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Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America Paperback – March 12, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0375725821 ISBN-10: 0375725822 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725821
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Guillermoprieto (The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now), Latin America correspondent for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, presents a collection of essays focusing on Colombia, Cuba and Mexico in the 1990s, accompanied by wonderfully elegant sketches of Eva Per¢n of Argentina and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru. There is some repetition, but this flaw does not seriously detract from her message that although Latin American political culture in the latter half of the 20th century is largely shrouded in myth, particularly because of its potent relationship with the U.S., it does indeed have "its own independent life." Apparent throughout is the author's ability to capture a historical moment and place it in context: for example, her observations of the pope's visit in January 1998 to a Cuba led by Fidel Castro dressed in a dark suit, and not his usual army fatigues, who made many political concessions for the privilege of paying homage to the pope. The chapter on John Paul II is flanked by portraits of Che Guevara and of Castro, the former steeped in romantic fanaticism, the latter seen as clinging to power long after his revolution has been bypassed by history. Guillermoprieto's writing seems unaffected by any obvious political bias; she excoriates the violence of the left (the murderous guerrilla brigades of Colombia) and of the right (the murderous Colombian paramilitary forces). Above all, the author displays an insightful grasp of the absurdities and chaos (one of the root causes of which is the U.S.'s inexhaustible appetite for drugs) that, in her view, permeate Latin American politics.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Guillermoprieto, a staff editor at The New Yorker, is a well-known and astute observer of Latin America. This collection of 17 of her essays, all adapted from pieces published in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, focuses on recent political events in the region. The essays are primarily about three countries: Cuba, where revolutionary idealism had to face reality; Colombia, where revolutions have always failed; and Mexico, a land of political fantasy. Among the stories, book reviews, and descriptions are perceptive and insightful observations of Latin American politics and society that help illuminate this important part of the world. This volume will be of interest to Latin American collections as well as current affairs libraries. Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. McKeon on April 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent primer for the reader who seeks an overview of the diverse currents in modern Latin America. The study is not comprehensive; it is a sampler of articles addressing a number of separate and distinct Latin American situations (Cuba, Peru, Mexico, Colombia) which includes historical figures who served as catalysts (Eva Peron, Che Guevara). She references a number of other recent (accurate and well written) works on Latin America enabling the reader to pursue additional study.
Guillermoprieto writes in a clear, crisp readable fashion which incorporating understatement and irony. Her perspective is Latin American and she is direct and honest regarding the pervasive influence of the United States. Refreshingly, however, she refrains from simplistically depicting Latin Americans as martyrs and clearly places an appropriate degree of responsibility with Latin Americans for their own fate.
A fine book -- well written, interesting, informative. Highly recommended for the person who wishes to get further up to speed on the complex and extremely varied social and political milieus in the hemisphere's Spanish speaking nations.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Looking for History" is an enjoyable, vivid collection of articles on Latin America. The piece on Eva Peron is especially fascinating and surreal. Here Guillermoprieto is at her best, writing a very balanced portrait of a near-mythic character. We learn that Eva and Juan Peron were both unlikely superstars and yet somehow, once united, became a political and media tag-team powerhouse. We also learn that the story of Eva's corpse is perhaps more interesting, and certainly more bizarre, than her real life. Stuffed by a taxidermist, her body traveled across the Atlantic several times -- at one point collecting dust in an attic -- before being laid to rest in Buenos Aires decades after her death. Guillermoprieto does not report new facts here. Anyone who has read a good biography on Evita will already know the lurid details surrounding the corpse. But Guillermoprieto handles this material so well that it reads better than a Borges story. Indeed, she seems to know that any good telling of Latin America, whether factual or fictional, must include some dimension of absurdity.
Some of the strongest articles in "Looking for History" are on Colombia's civil war. She details how the FARC, the country's largest guerilla group, went from a ragtag team of 200 Marxist fighters to a revolutionary army that now has some 17,000 troops. She also goes into the background of Colombia's rightwing death squads, particularly the AUC, and shows how these paramilitary units actually feed off of the rebels. She mentions, for example, that one-third of the AUC's members are actually fighters plucked from the guerilla groups. Many of these converts are former hostages of the AUC, who have even been viciously tortured and beaten by the paramilitaries.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Govindan Nair on September 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a collection of seventeen articles focusing on six Latin American countries (Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Maxico,and Cuba), New York Times journalist Ana Guillermoprieto serves up a highly literate and gracefully scripted collage of Latin America today. The limited selection of countries and issues should not detract from the value of this book in understanding the region as a whole, for each of the sets of articles offers some broader insight beyond just the personalities or countries described. The author artfully combines first-hand interviews and reportage from the region with research and masterfully chosen extracts from other important books on this region.
Her concise piece on Eva Peron is illustrative of her incisiveness and left me better informed than other sources on this somewhat mystifying subject ( see, for example, Evita: An Intimate Portrait of Eva Peron, which I have also reviewed on this website.). By ably reviewing the literature and carefully distinguishing between fact, hearsay, and speculation, the author unravels some myseries surrounding this QUOTE bland and to all appearances untalented girl, born illegitimate and on a ranch...possesed of an unreconstructed working-class accent and an unfailing gauche manner..in a country where upper-class snobbery reaches extremes of refinement and viciousness UNQUOTE
I also enjoyed an excellent piece on Peruvian writer turned presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa whose biographcial sketch the author weaves into a broader portrait of Peruvian politics and society in the 1990s.
The pieces on Colombia, Mexico, and Cuba may seem dated at first glance, but in fact provide penetrating insights into the Zapatistas, Colombia's civil strife, and Castro.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jackie Jones on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I knew that my knowledge of Latin America was wanting, but I had no idea how much I never learned in school nor received from the news media. Guillermoprieto does a solid, dispassionate job of explaining the complicated politics of Latin America and what it means for those countries and their relationships with other nations. The essays on Cuba and Mexico are particularly intriguing.
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