Editor’s Letter

by | Oct 31, 2018

I stumbled into China when I was eleven or twelve. O-lan led me. I was intrigued by her quiet strength, her small stature and big unbound feet. A voracious reader, I couldn’t put Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth down. I had never heard tales like the ones she told of this silently courageous woman in rural prerevolutionary China, a woman who led her husband and family to landed prosperity. Many of the themes the book touched—although I didn’t know it at the time—were those that would occupy me during my entire life: poverty, gender relations, women’s rights, urban migration, revolution, war and peace, human trafficking, and of course, love, life and death.

As a journalist and editor and just plain human being, I’ve thought about these issues on another continent—Latin America. I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York and perhaps it was inevitable that my Spanish-speaking neighbors would lead me down a path of reality that was stronger than the still vivid call of the fictional O-lan.

In the late 1960s, the two continents came together in the guise of my neighborhood restaurants, La Nueva Victoria and La Caridad, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, delicious and cheap eateries set up by Chinese-Cuban exiles (Katherine López writes about such restaurants in this issue on p. 40). It was my first inkling that the two continents were connected by large diasporas. Later I was to discover that these diasporas extended to migrants from other parts of Asia, especially Japan and Korea.

In the process of putting together this special issue on Asia and Latin America, I’ve discovered so many other relationships, ranging from earthquake threats shared by Japan and Chile to trade relations, cultural exchanges and infrastructure goals. When I read Ernesto Londoño’s recent piece in the New York Times describing a US$50 million satellite and space mission control center built by the Chinese military in Argentina’s Patagonia desert, the development seemed light years away from the rural world of O-lan or even my favorite Chinese-Cuban eateries. But thinking of the article and the Chinese imaginary of The Good Earth in context gave new meaning to the somewhat clichéd description of the relationship between Asia and Latin America as South-South. It’s not just about geography: it’s about history.

Just as Pearl Buck looked upon O-lan from her perspective as the daughter of a white U.S. missionary to China, we see the evolving relationships between the two continents through the prisms of our own experiences. This ReVista includes Asian, U.S. and Latin American scholars looking at each other’s worlds; it includes many co-authored pieces that bridge the two continents. As in almost every ReVista, we’ve tried to build bridges between art and business, the humanities and science, the current and the historical.

Dear reader, read on. But before you do, I want to say thanks to those who have contributed to keep ReVista going, and especially to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism class of ‘70, which funded our 2017 Best of ReVista photography contest (see the winners on p. 110 ). ReVistabelongs to all of you readers and contributors; remember to keep your addresses updated and your suggestion and donations coming.

P.S. Your editor knows Asia is a huge continent and that some areas of Asia are not represented in this issue as thoroughly as we’d hoped. We look forward to more Asia collaborations in the future!

Fall 2018, Volume XVIII, Number 1

Related Articles

Editor’s Letter: Democracy

Editor’s Letter: Democracy

Ellen Schneider’s description of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in her provocative article on Nicaraguan democracy sent me scurrying to my oversized scrapbooks of newspaper articles. I wanted to show her that rather than being perceived as a caudillo

Editor’s Letter: Monuments and Counter-Monuments

Editor’s Letter: Monuments and Counter-Monuments

Cuba may be the only country on the planet that sports statues of John Lennon and Vladimir Lenin. Uruguay may be the first in planning a full-fledged monument to the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Editor’s Letter: Cityscapes

Editor’s Letter: Cityscapes

I have to confess. I fell passionately, madly, in love at first sight. I was standing on the edge of Bogotá’s National Park, breathing in the rain-washed air laden with the heavy fragrance of eucalyptus trees. I looked up towards the mountains over the red-tiled roofs. And then it happened.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email