Book Review: Rocha’s Treasure of Potosi

Rocha’s Treasure of Potosi tells the story of two men from very different cultures whose paths cross and who become indispensable to each other. Kenwa is a Watusi from Africa, a large and powerful man. He is captured by Portuguese slave traders and brutally transported to South America, ending up in Potosi and forced to work in the mines.
Francisco Rocha is the eldest son of a wealthy family of conversos living in Barcelona. Even one hundred and eighty years after the expulsion of Jews from Spain, the Rocha family holds onto its Jewish traditions, which they practice in secret. The family derives its wealth from trade in armaments, metal working, fine horses, and land holdings. Francisco and his brothers are well trained in the skills needed to be successful in the 17th century- trade, fencing, metallurgy, horsemanship and the use of firearms. Perhaps as a result of feeling like an outsider, Francisco has unusual empathy for the underdog, which he shows by saving the life of Jacques, a Frenchman who is getting the worst of it in a brawl. He pays to have the injured man taken to his house and treated by a doctor. The maid said: “You know this is a Frenchman?”
Francisco replied with a smile on his face, “It makes no difference, he was a man in trouble and I am obliged to give him comfort. Kindness to a stranger in time of need is one of the things that set us apart from others.” Later in the book Francisco goes out of his way to save Satuku, an Aymara Indian who was being severely abused, and manages to win the much abused Kenwa in a card game. On the other hand, Francisco has no hesitation about doing extreme bodily harm to evil doers.
After a series of adventures in French Canada, Francisco returns too Europe, but the spirit of adventure still possesses him and he decides to go to Bolivia to set up a stable of fine Arabian horses. He kills Satuku’s brutal master and then buys a hacienda from his widow. He falls in love with Christina, Satuko’s niece. He and Kenwa and Satuko decide to explore the territory and happen upon an old Inca mine that has been kept secret from the Spanish. The mine is replete with veins of gold. In order to obtain the land on which the mine sits, Francisco makes a devil’s bargain. He agrees to marry the daughter of the landowner and take care of her. The marriage can never be consummated because the woman has the French pox, and it is likely that she will lose her sanity sooner or later. As events play out, Francisco’s situation becomes more and more precarious.
Rocha’s Treasure of Potosi is a lively read which anyone with a love of adventure and the exotic will enjoy.

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