Category: Book Talk, Memory

El Salvador Could Be Like That: A Memoir of War, Politics, and Journalism from the Front Row of the Last Bloody Conflict of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War

“There are no just wars. There are only just causes.” I was sitting in the modest home of a former FMLN guerrilla woman in a rural village in the northeastern corner of El Salvador. It was 2001, and I was nearing the end of my second year-long stint in this small Central American nation, interviewing more than 200 Salvadorans, mostly from rural areas, about their experiences during the civil conflict of the 1980s. …

Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead

As graduate students in Harvard’s Department of Government, Shannon O’Neil and I read from the same interminable Mexico reading list handed to us by our mentor, Professor Jorge Domínguez. A few years later, in 2002, we became good friends in Mexico City. Alejandro Poiré, a fellow Domínguez student, was then Chair of the Political Science Department at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), where I was a faculty member. He provided Shannon with an office during her Fulbright stint, and so ITAM fast became an ongoing seminar for a gringa and this Mexican-American pocho to learn about …

Colombia: A Concise Contemporary History

In 2008, as a Harvard college sophomore, I was getting ready to go back to Colombia, my birthplace, for the first time since I left with my family as a 13-year-old. I read everything I could find, looking for a better understanding of the country than my vague adolescent memories. I was disappointed to find only opinions at two extremes….

Unsettled/Desasosiego, Children in a World of Gangs

Unsettled/Desasosiego is an honest book that recounts Donna DeCesare’s long relationship with Central America and its people in an intimate, personal fashion. The photograph on page 19 is highly revealing. It captures the movement of people, the chaotic hubbub, the ongoing life of the town and—finally—some armed men who seem entirely out of place. On the left, a little girl embraces a wooden pole. …

Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes

In the spirit of full disclosure, I begin by stating that the co-authors of this award-winning book* are both close, long-time friends of the author of this review. I attended graduate school in anthropology at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, with Joanne Rappaport in the 1970s, and I have been in close contact with Tom Cummins ever since we coincided on some of our earliest respective field research in Cusco, Peru, in 1981…

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