Nicaragua: Its People, Scenery, Monuments, Resources, Condition and Proposed Canal, by E. G. Squier

July 5th, 2006

From The New York Times, 19 April 1998:

Traveling Companions
By STEPHEN KINZER

… One of my favorites is a forgotten classic called Nicaragua: Its People, Scenery, Monuments, Resources, Condition and Proposed Canal, by E. G. Squier, who served as the American charge d’affaires in Central America during the 1850’s. The years have not diminished its value as a guide.

I watched the collapse of Nicaragua’s 40-year Somoza dictatorship, and was amazed to read Squier’s account of a terrible bandit who roamed the countryside in his time, “a lawless, reckless fellow under proscription for murder, named Somoza.” One of my favorite pastimes there was climbing to the steaming crater of the Masaya volcano; Squier had also done it, and proclaimed the experience “singularly novel and beautiful.”

In the town of Granada, I visited a neglected museum where two dozen giant stone idols found on an island in Lake Nicaragua were on display. No one there knew much about them, but they had so impressed Squier that he shipped several home to the Smithsonian. He surmised that before Jesuit missionaries cut off their genitals, they had been worshiped as gods of a fertility cult.

“They are plain, simple and severe, and although not elaborately finished, are cut with considerable freedom and skill,” he wrote. One of them, he said, “seemed like some gray monster just emerging from the depths of the earth, at the bidding of a wizard-priest of some unholy religion.” Another, Squier wrote, “was a study for Samson under the gates of Gaza, or an Atlas supporting the world.”

According to AddAll.com, there are copies available for sale, but the prices start at $150 and go up into the high hundreds.

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