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Marie Arana

Marie Arana is Writer at Large for the Washington Post and Senior Consultant to the Librarian of Congress. She is the author of the memoir American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood (Dial, 2001), a finalist for the National Book Award; the novels Cellophane (Dial, 2006) and Lima Nights (Dial, 2009); and The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think and Work (PublicAffairs, 2002). Her newest book is a biography, Bolivar: American Liberator, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in April 2013. Arana has been an executive editor at two major publishing houses and sits on the boards of a number of cultural institutions, including VQR. She has been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.


The approach to La Rinconada, a gold-mining town nestled under a glacier in the Peruvian Andes.

Dreaming of El Dorado

Fall 2012 | Reporting

Senna has pounded rock; she has ground it to gravel with her feet, she has teetered under heavy bags of crushed stone. But she was never lucky as a child miner; she never found even the faintest glimmer of gold. Today, with her father dead and her mother bordering on desperation, she makes fancy gelatins and sells them to men as they come and go from the mine shafts that pock the unforgiving face of Mount Ananea. When she is asked why she slogs through mud and snow for a few hours of school every day, as few children do, she says she wants to be a poet. She is fourteen years old.