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Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of…

Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and…

by Kim MacQuarrie

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Having lived in Colombia through the Pablo Escobar era and also having visited Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, I loved this book. For some reason I have always been intrigued by the history of South America and MacQuarrie does an excellent job of telling it's story. In addition, he weaves his true tales of the past and not so past in a very readable manner. I only got the book to read about Escobar but couldn't put it down as each chapter seemed more interesting than the one before. MacQuarrie was an experienced traveler of South America before he undertook the journey that resulted in this book. He made me feel like I was along on the trip. ( )
  bogopea | Jun 8, 2016 |
MacQuarrie spent several years in South America traveling the length of the Andes, exploring the lives of many famous (and infamous) travelers before him. From Charles Darwin to Pablo Escobar, from the discoverer (?) of Machu Picchu to the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the author presents their stories vividly. From Che Guevara to Thor Heyerdahl, he tracks their paths and journeys, uncovering new exciting facts about them. The book is an interesting one, a travel memoir that painlessly includes fascinating South American history. We, as Americans, who know so little about our southern neighbors, this should be a must read. You will not be disappointed! ( )
  1Randal | Nov 12, 2015 |
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“[A] fascinating….clear-eyed…poignant summary of the collision between ancient and modern that has done much to shape the Andean region.”
“Using the wildly diverse 4,300- mile South American mountain chain as a backdrop, filmmaker and writer Kim MacQuarrie revisits the triumphs and depredations of such varied figures in the region as Charles Darwin, Che Guevara, drug cartel chief Pablo Escobar, Machu Picchu “discoverer” Hiram Bingham and the ever-mythic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

But MacQuarrie is no hit-and-run chronicler cherry-picking fables. He immerses himself in the territory he’s been exploring since the late 1980s, when he first journeyed to Peru to interview imprisoned members of the Shining Path guerrilla movement. His account of how Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán was finally run to ground is both a rousing good yarn and a case study in political error.

The author shows that Guevara’s undoing was an instance of revolutionary fervor overriding common sense. He brings fresh details to the narrative by tracking down the teacher who fed and conversed with Guevara in the hours before a Bolivian soldier executed him.

Although famous names provide much of the material in Life and Death in the Andes, they occupy only a part of MacQuarrie’s attention. He also delves into local cultures, explaining, for example, how an American helped found a thriving cooperative that rekindled interest in traditional Peruvian weaving. He retraces Darwin’s steps on the Galápagos Islands and travels to the tip of the continent to meet the last speaker of the once flourishing Yamana Indian language, destroyed by the ravages of colonialism. MacQuarrie is a master storyteller whose cinematic eye always shines through.”
added by kimmacquarrie | editBookPage, Edward Morris (Dec 15, 2015)
“MacQuarrie engages as well as educates as he travels throughout the mountain range, intertwining past and present and incorporating political and cultural conflict while taking the reader on a journey that goes beyond geography or geology…MacQuarrie spectacularly describes the Andes…This is a well-written, immersive work that history aficionados, particularly those with an affinity for Latin America, will relish.
added by kimmacquarrie | editLibrary Journal (Oct 8, 2015)
A filmmaker and writer tells the story of the historical figures and ordinary people who have attempted to “control, adapt to, or explore” the largely wild and untamed Andes cordillera.

MacQuarrie’s (The Last Days of the Incas, 2007, etc.) love affair with South America began during boyhood when he read the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though the tales themselves concerned an imaginary world at the center of the Earth, the images—of “half-naked tribes and powerful beasts…[and] rich, luxuriant vegetation, beautiful women”—stayed with him and became the unconscious lodestar toward which he gravitated as an adult traveler. In this book, MacQuarrie walks in the footsteps of men and women who followed their dreams into the very lands that he once dreamed about as a child. Many became famous for their exploits: Charles Darwin, for example, discovered fossilized seashells high up in the Patagonian Andes that led to the formulation of his theory of evolution, while Che Guevara attempted to lead a revolution in the Bolivian Andes that he hoped would begin to transform the whole of South America. Some, like Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, found notoriety in the Andes for dark deeds that not only fueled their greed, but also caused social and political chaos. Others, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, used the mountains as a place to hide from their criminal pasts, only to find themselves hounded to death by the law. Still others, like freelance anthropologists Chris and Ed Franquemont, went into the Andes in search of a research project. Instead, they found a community of indigenous people to belong to and helped revitalize the dying art of weaving among them. Part history and part travel narrative, MacQuarrie’s book is as richly detailed as it is deeply felt. As the author describes a magnificent region with a turbulent past, he also pays homage to the “miracles and marvels” that lie buried like gems beneath the unfolding history of the South American continent.

A thoughtfully observed travel memoir and history.
added by kimmacquarrie | editKirkus Reviews (Sep 2, 2015)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 143916889X, Hardcover)

Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer.

The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest mountain chain, linking most of the countries in South America. Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and author Kim MacQuarrie takes us on a historical journey through this unique region, bringing fresh insight and contemporary connections to such fabled characters as Charles Darwin, Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, and many others. He describes the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, where people’s lives depend entirely on a reed that grows there. He introduces us to a Patagonian woman who is the last living speaker of her language, as he explores the disappearance and sometimes surprising resiliency of indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. He meets a man whose grandfather witnessed Butch Cassidy’s last days in Bolivia,tracks down the ballet dancer who once hid the leader of the brutal Shining Path in her home, and hears a harrowing story from the school teacher who gave Che Guevara his final meal.

Through the stories he shares, MacQuarrie raises such questions as, where did the people of South America come from? Did they create or import their cultures? What makes South America different from other continents—and what makes the cultures of the Andes different from other cultures in South America? Why did Peru’s Shining Path leader Guzmán nearly succeed in his revolutionary quest while Che Guevara in Bolivia so quickly failed? And what so astounded Charles Darwin in South America that led him to conceive the theory of evolution? Deeply observed and beautifully written, Life and Death in the Andes shows us this land as no one has before.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 09 Sep 2015 20:22:31 -0400)

"Kim MacQuarrie tells great stories of South America's history, from Butch Cassidy to Che Guevara to cocaine king Pablo Escobar to the last survivor of an Indian tribe, all of these stories set in the Andes Mountains"--

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