Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Tour: The Gift of El Tio by Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans

After my silver discovery in 1995 in the high desert of Bolivia, Karen insisted we go to San Cristobal, the little Quechua village my company was soon to destroy, to live there among the people, learn of their hopes and fears, take part in their ceremonies, to see first-hand the effects of my discovery. We did look for references on the Quechua, finding many learned tomes describing their social, political, cosmological, and ceremonial systems. But none seemed to apply to the little village of 441 souls tucked away in the remote canyon on the hostile edge of the Atacama desert. None described their day-to-day struggle to survive; none, their loves and fears and hopes and frustrations. We wanted to learn not of the Quechua in general, but of these specific people, the villagers of San Cristobal. We wanted to live with them, to sleep and eat and work side by side, to learn what their world was like before my discovery, and to understand their fears and hopes for a life that was soon to change, whether they wanted it or not. That was something we could not find in books.

There was precious little written of San Cristobal, so we went there with only a AAA road map of Bolivia, a set of notebooks, a camera, and a desire to see the world through their eyes. Our research thus consisted of living with the people, talking with them, teaching in their school, harvesting their potatoes and quinoa, attending their Quechua and Catholic ceremonies. In the process, we realized that the villagers would change our lives as much as my destruction of their village would change theirs.

After several years, we did come across two wonderful sources: first, a book by J.C. Nash, We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us (Columbia University Press) which although not discussing San Cristobal itself, does paint a picture of the power of myth in the lives of the people; and second, a documentary, The Devil’s Miner, ( which clearly depicts the fear and respect the people have for their perverse god, El Tio.

As useful as these were, our best source of information was a village adolescent, Cornelio Gonzales, who came to live with us in Oregon to learn English, and to later attend the University of Southern Oregon where he graduated last June. For the five years he was with us, Cornelio related hundreds of stories about life in the village, passed down through oral tradition. He also served as a reliable fact-checker.

The Gift of El Tio Summary
Larry, a world-renowned geologist, discovers an enormous deposit of silver beneath a remote Quechua village in Bolivia and unwittingly fulfills a 400-year-old prophecy that promised a life of wealth for the villagers. Karen, a specialist in child development, is deeply disturbed by the prospect of displacing the people in order to open a mine. She challenges Larry to leave the comforts of home and move to the village in order to bear witness to the massive change his discovery will spark. Thus begins the couple's life-changing, ten-year journey into the Quechua community, their evolution from outsiders to trusted friends. Then part two of the ancient prophecy is disclosed to them, and they are shocked by the truth of its predictions: alienation, despair, even cannibalism.

Author Bios:
Larry Buchanan earned his PhD in Economic Geology in 1979 and taught university-level geology for several years, but his love of the field led him to gold and silver prospecting in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 2006, he won the coveted Thayer Lindsley Award for the San Cristobal silver discovery. Dr. Buchanan has published a dozen scientific works and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences and college campuses.

Karen Gans earned her Master s degree in Early Childhood Development and has thirty-five years of experience as an educator, counselor, and consultant. She taught English in the Quechua village while the couple lived in Bolivia. Ms. Gans and her husband have four children and two grandchildren and reside in Ashland, Oregon.

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1 comment:

  1. Shandy Jo, thanks for allowing Larry and Karen to visit with your followers today :)


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