Book Reviews

The new ReVista book review section features reviews of recent books about Latin America, the Caribbean and the Latinx community in all disciplines. 

Spatial, Sonic and Sublime Remains of War

Spatial, Sonic and Sublime Remains of War

I read Javier Uriarte’s book over the course of a winter long both in metaphor and reality, during a pandemic that peaked in snowy New England in the early months of 2021. One might imagine

Poetry and History in 18th-century Brazil

Poetry and History in 18th-century Brazil

In his presentation of the beautifully published volume, Obras Completas de Alvarenga Peixoto, historian Kenneth Maxwell turns our attention to one of his specialties, the late 18th-century

The Price of Gold

The Price of Gold

English + Español
I loved to be in the Chocó. My work on a biodiversity conservation project allowed me to travel frequently to the seldom-visited northwest fringe of Colombia. The…

Bolivia in the Age of Gas

Bolivia in the Age of Gas

Bret Gustafson’s Bolivia in the Age of Gas is an ambitious and exquisitely detailed historical ethnography of Bolivia and its complicated relation with gas (and oil). Fossil fuels, Gustafson argues, have been central to the making of Bolivia, of this “gaseous state.” Drawing on a deep, decades-long engagement in the region…

El jardín pandémico

El jardín pandémico

English + Español
Imagine the tranquility of a garden. With the aroma of flowers mixed in with the buzzing of bees and the contrast of shady trees against the fierce Paraguayan sun. From the intimacy of a family garden in which daily ritual leads one to water the plants, gather up the dry leaves…

How Democracies Die

How Democracies Die

How Democracies Die analyzes the main dangers that modern democracies face. As the authors warn, 21st-century democracies do not die in one fell swoop, in a violent way, by hands that do not always belong to the political system. On the contrary, modern democracies…

The Return of Collective Intelligence

The Return of Collective Intelligence

My college Native American Culture professor,  the Mescalero Apache scholar Inez Sánchez, told our class that we should regard the word “primitive” as synonymous with “complex.” I gained a better understanding of what Sánchez meant reading The Return of Collective…

Vernacular Sovereignties

Vernacular Sovereignties

English + Español
Manuela Lavinas Picq, a professor at the Universidad San Francisco en Quito, Ecuador, offers a rarely seen representation of Latin American Indigenous women as a collective, historical and political actor in search of justice and social transformation. Eurocentric, capitalist…

The Fernando Coronil Reader

The Fernando Coronil Reader

English + Español
Fernando Coronil appears on the cover of this posthumous book in a photograph taken by his daughter Mariana. Cement and a communications tower appears to distance him from his beloved plains and grasslands. But no such distance exists. The hammock from…

Borderland Battles

Borderland Battles

When then-President Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace accord with one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest guerrillas in 2016 (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), optimism ran high that an end to decades-long violence in Colombia had been…

Exile Music

Exile Music

Novels about the Holocaust and Jewish survival span countries and languages and audiences of all ages. Such stories tend to be told against a European or United States background. Rarely does a novel involve European Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in Latin…

Latin American Soldiers

Latin American Soldiers

John R. Bawden’s Latin American Soldiers: Armed Forces in the Region’s History introduces readers to the study of Latin American’s Armed Forces., Bawden examines warfare and military traditions in four different countries (Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Chile)…

Magdalena: River of Dreams

Magdalena: River of Dreams

Wade Davis, a Canada-born ethnobotanist, published a widely praised book in 1996 titled One River. It chronicled the explorations and discoveries of his Harvard professor, Richard Schultes, who sought to understand the origins of mind-altering plants and their ritualistic…

The Cubans

The Cubans

Reading the new book The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times made me nostalgic for my years on the island as a U.S. news correspondent. I certainly didn’t miss the struggles or hassles, of which there were plenty, but it made me long for the intelligent…

Ghosts of Sheridan Circle

Ghosts of Sheridan Circle

Targeted killing of political enemies—assassinations—is thankfully rare in the United States. The most famous such assassination occurred in Washington, DC. And it was committed by a close ally of the United States. In September 1976, Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship…

Regulating Style

Regulating Style

At the Art Basel Cities exhibits in Buenos Aires a few months back, Mexican artist Pia Camil displayed her interactive artwork, “Gaby’s T-Shirt,” a striking ceiling-to-floor curtain made of 300…

Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations

Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations

Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations engages ongoing debates about mobility and migration from a unique “Latin(o)” perspective which integrates new interdisciplinary work on inter-Latin American migration and broader diaspora studies in a field often focused on the migration of Latin Americans to the United States.

Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction

Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction

In the ongoing process of exploring, making and re-making the modern world, some stake flags, others publish books—both being political constructions and assertions as part of larger institutional projects. Such is the case with Alejandro de la Fuente and George Reid Andrews’ edited volume Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction. With contributions from nearly two dozen historians, anthropologists, sociologists, ethnomusicologists and literary scholars…

Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

A Review of Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century Contemporary Human Rights and Latin America On September 5, 1921, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Hollywood’s then best-paid star, attended a party in San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel, drank...

