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Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America Hardcover – April 14, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“My four parents had always decried the labor abuses perpetuated around the world.” Four? Yes. When Boudin’s radical Jewish parents were imprisoned in New York from the early 1980s, he was raised in Chicago by Weathermen William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Over the last decade, the award-winning Rhodes and Rotary Scholar has interrupted his academic studies to travel to 25 countries across Latin America, and this gripping narrative weaves together his personal journey with his acute, on-the-ground political observation. There is no self-importance, no simplistic message, always the wry awareness that he is the privileged tourist gringo in his cargo pants and multipocketed vest, even as he witnesses ecological devastation, economic crises, and the struggle of the indigenous movements. Down a mine in Bolivia, he is reminded of his regular prison visits to his parents. Even readers who skip the detailed local politics from Venezuela to Colombia will be held by the broader issues, as he confronts the difference between need and want, the value of privacy, the luxury of space. --Hazel Rochman


"Gringo might well be Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London for the Millennial Generation, except that instead of Paris and London, it's Caracas and Quito and the Amazon Basin." -- Russell Banks, author of Cloudsplitter and Dreaming Up America

"In Gringo, Chesa Boudin takes us on a delightfully engaging trip through Latin America, in an ingenious combination of memoir and commentary. The personal story is unflinchingly honest, and the political judgments nuanced and thoughtful. Latin America is at the outer edge of consciousness in this country, and Chesa Boudin brings it back to our attention, eloquently and vigorously." -- Howard Zinn

"This marvelous voyage of personal discovery provides a vivid portrait of the richness and diversity of Latin America, its wonders and suffering, the courage and irrepressible spirit of its people, as they are revealed to a thoughtful and sensitive eye during the most exciting and hopeful decade since the European conquests. It is an enthralling account, stimulating and provocative." -- Noam Chomsky

"This superb travel memoir has the benefit of an appealingly honest, intelligent, and reliable narrator, whose humorous self-scrutiny and compassionate insights bridge two worlds with extraordinary tact. I found it engrossing, moving, and compulsively readable." -- Phillip Lopate

"Boudin has a pitch-perfect ear for the cadences that make up daily life in a region grappling with change. More than a well-written and clear-eyed guide to the efforts of yet another generation of Latin American leaders and activists trying to chart their own way, it's a handbook for estadounidenses on how to listen to and learn from those below the Rio Grande who also call themselves Americans." -- Greg Grandin, author of Empire's Workshop

"A compelling firsthand account of the unregulated greed, social neglect, and deliberate misrule that has provoked so many Latin Americans to demand a better life for themselves and their children. Boudin's vivid reports are filled with memorable characters whose stories capture the tragedies and the promise of this vast region." -- John H. Coatsworth, director, Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University

"This is not Latin American for Yuppies, which shouldn't be much of a surprise, knowing the lineage. It's cheap beer, fried plantains, long dusty bus rides, radical politics, the repeated kindness of desperately poor people sharing what they have with an outsider, and Chesa Boudin's eagerness to share what he's seeing and what he's feeling, with sympathy and empathy -- as he tries to sort it all out. There's much to learn in this book." -- Seymour Hersh, the New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416559116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559115
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,415,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Per the New York Times' review: "{i}f Gringo is any indication, {Boudin's} future should not include committing sentences to paper with the intention of distributing them widely". Ouch! The truth hurts, doesn't it? Since Boudin and his ilk need so urgently to atone for the shameful sin of White Imperialism - vis-à-vis indulging their latent psychological craving for totalitarianism and radical chic, as well as constant empty gestures of 'solidarity' with a nonexistent proletariat - I suggest that they all relocate en masse to Cuba, where they can revel for the rest of their natural lives in a big bath of Solidarity with comrade Assata "Joanne Chesimard Is My Slave Name" Shakur. Or - maybe a life of constant food shortages, nonstop crime and failed nationalization in the beloved Venezuela? 'Yankee imperialism' never looked so good, am I right?

This book was incredibly embarrassing to read (I almost couldn't take it anymore when he writes that he began signing emails 'in the belly of the revolution'), and being as I am slightly younger than Mr. Boudin I'll go so far as to say it reflects poorly on our generation that pseudo-intellectual tripe such as 'Gringo' is published routinely these days with the concomitant routine expectation of awards, nonstop praise and great fanfare for the misguided author. So, to say this book - and its author - is mediocre does mediocrity a grave disservice.

As a sidenote, it seems that despite Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn coughing up roughly $25,000 per year for Chesa Boudin's bourgeois education at U.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book at the same time that I bought Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent--the latter the book Hugo Chavez is reported to have given to Barack Obama.

It has been brilliantly marketed, and I applaud the initiative and the integrity of the self-made author, but in the larger scheme of things this is very light reading, in no way comparable to any of the works of Robert Kaplan or Robert Young Pelton, to take the two who are best in class in this particular writing domain. I list books I recommend instead of this one at the end of the review.

A few details that stayed with me:

Of the ten chapters, three are on Venezuela, with one each on Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Equador, and Guatemala. He visited but has left for another book Cuba, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Hugo Chavez certainly comes out of this book looking very well, and I wonder somewhat unkindly if the Cuban intelligence service had anything to do with the crafting of the book. They are wonderfully subtle, as is this book. I do, however, share the author's views on Venezuela and Chavez and the need for an alternative model for Latin America, so I endorse and praise his take on the situation, including:

+ Chavez is now ten years in power, early on he slammed those who wrote about the end of history, the triumph of neoliberalism, and the Washington Consensus. See Confessions of an Economic Hit Man for more substance.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book for my book club. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about politics and problems in South America. I live in Ecuador and plan to read more about the politics and problems caused by the USA in South America.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book moves a little slow but I enjoyed reading about his travels. I received the book for a gift and I would not have purchased it if I had previously read it.
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Format: Hardcover
I wasn't quite sure on what a fair rating for this book, and after reading some of the reviews on this forum, it seems that for the most part, readers either love it or despise it, with no rational of an in-between. I enjoyed reading this book, but at times maybe it is a bit too political and analytical... I suppose I would have preferred a genuine travel adventure that took the reader through the entire continent in one single, seat-of-your-pants style trip. Nonetheless, this book does make for an interesting read and I wouldn't listen to the people that say not to read it.

In this book, the author makes comparisons of the United States versus the Venezuelan healthcare sytem.

"More signicifcantly Venezuela's new approach to health care focuses on the imperative of providing all people with free and easy access to medical practitioners and medicine. The approach in the United States favors corporate profits, legal liability, and first-class health services for a tiny minority of the rich and well insured."

The author does go into the drastic means of survival that the poor citizen of countries within South America have to endure every day from families on plantations to miners in Chile. He shares in his writing the wisdom of a Cofan woman who has endured ten lifetimes' worth of experiences and hardships. The Amazon jungle is a place where the lifestyle has no time for time, so to speak, and two days late as it would be in the States or other societies is unheard of.

My favorite part of this book were when he went into details about the ongoing democratic experiments in Venezuela, with Hugo Chavez as their leader, and the anti-neoliberalist policies that are being implemented.
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