Covarrubias

He may have been the greatest caricaturist of all time—he has imitators to this day—but his true passion was for a very different discipline

The trouble was, he couldn’t say no to anyone. Badgered by magazine editors, book publishers, theater producers, political agitators, and college presidents to contribute his talents to their interests, Miguel Covarrubias said yes to all, forgetting that there were limits to even his energies. In time his careless acquiescences would prove ruinous, but until then he enjoyed enormous success as anthropologist, author, painter, muralist, stage designer, and—most especially—caricaturist. Read more »

The Man Who Made The Yanquis Go Home

Starting with thirty “liberated”
rifles, Augusto Sandino forced American troops out of Nicaragua in 1933

Rear Adm. Julian L. Latimer stood on the bridge of his flagship, the USS Rochester, as it nosed into the harbor of Puerto Cabezas, on Nicaragua’s northeastern Mosquito Coast. It was Christmas Eve, 1926, and the fifry-seven-year-old West Virginian had been called abruptly away from family festivities at the Canal Zone naval station at Balboa. Read more »

The Conundrum Of Corn

It’s our most important, profitable, and adaptable crop—the true American staple. But where did it come from?

In 1748 an inquisitive Swede named Peter Kalm, a protégé of the great botanist Linnaeus, came to America to find plants that could be useful in his country. He went around asking questions of everybody about everything. He asked Benjamin Franklin about hardy trees and was told that English walnuts did not survive Philadelphia’s winters. He asked John Bartram, the most knowing botanist in the colonies, about timber and was told that American oaks were not as tough as European.Read more »

Who Was This Man-and Why Did He Paint Such Terrible Things About Us?

The man was Diego Rivera, seen from the rear on his scaffold in an uncharacteristically modest self-portrait at left, and what he was doing in America was expressing his gargantuan contempt for capitalism and its precepts.Read more »

The Taking Of California

A low comedy for high stakes:

For three hundred years California drifted in a backwash of time. Spain had discovered the region in 1542 but had done little about it until the latter part of the eighteenth century, when fears of Russian interest in the province inspired her to settle a handful of missionary priests, half-educated soldiers, and thoroughly uneducated civilians in a few pinprick outposts scattered along the coast from San Diego Bay to San Francisco Bay. After Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexicans had done little better by California.Read more »

“Savages Never Carved These Stones”

Magnificent Central American ruins, overgrown by the thickening jungle, testify to a sophisticated culture already ancient when Columbus sailed

On the afternoon of November 17, 1839, John Lloyd Stephens, a red-bearded New York lawyer, and Frederick Catherwood, an English artist, hacked their way through a jungle in Honduras and emerged at the edge of a broad river. Facing them across the wide ribbon of water was an ancient and massive stone wall, looming up a hundred feet out of the bush. As they crossed the river and explored the surroundings, they discovered stone altars, mysterious hieroglyphics, and giant idols richly carved; it was clear that they had come upon the ruins of an ancient city.