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Searching for El Dorado: A Journey into the South American Rainforest on the Tail of the World's Largest Gold Rush Paperback – February 10, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,784,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When we think of the Amazonian rain forest, the term gold rush does not immediately spring to mind, nor does the latter summon up thoughts of late-20th-century Guyana. In Searching for El Dorado: A Journey into the South American Rainforest on the Tail of the World's Largest Gold Rush, Marc Herman recasts our presuppositions with a fascinating story of adventure and commercialism in post-colonial Guyana. Asking how a country so rich in precious natural resources could remain so impoverished, Herman draws on his acute observation and narrative élan to tell this complex story of fierce competition, environmentalism, history, and journalistic inquiry. "If Guyana was not benefiting from its gold because outsiders were taking it all," he writes, "if Omai was just 16th-century mercantilism promoted as 21st-century globalism--then at least the foreign robber barons should be rich. But they weren't; somehow gold was turning to smoke."

Herman speaks with the precision of a journalist and the ease of a novelist, assembling a cast of marvelous personalities to describe the conditions and consequences that converge to keep Guyana among the poorest of Caribbean countries, despite the existence of gold and diamonds within its boundaries. Wisely, Herman does not advance a personal agenda. Instead, he gives a voice, in breathtaking detail, to the different constituencies that comprise this world of colorful local prospectors, foreign businessmen, and everyday people. Like the prospectors in Guyana, Herman too is on a quest--not to strip the land of gold, but rather to tell this little-known and wonderful story. --Silvana Tropea --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Herman's enthralling report juxtaposes the myth of El Dorado (a hidden city of gold) with the present-day reality of gold hounds scrambling for every extractable gleaming ounce. While Spanish conquistadors may have envisioned heaps of gold ready for the picking, the enormous deposits that started a rush in the 1980s along the Guyana-Venezuela border aren't so exciting: digging them out is fantastically expensive, not to mention messy. Herman goes to a huge mine near Omai, Guyana, with the potential to produce a billion dollars in gold, but learns that "El Dorado, in the end, was real, had been discovered, and was a pile of dirt." He uses the Omai project to portray a common plight faced by an impoverished country blessed with vast natural resources: unable to develop its own riches, the country enters into deals with international companies that simultaneously benefit and exploit. In this case, Guyana allowed a Denver firm to build a $260 million operation with 95% of the proceeds going to outsiders. The operation, which began in 1993, accounted for about a fifth of Guyana's national income, but came at a cost. Millions of gallons of cyanide-rich toxic waste spilled into a nearby river; the surrounding forest was razed; and devastating diseases spread into the once-pristine area. Herman laments these effects, but a Guyanese miner reminds him, "Look what happened in the United States. You cut down all them forests, do the mining... that's what make you rich. This country want to be rich too." Illuminating the complex intersection of economic development, Third World politics, ecology and culture, Herman's lively book will mesmerize armchair travelers and ecology-minded readers.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Over a 20-year career, reporter Marc Herman has reported from volcanoes in Java, vaccine trials in Mozambique, fire festivals in Spain, and Presidential debates in New Hampshire. He is the author of Searching for El Dorado, about his travels with South American gold miners. He lives in Barcelona.

Customer Reviews

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was puzzled when my friend gave me a copy of this book; had I ever expressed an interest in gold or indeed in South America? The mystery was solved when my gaze rested on the author's name, an old university friend. Not knowing much about Marc's politics or his writing style, I was a afraid that the book would be some tirade against big business and globalization. Refreshingly, I discovered an engaging search for answers in a country that seems to only have questions. The book is interesting, provocative, and well-balanced journalism. But even better then that is Marc's humorous description of his own journey, his adventures, and his eye for details. I am not sure I reccomend traveling "Marc-style" but I sure do enjoy the product of his adventures!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Guy R. Hearn on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are basically 3 kinds of travel writing

1. The writer visits an exotic location, finds the scenery appealing, the locals quaint and whimsical but good hearted, has some sort of personal ephiphany, and writes a condescending, patronising book about all the amusing things that happen to him. Possibly he later sells the film rights. Call this the "My autumn in Europe" type book

2. The writer maximises to an adsurd level the level of discomfort in order to have a "real travel experience" and is found quaint and whimsical but good hearted by disbelieving locals. Call this the "Down The Nile on Crutches" type book

3. The writer goes somewhere he knows little about and actually learns something, which he manages to pass on to the reader

Thankfully this is the third type. Herman doesn't find Guyana quaint, he finds it on the brink of collapse with little prospect of future improvement, increasingly hopeless. Its unlikely that this book has done anything to boost the fledgling Guyana tourist industry - indeed he'll be lucky if they let him into the country again

Herman reveals the extent of the Amazon gold rush, but also its utter futility, with neither big multinationals nor small miners able to turn even a small profit. But he also reveals the desperate lack of choices that will continue to drive so many down the mines to the deteriment of both their, and the nation's health

Herman vividly brings to life the people he meets in his (genuinely) arduous travels and while his writing is often laugh out loud funny, it never belittles its subjects.

Before reading this I knew little about Guyana or about the gold rush. I now feel like I do. I heartily recommend this book
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CM on July 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Fantastic (and very accurate) accounts of his encounters with the local folk and descriptions of the places he passed through on his journey. Made for a racey, entertaining and somewhat exotic read. Alot of first hand information for anyone thinking of travelling through Guyana indeed!
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