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Legacy - Civilization Americas

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Legacy - Civilization Americas

This episode explores how indigenous peoples of Central America have "hung on with great tenacity" and resisted spiritual conquest by retaining old languages and practices despite their physical conquest by the Spanish and consumer society over the past 500 years. Wood describes them as "stubbornly collective" and "stoical," but "possessed of an inner strength that would allow them to bear any burden, even one as heavy as the last 500 years." Wood laments and condemns the conquest of the Americas, but his emphasis on Central America's continuity with its pre-Columbian past also seems to serve to alleviate Western guilt. Wood addresses several controversial issues, but his discussions of them always stop short of the point where they would make viewers uncomfortable because they were forced to confront problems for which there are no easy solutions or solutions which Western viewers are willing to embrace. Wood comments that "the West's progress to civilization has been long and painful," but he fails to answer the question "painful for whom?". He closes the episode with an observation that we live in a new time of pluralism where again Native Americans can live their own history in their own time. This statement virtually dismisses the violence and discrimination that indigenous peoples of Central America continue to face. It is doubtful that people such as Rigoberta Menchu, a Mayan/Guatemalan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work on indigenous people's rights, would agree with Wood's statement.

Wood's survey of the legacy of Mesoamerican civilizations discusses the Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation myth, explores the Mayan ruins at Teotihuacan, Tikal and Copan and the Aztec temple of Quetzalcoatl in Mexico City, and observes present-day shamans in order to demonstrate the continuity between the Mesoamerican past and present, the Mayans all-consuming obsession with time, and the war-like character of the Aztecs. Although he mentions other aspects of Aztec civilization, he spends most of the time discussing their often-sensationalized practices of human sacrifice. Wood also tends to sensationalize the practices:

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