tv Book TV CSPAN November 6, 2011 6:30am-7:45am EST
and you're sent to brazil, this is a landscape you understand. the way the portuguese don't. it's highly possible for you to get out there, for you to establish independent communities that exist for hundreds of years. it's more difficult up here because winter, which is much more potent way of keeping you in than any kind of english guy. >> you're a historian. you must answer this question for me. even if it's not a good answer. >> then you've given me like. >> how is that we can lose hold of such a vast history? is this amnesia on the part of society? how is it we can stand it when we see these charts of american demographic charts, these are separate islands? how is it we can forget so much about the history of the americas? >> i'm glad you said i could
give a bad answer. it's a strange thing. you sort of know there are a lot of slaves they came over to the americas but it's a shocking thing to realize that they outnumbered the europeans in the terms of the number of people who came over, three or 41 and 21840. all the stuff that we see from the colonial period, african hands build these. these canals that were dug, africans doug hamm. then you think wait a minute, there are two majority population share, purely in demographic terms. you think how could that have been forgotten? i think, a big part, this is just a guess, is that when there's a great wave of european immigration started by the irish in the 1840s, and a big wave
then later in 1880s and 1890s, for the first time they have become a significant democratic presence. they look around on these boats and hootie they see? people like themselves. they land and to go into communities. where are those communities? they are people like themselves. you get this idea this must be what is there. >> these words are not helpful. they separate us from our own reality. >> the reality is this place is a big jungle and has been for a really long time. >> if i say so india, that's unacceptable. but if i say -- that's equally unacceptable. but the holding which of blackness and indian myths becomes inadmissible any kind of polite way. >> but even though at the same time they know, that this proud
recognition in the textbooks, in places like mexico where it is hybrid culture, but somehow casino so painful in your book were i had to kind of put it down, where you say you are the widest -- >> mexico city. >> i know exactly which are talking about. people don't say that to me but i hear wedding over, the most astonishing comments. >> the interparty of mexico city. and executive for televisa, when you go to, a group of mexicans of that class get-together you talk about friends. he was talking to me about a place in france yet been. who are you, he said. and i said i'm a writer. i'm in mexico city for a conference. he said in mexico we don't have journalists who look like you.
only mexico would say something to one of their children. but it's true, there's this vocabulary. it's just not sufficient to the reality you're describing here. speaking of, i think the africa section of this book -- that's what i will remember. but the indian, there are these legends come you don't repeat and i'm not sure it's true now, how do you know indians and 4092 seeing columbus on the horizon, these ships, they come to the edge of the water to wait for columbus. i've always thought in the indian there is this absorbency in the presence of a foreign, almost asian in that way. that it meets the aggression of the european activist with this capacity to take the european
in. the most interesting character in literature, inc. in character wants to swallow this book. and wants to devour charles mann. and he will eat it. there's that sense, i come to los angeles and i look around, and everyone says this is the greatest latin city in america. and i think to myself, is that true, or are we in the great indian city? are we not have a word for that? how do you see in light of what you have written, how do you see a city like los angeles? >> you know, let me go back. it's not so much absorption, they see these strange objects, these ships, and then these tired, dirty people come onshore -- >> unprecedented. >> unprecedented people who smell bad.
the first thing they're thinking is ugh. these standards, they've been there a long time spelling each other, look around and they see these people dress funny and i think ugh, right? this is the human part. be anything these guys have some interesting stuff. i will hold my nose and i will see if i can acquire some of the stuff. >> i want your horse. >> there's only a few of them. so give them some bad land, let them stay over there. then when you have enough we will try them out and kill them. and what they consistently make the mistake is how many of those smelly people are over there and how willing they are to keep coming over. that's what happened in jamestown. speak and get --
>> that's a mass reaction and the people get to know each other. face each other as human beings. >> curiosity. you look different. you look different from me, can i touch your hair? >> they are always reporting that. the indians, they see these grizzly beards and want to touch them. they are repelled and fascinated. >> this notion indian art prehistoric or anti-historical. belong on a reservation somewhere rather than los angeles. the person who comes to los angeles is therefore hispanic. a child from spain. are we ever going to teach a generation of children to think there in himself as the actor, or are we caught in this impossible history? >> it's because if you look at our circle records, and you just read what is there, the miner, for example, the zillions of meyer, i don't know how many meyer there are. they were never conquered.
argued an example, in searching this book i went to this incredible. the place and my son are driving back, this terrible road with the speed bumps everywhere, we were completely not announce the extra 20 miles an hour because you're afraid to get them. something out of nowhere comes in, a guy with a gun. and we think ugh. and he says who are you? and i say look at us. this look of terrible disgust on his face. americanus, right? >> that explains it. >> go on. wait a minute. he said no, no, no. we want mexicans. i'm in mexico, right? they don't see it that way.
>> running out of time. i have to ask you about china, because there is china in this book and there is vanilla. for china, and i was reading in "the wall street journal" recently a book review that concluded that listening to things america are afraid of. china and their children. [laughter] but the child you portrayed in the 17th and 18th century seems more like today's china and not. these are not people who are held by their own while. these are people nor trespassing into the world, and you are engaged in the world in the most astonishing way. do you see china as a continuous intervention within this colombian experiment? >> it's important to realize that the big event, and the event, the other event i guess after the diseases i think should be taught in the school
is the most important event from your pinpointed and in the world point of view is 1545, the spaniards discover the huge mountain of silver in bolivia and this amazing town they create around it. for a while the biggest town in america. >> on one of the biggest towns in the world. >> extraordinary, crazy boomtown. which i had a lot of fun reading about because it's like dodge city with all these different crazy people in it, much larger scale. and it last for a couple hundred years. incredible amount of silver comes out of, mind by countless indian and african slaves, a river of silver pours out and goes across the world. an extremely large fraction of it, scholars argue but how much of it, half, two-thirds end up in china. there's this connection, right, around the world now where american silver mined by
africans, taken by europeans, to china, returned for silver porcelain that is then shipped across mexico to spain, and the money from that is then taken by africans, you know, there's this, there's this pulls that is created by this washed of silver spent on going to ask you, just on that sentence, hardest question and last question. this reunion of the world, the world meaning itself after the fracture of 12 million years ago, this encounter, when i see friends were paying $500 to get their dna examined, what we really want to find out is what we don't know about the line, what our grandmothers didn't tell us spent and there's a lot of us spend a lot of family secrets. but do you feel, this story comes, you are such a wonderful
storyteller. and the joy of this book is unending, but there's a great deal of calamity in this book. there are deaths and disease -- >> the human -- sorry. >> do you feel, the question i guess is not what we better not to have met each other, such impossible, but are you optimistic about this thing that is going to continue? this 1493 is not over. it continues. when i said tiger woods i meant that jokingly but in some way we are playing at the dramas of 1493 in the city. and illegal immigration -- >> the whole country. >> are you optimistic? >> i think, the way i hear you saying is the pains of this kind of calamitous explosive mixing that has been going on for 500 years, outweighed by the gained?
