Jungle in the Clouds - A Book Review

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Jungle in the Clouds

A Book Review

By Don Moore


Hagen, Victor Wolfgang.Jungle in the Clouds. New York: 1940. Duell, Sloan and Pearce.

Jungle in the Clouds was a very interesting find for me in the Davenport public library. Every so often I check the Central America section looking for new books. Not long ago I was surprised to see an old book that I hadn't seen before in over eight years of living here. The card inside showed it hadn't been checked out for nearly nine years, and I suspect the story of where it was hidden all these years would be a tale in itself.

Jungle in the Clouds is the tale of a visit to Honduras in the late 1930s. The author and his wife are naturalists and had previously done research elsewhere in Latin America. (The front of the book lists Off With Their Heads, Ecuador The Unknown, and Quetzal Quest also by the same author.) On this trip, they were off to Honduras to attempt to bring capture rare Quetzal birds and ship them back live to zoos in the United States and England. The first half of the book tells of their adventures in the mountains of Yoro department organizing expeditions of local peasants to find the birds. Both before and after their time in the mountains, they are down in the lowland banana country where agents of the American fruit companies help arrange transportation and care for the birds. The dominant role that the fruit companies played in Honduras at this time really comes through, as does the author's assumption that this is the natural order of things.

After finding the birds and shipping them back to the US, courtesy of the banana companies, the authors set off on some side trips. First they head to the mountains north of Talanga to locate and and research the last remaining village of Jicaque Indians still living in the traditional manner. With the aid of a neighboring meztizo farmer, they befriend the Indians and learn a lot about their lifestyle - and get some great black & white photos. After a short trip to 1930s Tegucigalpa (were the roads really that bad?), they fly to western Honduras to visit the Copan ruins.

As travel books go, this is not Tim Cahill. But, Jungle in the Clouds is a very interesting first-hand glimpse at Honduras of the late 1930s - the only one I have found. It is also an easy, light read. It is probably not a very common book, but I doubt it will take you eight years to find it, like it did me. If you are in the USA, have your local library order it through inter-library loan. I'm sure they can locate copies at some nearby university libraries.


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Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995

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