Latin American focus

1. Making an urban public: popular claims to the city in Mexico, 1879-1932
Jiménez, Christina M. Pittsburgh, 2019

Jiménez illuminates the development of the urban experience during turn of the century Mexico. Her work focuses on events in Morelia, the capital of the State of Michoacán. As the country moved to modernization in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution, its citizens, especially those in larger urban areas, created paths of advocacy for the trappings of modern society such as public works and other such elements of 19th-century liberalism. Jiménez uncovers the stories of activism through petitions and other primary documents to illustrate the level of public interests. This resulted in an emerging urban citizenry actively involved in the progressive growth of Morelia. As in other larger Mexican cities, public works such as plazas, parks, and paved streets eventually became part of Mexico’s national identity.
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2. Making Machu Picchu: the politics of tourism in twentieth-century Peru
Rice, Mark. North Carolina, 2018

Rice (Baruch College, CUNY) explores historical processes through which Machu Picchu became a renowned tourist destination and a symbol of Peruvian national identity. Machu Picchu’s prominence was not inevitable, nor was Hiram Bingham (who brought Machu Picchu to world attention in 1911) key to its promotion. Rice provides a chronological treatment of Machu Picchu’s 20th-century “discovery” and rise to prominence. He recounts how in the 1930s Cusco elites joined forces with other international actors to advance tourism in the region; their goal was to develop the local economy and dispel racist stereotypes about the region’s backwardness. The 1934 quadricentennial celebration of the Spanish foundation of Cusco provided a key moment to create a narrative in which the Cusco region was central to national culture, and the US’s Good Neighbor Policy bolstered tourism to the Inca site. Subsequent natural disasters, economic crises, and civil war threatened the tourism industry, but Cusco elites found creative ways to reimagine and expand tourism.
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3. The Cuba reader: history, culture, politics
by Aviva Chomsky et al Duke, 2019

In its second edition, this volume from Duke University Press’s “The Latin America Readers” series features offerings from a broad range of contributors, including poets, essayists, historians, cartoonists, artists, photographers, and academics. Sharing “a commitment to social justice,” they have sought to produce a reader that offers a balanced view of Cuba’s complex past and uncertain future. Chronologically arranged, the book’s first four parts cover the pre-1959 era, dating back to the conquest, with some attention to the 1959 revolution, though that is not the main focus. The text is structured around three main themes: history, culture, and politics, with topics touching on the enduring legacies of slavery and colonialism, globalization and economics, and revolutionary action in different forms, among other topics that aim to illuminate the social changes at play in Cuba.
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4. Troubled memories: iconic Mexican women and the traps of representation
Estrada, Oswaldo. SUNY Press, 2018

In this analysis of novels, short stories, essays, plays, and chronicles, Estrada (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) takes readers on a journey through Mexican history and culture, highlighting the mythifying and problematic representations of iconic Mexican women: specifically, Doña Marina/Malinche, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Leona Vicario, the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution, and Frida Kahlo (treated in the epilogue). Estrada explains how, as representatives of a system of signs and symbols, each woman embodied a different period of Mexican history—the conquest, the colonial period, independence, the Mexican Revolution, and the post-revolutionary era. The author demonstrates how these prominent cultural icons’ significance and influence has evolved over time and gained new meaning. In particular, Estrada engages in a complex discussion of how these women have been transformed into “objects of consumerism” in neoliberal Mexico.
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5. How Borges wrote
Balderston, Daniel. Virginia, 2018

In this superb study, Balderston (Univ. of Pittsburgh) draws attention to Borges’s manuscripts and marginalia to highlight why Borges’s writing process merits critical attention. Borges did not believe in a “final” text, and Balderston points out how the prolific writer obsessively edited his own texts, even after publication. Rejected words, quotations, scribbles, handwriting, reading notes, annotation systems, and countless manuscript revisions take precedence in this study, and through the lens of critique génétique, i.e., genetic criticism, Balderston takes readers “backstage” to “Borges’s kitchen” to showcase the “making of” or origins of canonical texts. A highlight of this book is the richness of the archival material. A renowned Borges scholar, Balderston explains his own quest in acquiring copies of manuscripts and marginalia and the difficulties of accessing materials, which are scattered in numerous library archives and personal collections.
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6. Contemporary Peruvian cinema: history, identity and violence on screen
Barrow, Sarah. I. B. Tauris, 2018

In this meticulously researched, clearly organized, well-written study, Barrow (Univ. of East Anglia, UK) examines Peruvian fiction film of the late 20th and early 21st centuries—in particular features produced in the period from 1988 to 2004, when the Peruvian state was undergoing a political crisis due to the Shining Path insurgency. Barrow skillfully and fruitfully combines sociopolitical contextual analysis with close readings of individual films to examine key themes such as trauma, memory, the political violence between Sendero Luminoso and the military, cultural responses to terrorism, and the relationship between state, cinema, and cultural and national identity. Films subjected to close textual analysis include, among others, Francisco Lombardi’s landmark La boca del lobo (The Lion’s Den), Marianne Eyde’s La vida es una sola (You Only Live Once), and Josué Méndez’s commercially and critically successful Días de Santiago (Days of Santiago). Barrow applies appropriate theory, drawing, for example, on Susan Hayward’s conceptual work on national cinemas.
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