>> right, or do we as human beings somehow managed to find some benefit in this calamity. >> i guess for me when i think about this and wrestle with it is, the problem is the pains and the games, the goods and the beds, then begin example. potato comes to europe. suite but it comes to china. millions upon millions of people are kept from premature death because it's an extraordinary boom to humankind that in china it's no longer wracked by famine. europe is no longer rocked by famine. children are no longer dying. at the same tidal wave of globalization is sweeping away languages and cultures at this extraordinary rate. and you osha people, your world about the information explosion,
how much more we know. wait a minute, are we losing a language every 10 days, or whatever it is. so there's this huge human cost to this -- >> do you fight it? do you come -- [inaudible] >> try to fight this global energy, or has the door now been opened and they can't close speakers i don't think the door is closed but you can survey, on the human level, mitigate this. and i think people are torn. they want to embrace the world. my kids, you know, our tremendous sense of japanese animate, and you know, they have little hand club in amherst, massachusetts, so that's a fine thing that they are exposed to this. but at the same time there's all kind of other, you know, reasons
why they want to kind of -- i and my wife want to cling to our little new england, i think that's and essential -- [inaudible] >> yeah, i think that's home. >> i'm going to ask you to read something from your book just because of what the audience to have a sense of the texture, your prose. it's one of the most delightful things, is that this park, one, he can write, but two, he tells wonderful stories. and the discovery of the book, that is the story about discovery and exploration, becomes your story, too, and at many times in the course of these chapters you are in china or you are in bolivia. you are discovering things and asking questions of people. it's really quite a wonderful, i don't want to say parity, but an
imitation of the best of the travelers fail to do the same thing. could i ask you to read something about, maybe your grandmothers -- >> okay. this was a true discovery. reading about the amazon, the 19th century, there's this huge rubber boom where all kinds of people went out into the amazon, often with huge numbers of enslaved indians and took rubber from rubber trees. rubber is an essential part of the industrial revolution. you can't have engines without belts and gaskets and o rings and all the stuff. the best supply came from the amazon. so i'm reading these accounts, and people keep referring to this book by this guy, neville b. craig. which, the thing that is really strange in my living room is an
ancestor of mine, neville craig. and i think after while what are the odds? this guy. and i find it is. this guy in my living room has played a part in this story. so i had the sort of genealogical kick, i started researching about, i mean, i've always thought we came from a family of lunatics, and here's another prime example. so, in my living room hangs a portrait of either my grandmother's angle or a great, great uncle, both men were named neville craig. my grandfather found at a thrift shop that this was a older, the founding editor of the first newspaper in pittsburgh. the late 19 city of us don't suggest it was a younger craig. intend to make his fortune and -- in rubber. the primary source of natural source was latex from the tree.
the trees most abundant in the borderlands between brazil and bolivia. portion is to this area are on the pacific course across the andes in rubber to the sports loving caring it across the high, icy mounds but after doing that it would involve dispatching ships are in the southern tip of south america along and dangerous trip almost 12,000 miles. the entire route was so difficult that the sector of the royal geographical society calculated it would be four times faster to ship it by transporting down the river to the amazon itself and into the atlantic. the problem was that waterfalls blocked 229-mile section of the lower river. the downstream end of the impassable such was the pursuing him, my ancestor winter to build a railroad around the rapids.
bought in pittsburgh, he did his undergraduate engineering degrees at yale. five years later seeking excitement he joined a philadelphia railway construction firm which had the contract to build the railroad. the brothers seem to believe their experience with railroads trump their utter lack expense in amazon. in january 1878 they sent that to shiploads of volunteers, engineers and laborers from philadelphia. craig went on the first vessel. as he later recounted, they played the journey. storms wrecked the second and last much less see with he shipped out 100 miles south of jamestown virginia. more than 80 drowned. company officials had trouble replacing them in. philadelphians had lost their enthusiasm. eventually a new workforce was
hired. people exhibiting and comments and gestures tracking evidence of darwin's theory. moser immigrants in southern italy. many of them pushed out of their homes for their beliefs. it's like ancestors snarky putdown anti-italian prejudice was then widespread. these newly arrived americans were desperate for work. the brothers took advantage to signing up for lower wages. apparently did not occur to the brothers they would discover this arrangement or they would find it unacceptable. meanwhile, craig seemed that the amazon to the proposed railway. he learned of the fate of the second ship only when the italians arrived as replacement. the italians found they're being paid less than everyone else. within days they went on strike. the engineers construct a vacation and force the strikers injured at gunpoint.