Social Policy Expansion in Latin America

Social Policy Expansion in Latin America

The welfare state emerged in middle-income countries in Latin America during the first half of the 20th century when health care services and pensions were granted to workers with formal sector jobs…

Anatomía de una Trampa

Anatomía de una Trampa

English + Español
While campaigning, many politicians in Latin America use the rhetoric of dignity and rectitude to sway voters. However, in power, they often forget electoral promises, abusing…

Social Policies and Decentralization in Cuba

Social Policies and Decentralization in Cuba

From my snapshot views of Cuba in ve visits over the years, two eye-opening moments stand out. In 1980, after visiting one workplace after another where union and management…

Telenovelas in Pan-Latino Context

Telenovelas in Pan-Latino Context

When I was running a newspaper bureau in Nicaragua, I once went to look for my housekeeper to ask where we kept something or other. She wasn’t there, but her TV was on…

Getting Respect

Getting Respect

When I first arrived in Brazil in the 1980s, I quickly learned that race in Brazil was not important there. The country that once had by far the largest slave population in the…

The Colombia Reader: History, Culture, Politics

The Colombia Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Fifteen-plus years ago, historian David Bushnell argued in his widely read textbook that Colombia was the least studied and probably the least understood major country in Latin America…

Kill the Ampaya! The Best Latin American Baseball Fiction

Kill the Ampaya! The Best Latin American Baseball Fiction

In December 1999, President Hugo Chávez took to the balcony of the Miraflores Palace in Caracas to announce that a nationwide referendum had overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that, among other things, transformed Venezuela into a Bolivarian…

Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution

Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution

At various points in Peter Andreas’ extraordinary childhood, he was kidnapped by his own mother, lived as a squatter in a commune in Chile during the tumultuous months leading up to the coup d’état in 1973, and traveled throughout Peru performing revolutionary street…

Inka History in Knots

Inka History in Knots

Some years ago I went to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, in Italy’s Alto Adige, to gaze upon Ötzi. Better known as the Iceman, Ötzi was an early Bronze Age traveler and homicide victim whose well-preserved body was accidentally discovered in 1991 as it…

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion

On May 18, 1781, Spanish authorities in Cuzco executed José Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera, also known as Tupac Amaru, in front of thousands of onlookers. Claiming to be the rightful…

Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America

Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America

I started graduate school in September 1978, around the zenith of authoritarianism in Latin America. After the Argentine military coup in 1976, only three of twenty countries in the…

A Ditadura Acabada

A Ditadura Acabada

The timing of the publication of the fifth and final volume of Elio Gaspari’s monumental history of the Brazilian military regime could not be more relevant. It is ironic that his new…

The Politics of Gay Marriage in Latin America

The Politics of Gay Marriage in Latin America

Despite its recent successes, the gay rights movement in Latin America is generally ignored in discussions of contemporary Latin American politics. Even students of Latin American social…

The Yaquis and the Empire

The Yaquis and the Empire

Winner of the 2015 Latin American Studies Association Social Science Book Award and runner-up for the 2015 David J. Weber-Clements Prize of the Western History Association, The Yaquis…

Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel

Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel

I often wonder what life would have held for the late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño if he had not passed away due to liver complications more than a decade ago. This year he would have…

Dancing with the Devil in the City of God

Dancing with the Devil in the City of God

Juliana Barbassa and I have similar stories. We are both Brazilian with a chronic case of wanderlust, but in some ways on opposite tracks: Barbassa is from Rio and I am from São Paulo…

Volunteering for a Cause

Volunteering for a Cause

What happens when researchers look quite simply for “other ways of telling
the story?” Silvia Marina Arrom asks this question at the beginning of her deeply researched history of the male…

La danza hostil

La danza hostil

La danza hostil revisits an age-old question in political science: how is political power constructed (and re-constructed)? Alberto Vergara tackles this question by examining…

Reflections on Memory and Democracy

Reflections on Memory and Democracy

Memory is tricky business. So is democracy. Both are invariably challenged and contested from within and from without. The struggle against the manipulation of…

State Building in Latin America

State Building in Latin America

Hillel Soifer’s powerful new book proposes a solid and original theory of state-building in Latin America. In recent years the study of how states formed and…

A Review of The War

A Review of The War

In November 1945, fighter pilots from Mexico’s Air Force Squadron 201 received a hero’s welcome upon returning home after their brief participation in World War…

A Review of Blood in the Fields

A Review of Blood in the Fields

In 2003, when his son was arrested for killing a heroin dealer in Salinas, California, Armando “Big Mando” Frias did what any loving father would do…

A Review of The People’s Poet

A Review of The People’s Poet

The day Rafael Cortijo’s remains were put to rest in Puerto Rico in 1982, his admirers came out in full force to honor their tropical music hero one last time…

Cosmopolitan Desires

Cosmopolitan Desires

In January 2015, shortly after terrorist attacks in Paris, the slogan “Je suis Charlie” began to circulate on Twitter and to appear on demonstrators’ signs in Paris and…

I Ask for Justice: Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898–1944

I Ask for Justice: Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898–1944

On May 10, 2013, General Efraín Ríos Montt sat before a packed courtroom in Guatemala City listening to a three-judge panel convict him of genocide and crimes against humanity. The conviction, which mandated an 80-year prison sentence for the octogenarian, followed five weeks of hearings that included testimony by more than 90 survivors from the Ixil region of the department of El Quiché, experts from a range of academic fields, and military officials.

Violencia pública en Colombia

Violencia pública en Colombia

Another book about violence in Colombia? At first glance, it would seem superfluous to add one more title to the already extensive bibliography that…