The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

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Category:         Geography and ethnology
SubCategory:  Latin America

Follow link under "Source" below for a list of Merton books corresponding to abbreviations.
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DateAuthorTitleSourceQuotation by Merton
1940/03/29Thomas Philip TerryTerry's Mexico Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 159-60 There exists a figure in American literature who is a very interesting sort of figure, in his own strange way, and that is one T. Philip Terry, a writer of guidebooks to Mexico and Cuba. I have just come across him, and his imitation Baedekers. His books are bound like Baedekers and organized like them and printed like them: but there is a difference. Terry has a curious personality which dominates the way his guidebooks are written, and makes them entirely different from Baedekers. Sometimes you wonder whether this personal touch is very desirable: but it is, it makes his guidebooks good and funny. I can't say I admire his opinions about the Mexicans, whom he continually refers to as the "Mex." Nor am I happy with his notions of the religious backwardness of these superstitious natives.
1940/04/00Philip TerryTerry's Guide to Cuba Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 194 The canonazo (cannon shot) fired from Morro Castle at nine p.m. is the signal for many social functions to start. A host of Habaneros take out their watches and set them in accordance when this shot is heard. Terry's Guide to Cuba
1941/05/05Graham GreeneAnother Mexico Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 360 Also I had just finished reading Greene's book about Mexico. The one about Africa, that I glanced at in Louisville, hadn't seemed so good. But this one was a good book - maybe the best travel book I ever read: not so funny as Waugh's one about Abyssinia but more exciting.
1941/06/26Graham GreeneAnother Mexico Jnl 1 ('39-'41) p. 378 Right this minute I am inclined to think G. Greene's book about Mexico is better than Brighton Rock, and also to agree with Gibney that Confidential Agent is (better than Brighton Rock). I was surprised to find out Greene is 11 years older than I am-37, now. I thought he was the same age, or 2 or 3 years older. I hope Auden is at least 11 years older than I am.
1957/09/10Ludwig BemelmansDonkey inside Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 116 No easy generalizations about Job and Zen. Job is a big koan. So is everything else. Best book yet about Ecuador-Bemelman's-The Donkey Inside-which I got in the Louisville library.
1958/01/14Miguel CovarrubiasIndian Art of Mexico and Central America Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 155 I have [Miguel] Covarrubias' new book [Indian Art of Mexico and Central America] from the Louisville library. Great Olmec heads in the jungle-this not so interesting. Football players with helmets. But the fantastic little pre-classical figurines of clay. A lovely slate mask of Teotihuacan style-the style I like best. Classical and pure and full of spiritual light. (Toltecs)
1958/02/09Ciro AlegriaMundo es ancho y ajeno Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 165 Reading Ciro Alegria's "El mundo es ancho y ajeno," walking up and down the stonepath in the cold. It is a beautiful book, garrulous but simple, about an Indian village in Peru. Good reading for after dinner. Good to read a novel in which there is still respect for life, unlike the dead stuff that has been coming out of Europe and the U.S.
1958/02/15Adolfo Bioy CasaresPlan d'evasión Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 169 Back to Bioy Casaris' Plan d'evasion-as a symbol and a symptom. It is about French people. The death rattle of Argentina's dependence on France. The frustration of the American intellectual who can't get along without a Europe that can no longer sustain him. (Yet-he is sustained, without knowing it, by his own latent vitality.) This has been to a great extent my own frustration as a writer-from which I escaped temporarily "upward"-into spirituality-but that was not enough, because it is not a matter of escape, but of incarnation and transformation.
1958/04/25John CollierIndians of the Americas Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 197-98 I am deeply moved by John Collier's book on The Indians of the Americas.... Until the beginning of the century it was assumed that the Indian problem and the harm done to the Indians arose from corrupt individuals in the government. But after 1900 the individuals concerned were honest and upright-and things went on as before for the policy, the system, the philosophy and the laws were themselves corrupt. Collier says "It was not individual corruption but collective corruption; corruption which did not know it was corrupt and which reached deep into the intelligence of the nation"¦collective corruption is more effectively carried into deed through agents not personally corrupt."
1958/05/03Pablo Antonio CuadraJaguar y la luna : poemas Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 200 Pablo Antonio Cuadra arrived with his wife last evening and left this afternoon. Read me some very fine poems - his latest - El jaguar y la luna - after showing me some Indian ceramic designs by which they were inspired. Fine short poems with a very high degree of mystical quality and power. Was deeply moved by dialogue of two stars (Indians believed warriors and mothers became "stars" in heaven because of their suffering). The warrior says he died that the future might be born and that he has not seen that future. This was what most moved me, because perhaps this also is my own destiny. All the poems had very impressive titles. Were at once very Asiatic and very American. This is the voice of the true America.
1959/07/16D.H. LawrenceMornings in Mexico Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 306 Now too is the time to go into a different regime. I don't need all the library books I have been getting (though Lawrence's Mornings in Mexico had two wonderful chapters on Indian towns). More prayer, more sacrifice, more silence- more work. There are still lots of things to think about in the next three months. I have little doubt the indult will be granted.
1959/10/25Dane ChandosVillage in the Sun Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 336-37 I have been in St. Anthony's Hospital, Louisville, for the removal of a rectal fistula. Went on the 14th. and got back Friday.... Mostly, it was a very good retreat. I had several quiet days with plenty of time to read and think. (Heschel-Man Is Not Alone, Pieper, on Prudence, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and Villages in the Sun (Chandon)-to get some ideas about everyday life in Mexico.)
1962/11/17Ernesto CardenalLiteratura indigena americana: Antología Ltrs: CforT p. 136 Your poems about the Indians have been simply superb. I am sure your whole book [Literatura indígena americana: Antología] will be splendid and look forward to seeing it. You have a very great deal to say and I know it is most important. This is something far deeper than indigenismo with a political"”or religious"”hook inside the bait. This is a profound spiritual witness. Also a reparation, and a deep adoration of the Creator, an act of humility and love which the whole race of the Christian conquerors has been putting off and neglecting for centuries. It reminds me that some day I want to write something about Vasco de Quiroga. I have not forgotten about the Indians and all that they mean to us both.
1963/05/10Leslie DewartChristianity and Revolution Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 317 Les[lie] Dewart has sent the ms. of his important book on Cuba. The first thing I have seen that makes sense out of the whole business. But he points out the responsibility of Catholics in creating a situation which led Castro to Communism. And it was led to do this by its ordinariness and mediocrity. Not that there was not great courage and generosity on the part of many who suffered torture under Batista for opposing him: but once Castro was in power, his Catholic supporters could not, says D., conceive of anything but an either/or choice between total repudiation of Communism or total acceptance of it. This, according to D., drove Castro to Communism.
1964/07/10Rafael SquirruChallenge of the New Man: A Cultural Approach to the Latin American Scene Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 124 Rafael Squirru's "New Man" pamphlet is very provocative. How much this is needed. The little that is published on Latin America in this country is likely to be nonsense. There is no deep interest in the question-yet this is one of the deepest and most urgent questions. As for Antonio Cruz, a brilliant, violent book, but Cruz is still the Mexican stereotype, magnificently redrawn. But is that the way Latin America is to be forever-as U.S. wants it to be forever? There is much more to it, surely! And I must read, read, and read. It is my vocation. The risk is not in seeking and knowing these things, but in claiming to intend more than I am able to intend. They are looking for a Savior and will take anyone as one. And I suppose I am looking for a Savior or an Earth Mother. I still believe in the idea of the dark Ecuadorian Virgin I got Jaime Andrade to do for the novitiate. She is there, I do not talk of her, nobody prays to her, but such a presence nevertheless! (Dom Gabriel did not like her.)