ultimately the strikers went to work. a few weeks later quote 75 and more took off for bolivia. nonnative. perhaps because they had quote service food to gratify the not too geeky appetites of the indians. that's a fancy way of saying cannibalistic. in one where the workers -- the expedition was running out of food. like the jamestown colonists, my ancestors were starving in the midst of plenty. in recent years evidence showed the every had to back, chocolate
and a tree crop. the worldwide stable, manioc. my ancestor nearly died from lack of food in one of the world's gratis heartland. [applause] >> i remember once talking to bill clinton, and you tell me he was one 20th american indian. and i thought wouldn't it be wonderful if bill clinton could come upon the indian, somewhere in the jungle who sounds like him. [laughter] and who carries on the way he does? but to come upon your great, great great uncle in the brazilian uncle is part of this american story, it seems to me that we are wedded to this history. and the shock is that we have forgotten so much of it and that so much of it has been withheld from our families -- >> and so interesting. it's unbelievably interesting when i think about what we were told. no wonder the history seems
boring. >> let me open this up to questions from the audience. because i've had too much of you for too long. [laughter] >> that's actually could be taken several ways, couldn't it? >> my name is mario and i the question. why isn't this history taught in our schools? >> do you not textbooks are written, are produced in this country? the way it's been explained to me, i'm not a textbook writer but the way it's explained to me is that if you're a textbook company, want to produce a textbook that be sold and read throughout the training because they are very expensive things to reproduce. a number of states have special agencies that have to approve the textbooks are this is the way it's been explained to me. the way one publisher put it to
me from random house is, you know, the three most important states are new york, texas and california. and the way he explained it to me is if you cancel your textbook in new york, texas and california, you can't, you know, basically it's worthless. but the problem is the new york board is super liberal. the texas board is super conservative, and the california port is super crazy. [laughter] i don't actually have any -- and so once they kind of thread the needle through this, they already reluctant to change it because if you change the textbooks too much to accommodate recent knowledge then have to go back through this and almost all of this will offend somebody. >> there's something else, you are being too generous. you know, we're right now in hispanic history month or something like that. you would think that some of
this african story would be part of our history. i've always said if you want to a real hispanic history month you should have the irish coming through here because the irish, the story is our most unknown in america, even to the american irish, the defection of american irish emigrants to the mexican side of the mexican-american war. it's an extraordinary story. well known in mexico, that no were told -- we almost can't bear a history that starts overlapping. what is the irishman doing in this story about mexico? >> and you say yourself, we have hispanic history month. so everything like all the stuff, there's 30 days and as any do with the other 11 months. black history month. i guess the other 10 months are for europeans. >> i wish. i wish, but the fact that other 10 months are vacuous.
[laughter] >> has writing this book ruined gardening for you? do you see the world differently now? >> i still like to garden. i'm not a very good gardener. i have these friends who are really good gardener's and the sort of smear. but i never saw not expected to be very good at very much. but the answer is no, because you know, the more you know about something, for me, often the more you will appreciate it. when i look at these spindly tomatoes that i've got because i failed to water them, i'm just marveled at the journey they have made. and when i do my in confident
seed saving and hoping they will grow the next year, you realize you're part of this crazy tradition. am i taking to my friends in seattle and give them for their gardens, you realize what a part of a huge tradition you are. and it's also in a certain way in a larger, it's i think easier to feel a little bit relaxed out what's going on at work if you say wait a minute, this is a part that's been going on for a long time. it does mean it's super important but it does mean it's super series, but it's not this sudden onslaught is happening to us right now. it's part of a long process that maybe we can intervene in in a way and change it for a, but. at least that's how i feel. but, of course, i might be totally delusional. >> do you know what christopher columbus actually did to the spanish monarchy?
because a very few statues in spain, and he's not honored in his honor in the rest of the world. >> he's a kind of critical figure. he didn't set out to do what he did. he never really -- the spanish monarchy foolishly gave him all these privileges that they then took away from them. he died a very bitter guy who was widely reviled in that area. it's not surprising to me that, after all he had this ambivalent reaction, i think that feeling is also more general do not. if you go to santa domingo there's this enormous monument, right?
