Spanning almost 100 years of hemispheric history, The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow (American Canopy) explores an era of increased connectivity between North and South America. Whereas today there is a fervent political movement to separate and insulate the U.S. from its Southern neighbors, in the not-too-distant past, Central and South America were viewed as important trading partners by successive U.S. presidents.
During those decades, Pan-Americanism, as opposed to globalism, was an important U.S. foreign policy goal. It led to the construction of an ambitious motor road connecting the Americas. Rutkow's fascination with the Pan-American highway is evident in this meticulously researched and vividly recounted drama. He combines a historian's eye for detail with a storyteller's skill at bringing to life the dynamic political and social forces that conceived and constructed the international corridor. While working to connect the U.S. and Canada with Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia and beyond, the U.S. also promoted the building of motor roads in other parts of the world.
Despite its remarkable history and the controversies that surround the still-incomplete road, the highway has never before received the sort of academic attention Rutkow bestows upon it. The Longest Line on the Map is a worthy, thought-provoking read for anyone interested in learning about a time when the "Colossus of the North" opened its doors in friendship and unity to the rest of the Americas. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer