The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas
In his book The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas (Scribner, 2019), Professor Eric Rutkow retraces the fascinating, decades-long history of the attempt to build the world’s longest highway. This seemingly chimerical project coincided with the era of Pan-Americanism, a 19th and 20th century movement that advanced a rhetoric of solidarity between the nations of the Western hemisphere. Rutkow’s critical account provides a new angle on the history of Pan-Americanism and US-Latin American relations by offering both a materialist and culturalist account of the movement and the many tensions it brought out between the US and Latin American elites and policymakers. More broadly, the monograph challenges us to consider the malleability and artificiality of familiar geographical concepts like “Latin America,” “The western hemisphere,” and the idea of “Americas” more generally.
Steven P. Rodriguez is a PhD candidate in history at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on the history of Latin American student migration to the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his twitter at @SPatrickRod.