the huge, huge monument to him. it's like this, i don't know, 6-under feet long or something, that has all these lights, so intense when a shiny. it supposedly blocks out all the areas around it. there are huge protests and they put it out. i'm not sure that he is so honored elsewhere in the world. he's a profoundly important guide, but people feel a little uneasy about him. >> there's a lot of movement these days with some purists to get back and protect what they call the natural species in an area, the native plants, for example, native animals. i'm just wondering, do you think that's an exercise in futility? and whether it's good or not good? >> well, i think sometimes there's an faces species, species that come in that are
clearly bad. in my area in new england, for example, dutch elm disease came in and wiped out the trees. these are exotics that become in and clearly cause tremendous damage. so any rational person i think would be, want to protect their ecosystem against this type of invader. the tomato is exotic, the ones that my area we are very proud of our asparagus. we live in the asparagus valley. believe it or not there are little signs. it's an exotic non-invasive species. on some level it seems foolish for us to celebrate and consume in to depend on these exotics, and others to frown on there. at the same time we're building a house, and can do for fun
we're trying to denigrate our garden and entirely with new england species, the ones we are not going to eat. and were having a lot of fun with it, going out and taking of these plants we don't know very much about, ordering them and so forth. i don't think there's harm in as long as you don't take it too seriously. >> so when i found "1491" in an airport bookstore and picked it up and read it, it opened up my eyes to something i hadn't read before, which i think when you made the comment about why textbooks don't teach us that, as you are talking tonight i'm drawn to the writing of other offers, -- and other authors, is there a community of writers that you feel a part of, or other people you can mention you are writing about these things in ways that perhaps were not
revealed to us by other writers in the past? >> my book, i say in it, there's a book called the columbian exchange that's almost 30 years ago. and i say i hope and acknowledged that it's a wonderful book, still in print, it's worth reading. and i say i think any acknowledgment my book is scribbled in the margins of his book. he also wrote this book, ecological imperialism, so those are two tremendous books. if you're interested in the spanish conquest, there's a whole series of books by john hemming about the spanish and portuguese conquest that are fabulous. there's a long list of people have written great stuff about this but if you're interested in some ideas about how to think about these things, there's this guy, rodriguez, has written some really excellent stuff. [laughter] so i try in the books to sort of
tip my hat to the stuff i think is really good, and there's a little essay in the back. >> charles, it does seem to me also that history often has examples of this exchange of identities, where you end up attending your tomatoes wins an indian tribe in upstate new york is opening a casino, and chopping the force down. that there is this wonderful wisdom that passes. it's my turn to ransack environment for a time. you can plant, you know, you can plant tomatoes. don't you think that sometimes, you know, i think of the conversion of latin america to christianity by spaniards, it depleted europe in some way. you go to the churches of europe and their all into. you go to latin america and the churches are all full. the evangelical protestant is
spreading throughout brazil and central america. catholicism is still full and mexico and in the villages of south america. the mormon church now in its world population is spanish-speaking. it may be that somehow i swallow something of you and i become the brutalist in nature while you have become me. do you think that's possible? >> sure. but also, i mean, it's important to remember that native societies again -- [inaudible] they certainly have the agriculture they practice. we can learn from the. agronomists are studying them. and we talk about the casinos and so forth, it's important to remember that this is actual federal policy. we passed the indian gaming act with the idea these guys would do this.
