Our Journey to South America
By Mo Siegel, President, Urantia Foundation, Boulder, Colorado, USA
One hundred and eighty thousand copies of the Spanish translation of The Urantia Book have sold since its first publication in 1993. The Portuguese translation was published in 2008, and more than eight thousand copies have sold in Brazil. With this in mind, on January 26, 2012, my wife, Jennifer, and I sallied forth to 1) meet readers in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile; 2) check on the availability, price, and distribution of The Urantia Book in bookstores; and 3) experience some of the sailing adventures of Magellan by traveling around Cape Horn by ship. For decades I’ve yearned to travel through the Straits of Magellan, go around Cape Horn, and visit the southernmost communities in the world. Mission accomplished!
in the shape of The Urantia Book
Throughout our journey we met many kind-hearted and dedicated Urantia Book readers. For these students, finding affordable and available books is more difficult than it is in North America. In the United States Amazon.com sells the Kindle version of The Urantia Book for $7.16, paperbacks for $15.61, and hardcovers for $18.45. Paperbacks sell for the equivalent of $27-44 US in Brazil, $40-50 US in Argentina, $100 US in Uruguay, and $70-80 US in Chile.
Internet bookstores are virtually nonexistent outside of Brazil. Most bookstores do not stock The Urantia Book, but it can be special ordered. Despite high prices and scarce availability, the Urantia Revelation has robustly been accepted in South America.
We started our journey in São Paulo with a warm welcome at the airport from Susana Hüttner Palaia and Ligia Zotini. On the first afternoon we visited bookstores in São Paulo. Thanks to the hard work of Jay Peregrine and Tamara Strumfeld, the book is shelved in the ten FNAC bookstores in Brazil. FNAC sells the book for the equivalent of $27 US. Most other stores in Brazil sell the paperback for at least $44 US.
After visiting stores we went to Susana and Sabino’s home and spent time with readers. We had a wonderful dinner hosted by Caio and Nancy Caffé. The next day Susana held a sizable gathering at her home; some of the readers traveling many hours to attend. We were deeply touched by their enthusiasm for the Urantia Revelation and their gracious hospitality. Afterwards we attended Carlos Leite de Silva’s birthday party.
Today there are 57 active study groups in Brazil. We heard amazing stories about how people found The Urantia Book in Brazil. Nearly half of the people said that the writings of J.J. Benitez prompted them to pick up the book. In his multi-volume saga Caballo de Troya, Benitez generously lifted teachings from Part IV of The Urantia Book.
One thing is very obvious: Susana has been a unifying and coordinating influence for Brazilian readers. She is a remarkable force of loving energy and social coordination.
Reader gathering in the house of Sabino and Susana Hüttner Palaia
After leaving Brazil, we flew to Argentina and were greeted by Carlos Rubinsky. If we learned one thing on our journey, it’s that it takes leadership to plant the Urantia Revelation in a country. Carlos Rubinsky has been the uniting and driving force for The Urantia Book in Argentina. He has fathered study groups, reader communications, gatherings, book fairs, and other outreach efforts.
Carlos and his wife, María Inés, hosted a meeting and delicious dinner at their home. We started by discussing how we discovered The Urantia Book and ended with delicious Argentine empanadas and pizza. The setting was everything you would dream of in the home of an artist inspired by The Urantia Book. Beautiful paintings hung on all the walls, and feelings of goodwill abounded.
On our second day in Argentina we visited Urantia Foundation’s new book distributor. Thanks to the efforts of Henk and Claire Mylanus, last year we added an Argentine distributor who will increase the distribution of the book. They expect to sell 600 books in their first year. After meeting at their office, they took us to five bookstores in Buenos Aires. All the stores had prominent displays of The Urantia Book, and it sells for $40 US or more depending on the store.
Reader gathering in the house of Carlos Rubinsky and María Inés
We left Buenos Aires and headed to Punta del Este, Uruguay. In this beautiful seaside resort, we met with Alberto and Horacio Brupbacher, longtime supporters of Urantia Foundation. We spent a lovely afternoon with them discussing The Urantia Book’s teachings, study groups, and book distribution. Alberto and Horacio showed us interesting Urantia Book internet sites, which they use for personal study and book introductions. They told us about hosting a meeting of 80 Urantia Book readers. Now, whenever possible, they hold introductory seminars for new readers. There are no active study groups in Punta del Este, and the book is hard to find. They found one book in a town about 25 miles away. The price, $100 US, is the going price for Urantia Books in Uruguay.
