The Spanish Inquisitor who Accidentally Saved the Maya

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In the jungles of Central America, John Stephens and Frederick Catherwood went on an adventure.

This was a manly outing, the kind of cross-country trek that Teddy Roosevelt would take before shooting a rhino or Hemingway before doing it with Anaïs Nin. Their trail wound through a poisonous rainforest crushed into a thin crust between Atlantic and Pacific and, later, to the dry, stony bulge called the Yucatan. This was terrain that had broken the legs of Spanish horses. It had eaten armies sent to quell native rebellions. In the year of their journey, 1839, it was home to a brutal civil war, with soldiers and bandits alike pillaging towns and killing travelers.

So why not go check it out?

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Actual Blood for Actual Oil: When Standard Oil Invaded Paraguay

In our increasingly corporate world, we often have paranoid fantasies about corporations starting wars solely for the sake of their shareholder’s profits. The vast majority of the time, these fears are nonsense. The US of A didn’t invade Iraq for the sake of Halliburton any more than Hitler sent the Jews to concentration camps for the sake of I.G. Farben.

But, at least once, it really did happen: between 1932 and 1935 Paraguay was invaded by an army of tanks, machine guns, and airplanes operating at the behest of Standard Oil of New Jersey. (more…)

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Paraguay Loves Our Most Boring President

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This just in from NPR’s All Things Considered, the best show around if you’re 80 years old and still use a radio because it reminds you of the dust bowl: Rutherford B. Hayes has finally gotten the recognition he deserves!

Of course, we all know Ruth. He was a U.S. President who, like all great men, was unlucky enough to be born in Ohio. He served one term during the 1870s, during which he impressed his will forevermore on the august Office of the President by famously buying a telephone and drinking a lot of lemonade. More importantly, he was the first U.S. President to adopt the tradition of the Easter egg roll, an ancient ritual from England where children roll hard-boiled eggs down a hill and then kill themselves because they have nothing better to do with their time. Stories of Hayes’s majesty echo in the vaulted chambers of history. His Presidential Memorial, located in scenicly depressing northwest Ohio, contains all kinds of treasures, like an ornate bed that Hayes’s son looted from a palace in China during the 1890s. #GodBlessThisState

But, despite himself, Hayes has actually made a mark on history.

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