and so it's always amazing to me, you know, i'm in a state that doesn't have any of this, we have this lofty perspective. and i think the whole purpose of this was to give india's money. and here in california all these indians have money. which is not taken as a success. >> that's right. >> i was curious what you thought about 1421, about the chinese, they were there seven years before columbus? >> the book, you mean? this is a book i should probably explain a little about. there is an amazing spanish, -- not spanish, chinese explore, a muslim eunuch who let these huge armadas, one of them may be the largest ever, 300 some ships, from southeast china and then across the indian ocean, and just sort of throw china's
weight around and scares the pants of everybody visited with his enormous flotilla. and they know that they went all the way to the southern part of africa. and this book which is by this retired summering captain says that the fleet split up and went to the united states and to the caribbean and europe, and when basically around the world. and that's a big part of it they landed in america before columbus. and i should say that the great bulk of, actually have never encountered a historian who believes this. so it's a distinctly minority viewpoint, and i actually very much enjoyed the book but i have a terrible weakness for nautical stuff. you know, he's a retired submarine captain. it's like poop deck in it.
so i'm just a total sucker for this kind of stuff. so i read it with great pleasure. at one point he says that the proof that they discharged a whole bunch of chinese, between rhode island and massachusetts, newport is near there, was that the first european was to provide it in the 1520s, he landed at buzzards bay and he noted that the women there were much better looking than all the other women. and so gavin said see, chinese. off back and my wife who is a japanese find this completely convincing, and, of course, i -- [laughter] so, all i can say is that i wish it were true because i think the world would be much more interesting if it were, but i don't think that is really build up a case that really grabs me.
but i would encourage you to read, it's a fun read. >> hi. i'm interested in this idea of encountering difference. there's some instances of violence, and i'm wondering how we can encounter difference when even things like our language, our worldviews, our frameworks don't allow for us to understand or approach this from a place of humility. and i'm wondering if you could speak to that? >> actually, i think people are sort of overall getting better at this. i mean, the encounters that were between the spanish and native people, or between the chinese and the native people and the philippines, or the west, are sort of comically awful.
you know, you just don't read about that kind of just absurd catastrophe, which is you see a can and again and again throughout the world, when people encounter each other in the 15th or 16th century i think we're long way to go, but one of the world comforts of researching this book, for instance, balboa comes to meet a group of people he never encountered before in panama. and apparently there's a bunch of guys there who are wearing skirt like a close, and there seems to be some sort of power struggle going on between, in this group of native people. and they see the spaniards there and they say, those people, season and skirts? are all homosexuals. apparently unique clothing.
so the spaniards and set dogs on them and killed them all. i was reading this and those thinking, you know, i don't think this would happen now. people just wouldn't be so naïve and immediately think, oh, i will go kill these people. so i guess i actually come to from a different point of view that it was so bad in that we look a little bit better now. [laughter] cold comfort maybe. >> cannot add, i think there's some duality of energy going on right now because at the same time i don't want to be a -- at the same time that america is repulsed by mexico. that this appetite of mexican food. marco polo would tell you that these, before people speak to each other they beat each other. and there's some energy right now.
even in the miscegenation we are arranging on our plate, high, finnish food. that suggested we have an appetite, a little appetite to devour the world. at the same time, you know, over dinner we carry on with these announcements of armageddon. >> don't you see, to me, the since, obviously there's a real problem of illegal immigration, and you know, much of it have to do with the idiotic policies of the mexican government to dispossess, effectively dispossessed people, especially in the southern part of mexico. and the u.s. is functioning for decades as a safety call for them. so clearly there's an issue there. but at the same time when you look at these efforts that have taken place in latin america, for centuries, people trying to shut the door on another group of people, it's almost always a sign of battle is over.
>> it's my job to end the evening but to remind you -- >> do something that has alex on a pbs. >> but to remind you we are living in this temple of book and we forget the weight in one hand has a special power that the kindle contestant can't quite -- [applause] having spent some time in the middle east recently i've been watching jews and muslims and christians hold their holy book and kiss it. i've never been to a bar mitzvah where anybody walks in with a kindle. [laughter] remember that and respect this building for these books and this man for having produced this magnificent book. thank you very much. [applause] >> i'd like to add a special thanks to the library.
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