We loved spending time with the Brupbacher brothers. These identical twins live in the same house, married sisters, and own a furniture business together. Alberto’s son laughed as he told Jen that the brothers often show up at breakfast wearing identical clothes. Jen said the brothers looked like rock stars or movie stars in a surfer film. I feel blessed to have spent an afternoon with these fellow truth seekers. After returning to Boulder, we went to study group and were reading about the local universe. I closed my eyes and pictured Alberto and Horacio a half a world away reading the same breathtaking descriptions of Nebadon.
at the Blowing in the Wind artist community
Cape Horn, Ushuaia, the Straits of Magellan, and the Chilean Fjords
Oftentimes disparity exists between reality and your dreams. For me, the journey around Cape Horn was one of those situations. Traveling the waterways that Magellan, Sir Francis Drake, and Captain Cook sailed seemed like a romantic adventure. The reality for me was six days of seasickness. They say those waters are some of the roughest in the world; so I should have known better. Nonetheless, I am pleased we made the journey.
Of all good fortune, Marian Hughes, a long time reader from Hawaii and a homeowner in Chile, heard about our journey. Marian arranged for a guide and a car so we could meet a reader, Alessandro Guarneri, who lives in Puerto Varas. We had a delicious meal and a good conversation with Alessandro.
Jon DeToy picked us up in Valparaiso and drove us to the artist community "Blowing in the Wind" at Renaca. This community has a number of Urantia Book readers with more readers moving in soon. Jon, an American citizen, recently moved to Chile and brought 120 Spanish Urantia Books with him. We had a visit with a lovely group of readers, after which Jon and his family drove us to a larger reader gathering in Santiago.
Flor and George Robles hosted a gathering of Santiago readers from 1:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Flor and George graciously provided lunch and dinner for everyone. It was a warm, summer, Sunday afternoon, and the meeting was pleasantly casual. We chatted, read the book, and ate, while the children swam in the pool.
We learned several things during the meeting. There are about three hundred active readers in Santiago and six study groups. Books are expensive. Paperbacks sell for $70-80 US. The group was very vocal about the high prices and felt it should sell between $30-40 US. They accounted for the price being so high because of a 19% value added tax and a 9% import duty. I explained that Urantia Foundation wanted fair prices, and that we sold paperback books to our Latin American distributor for $10 US.
On Monday we visited bookstores and found one paperback—wrapped in cellophane in the "on reserve" non-browsing section—priced at $70 US. Readers expressed appreciation for the help they had received obtaining books, thanks to the generous efforts of Marion Hughes, the Pipeline of Light, and other donors.
We met enthusiastic and dedicated readers. For example, Yolanda Silva Solona, a Santiago reader, has a blog which spreads the book’s teachings to 5000 people. Flor has created many study aids that can be seen at http://www.scribd.com/diagramas606. Our trip to Santiago was extremely worthwhile. We are thankful for the new friends we made in Chile.
The Urantia Book has deep roots in South America. We felt the respect and passion for the Urantia Revelation everywhere we went. We also felt support and loyalty toward Urantia Foundation.
In addition, we learned the following about book distribution in these countries:
- The North American digital book revolution has not taken hold in the countries we visited. It has started in Brazil, but it will take another five or more years to have a major impact. We neither saw nor heard evidence of internet/digital books affecting bookstore sales in Argentina, Uruguay, or Chile. Bookstores remain the vital link in the chain, and they appear to be thriving throughout South America.
- The price of The Urantia Book is very high except in Brazil. Transportation costs, government taxes, duties, and distributor and retail margins make the price unaffordable for many Latin Americans. The Urantia Book is one of the most expensive books in the bookstores. We need an active program to bring down the price.
- Study groups are the best way to spread The Urantia Book and its teachings. Every effort we put forth supporting study groups will help create infrastructure and stability for the Urantia Revelation.
- Continued support is needed for dissemination efforts of individuals and such organizations as the Pipeline of Light which send boxes of books to readers and study groups in Latin America.
- We need to expand internet tools for reading, teaching, and sharing The Urantia Book.
Mo with Urantia Book readers in Santiago
Audio Urantia Book
Board Meeting Decisions
Urantia Foundation History