, of those varied people, both Indians and Spaniards, of the land between Mexico and Tierra del Fuego. But it is not merely a pageant—it is a true and penetrating history of those people, of their fears and hopes, their laws and customs, music, art, and architecture.
In it are thrilling descriptions of the Secret Jungle People, who were the perfect isolationists of their time, and of the savage hunters from the north who weakened the Mexican nations much as the barbarians weakened Europe in the Dark Ages—and are doing again today. There are the Aztecs and the Incas, in all their golden and bejewelled glory, with many of their customs so strangely like our own, or better, including social security and the right to sit idle in the sun for all past the age of sixty.
Moving against a background of exquisitely beautiful jungles, weird, desolate plains, and towering mountains, the story is told from the first stirrings of animal life through the adventures of ancient tribes, and the explorations of often cruel Spaniards, some of them great names in history, until the time when Pope Pius III, in 1537, issued a Papal Bull declaring "all Indians are human beings with souls." Thus, perhaps unwittingly, he started the Latin countries on a new era of tolerance and progress which continues today, mirrored and fostered by such people as the poet Ruben Dario, artists Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, and Portinari, all of whom are given special places in the final chapters of the book.
The vivid and varied background is stressed by C. B. Falls in his numerous dramatic drawings and is clarified by his colored maps.
—from the dust jacket
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