Simon Bolivar once inspired a continent to rise from its serfdom and throw off the shackles of Spanish rule, setting the course for independence, freedom and equality. Viva South America! sets out to discover if that dream lives on. Is it fair to describe a land as 'independent' while poverty still enslaves millions, where violence lurks in the shadows and where lawlessness gnaws away at progress? Did the Liberators fail? Or are leaders such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales resurrecting those long-ago ideals?
Armed with a reporter's notebook and an open mind, the author hits the road in search of answers. With the ghost of Bolivar as guide, the quest takes the reader off the tourist trail and into the weird and wonderful worlds of South American culture and society. By stepping into people's homes and into inmates' prison cells, by climbing onto dance floors and over road blocks, Oliver Balch unearths untold stories from the front line of South America's contemporary fight for freedom.