For the Olmec, the Mesoamerican civilization which preceded the Aztecs,the canoe trip was a sacred journey. Dependent on the watercourses of theIsthmus of Tehuantepec for survival, they included miniature canoes amongtheir religious icons; the "Watery Path" was thought to connect the sacredworld of the heavens with our earth.

"Sacred Money River" is journalist Christopher Shaw's account of his tripdown the Usumacinta River, and the spiritual transformation it works uponhim. Like a Huckleberry Finn for the hemisphere, Shaw offers lyricalreflections about life on the Usumacinta along with an analysis of life insouthern Mexico, caught between modern and premodern worlds. Perhaps themost unusual aspect of Shaw's book is his discussion of his contacts withthe Indian rebels of Guatemala and Chiapas. For Shaw, however, themodernization of Mexican village life, and the social and politicalconflicts it entails, are as integral a part of the landscape as the "palejade shot with turquoise" of the beautiful Usumacinta River.