My mother-in-law never knows what to get me for Christmas. I ask for nothing, she insists she has to send something, and I think we have made a nice compromise: a renewed subscription to National Geographic every year. It makes for good light reading and the kids like the pictures. However....
This issue (September) looks at the development of a railroad system across the Caucuses from Azerbaijan to Turkey. It reads, in short, like a cientificos lecture by Justo Sierra. A little tyranny (in Azerbaijan) brings development and order - all based on the development of a single market export - oil. This lines up nicely with the month's topics in my modern lat am course: Progress and Order... and the Popular Response to It. Students are reading Todd Diacon's great work on the building of the railway in Santa Catarina in Brazil and the social stress and upheaval that such a project brings. National Geographic, for all its progressive pretensions, paints the building of a rail system through a religiously sensative area as a possible antidote to the woes of the Caucuses. Once more, I would submit that a few minutes in a Latin America class would benefit many policy makers outside of the area. Building a railroad to export a single market item in an area prone to conflict... this is totally in our tool box.
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