1964/07/12Rafael SquirruChallenge of the New Man: A Cultural Approach to the Latin American Scene Ltrs: CforT p. 146 It is a long time since I have written and I do not remember whether I answered yours of May 16th. Perhaps not. I have been reading wonderful things of yours "¦ I liked Rafael Squirru's little book on the New Man [The Challenge of the New Man]. Have you seen it? It is very right. The usual thing we have all been thinking, but which is not yet known or understood enough. The need for admitting to hearing the voice of the new man who is rooted in the American earth (not just in the American machinery), especially the earth of South America. It is first of all important to listen to the silence of the Indian and to admit to hearing all that has not been said for five hundred years. The salvation of our lives depends on it. The things you wrote about the San Blas Indians were marvelous. There is no doubt that you have a providential task in this work of understanding and love, a profound work of spiritual reconciliation, of atonement. It is wonderful to realize the full dimension of our priestly calling in the hemisphere. Not the ridiculous and confused activities based on meaningless presuppositions, but the activity of true atonement, a redemptive and healing work, that begins with hearing. We begin already to heal those to whom we listen. The confusion, hatred, violence, misinformation, blindness of whole populations come from having no one to hear them. Hence they speak with knives, as the Negroes are now doing, for all that has been heard about them is still not them.
1966/04/22Ned O'GormanProphetic Voices: Ideas and Words of Revolution Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 43 Cannot eat much, do not feel like work (writing). Am delaying work on the bits for Ned O'Gorman's book [Note 5: "Seven Words" published in Prophetic Voices: Ideas and Words of Revolution, edited by Ned O'Gorman (New York: Random House, 1969)]. (plenty of time anyway I found out). Nothing terribly pressing to be done, and I don't yet feel much like typing. But walking around, my neck feels fine (today is exactly 4 weeks since the operation). The left leg is still a bit numb, and the incision still bleeds. Otherwise everything is fine.
1967/09/18John Paddock (ed.)Ancient Oaxaca: Discoveries in Mexican Archeology and History Jnl 6 ('66-'67) p. 292 This time, finished Two Leggings - a rather sad, futile sort of book. With all his striving for powerful visions and strong medicine he never got to be chief. Fought the Sioux on the side of the whites - and the whites took away the Crows' land anyway. In the end a white officer gave him a five-dollar gold piece. Sunday was great. Discovery of the Zapotecan city of Monte Alban in new book edited by J. Paddock. Rereading Mosley on the Mayas. Sacred cities in center of sparsely populated rural areas. Cult centers without army and without King. An ideal, peaceful civilization. No one knows why it finally folded up. Same all through Mexico in the "Classic" period. Zapotecs, Mayas, Toltecs. Violence came with decadence. Aztecs were the last end of it. The final corruption.
1967/10/28Nelson ReedCaste War of Yucatan Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 6 Am absorbed and excited by Nelson Reed's book on The Caste War in Yucatan. It clicks perfectly with what I have been reading of Cargo Cults and with the Black Power movement in U.S. I want to write about this!
1967/11/25Claude Levi-StraussTristes tropiques / par C. Levi-Strauss Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 15 With my meal I was reading Levi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques. The most "literary" and readable of his books. He is an intelligent and fluent writer, sensitive to real problems, ironic, objective, alert, humane. I like the book.
1967/12/10John Lloyd StephensIncidents of Travel in Yucatan Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 23 Doris Dana sent the Stephens book on Travels in Yucatan and I began it. A fine work! Great reading.
1968/01/05William Clark StyronConfessions of Nat Turner Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 34 Nat Turner is nothing but Styron's own complex loneliness as a Southern writer. A well-fashioned book, but little or nothing to do with the real Turner"”I have no sense that this fastidious and analytical mind is that of a prophet.
1968/01/08William Clark StyronConfessions of Nat Turner Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 35 I finished (Saturday and with additions yesterday) the short piece on Pasternak's Georgian Letters which Helen Wolff asked me to write. Am sending off today final tape of Vow of Conversation for typing. Working on Nat Turner. An ambiguous book, brilliant in parts, uncertain and tedious in others.