Latin America offers a rich and complex tradition of literature, music, art and culture that dates back many centuries. Here we take a look at a small selection of books that explore Latin American culture from different perspectives.
Whether it’s the fiestas of Cuba, the burgeoning economy of Brazil, the revolutionary history of Bolivia and Mexico or the contemporary art scene in from Uruguay and Venezuela; Latin America offers a wealth of cultural tradition. Perhaps due to its tumultuous past, Latin America has produced some of the finest and most influential writers and thinkers, and its music continues to carry influence well outside its borders. Whether you’re interested in improving their knowledge of the region, or perhaps you’re travelling to South America and would like a literary accompaniment, Yale publishes a large range of books on Latin America, each focusing on different aspects of Latin culture, that are bound to interest and entertain. Take a look at a selection of these below:
by Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria
In the Cuban town of Sagua la Grande, a young Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria peers out the window of his family home on the morning of the Nochebuena fiesta as preparations begin for the slaughter of a feast day pig. The author recalls ‘watching them at a distance, though thinking, fearing, that once I grew older I would have to participate in the whole event’. Now an acclaimed scholar of Latin American literature, Gonzalez Echevarria returns to the rituals that defined his young life in Cuban Fiestas. Drawing from art, literature, film, and even the national sport of baseball, he vividly reveals the fiesta as a dynamic force of both destruction and renewal in the life of a people.
Gonzalez Echevarria masterfully exposes the distinctive elements of the fiesta cubana that give depth and coherence to more than two centuries of Cuban cultural life. Cuban Fiestas renders the lilting strains of the fiesta and drum beats of the passage of time as keys to understanding the dynamic quality of Cuban culture. Gonzalez Echevarria’s explorations are also illuminated by autobiographical vignettes that unveil the ever-shifting impact of the fiesta on the author’s own story of exile and return. More
The Havana Habit
by Gustavo Perez Firmat
Cuba, an island 750 miles long, with a population of about 11 million, lies less than 100 miles off the U.S. coast. Yet the island’s influences on America’s cultural imagination are extensive and deeply ingrained.
In this engaging and wide-ranging book, Gustavo Perez Firmat probes the importance of Havana, and of greater Cuba, in the cultural history of the US. Through books, advertisements, travel guides, films and music, he demonstrates the influence of the island on almost two centuries of American life. From John Quincy Adams’ comparison of Cuba to an apple ready to drop into America’s lap, to the latest episodes in the lives of the ‘comic comandantes and exotic exiles’, and to such notable Cuban exports as the rumba and the mambo, cigars and mojitos, the Cuba that emerges from these pages is a locale that Cubans and Americans have jointly imagined and inhabited. The Havana Habit deftly illustrates what makes Cuba, as Perez Firmat writes, ‘so near and yet so foreign’. More
Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul
by Michael Reid
Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape.
This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America’s efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world’s most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries, including Brazil, Chile and Mexico, democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chavez’s oil-fueled populism, and much is at stake. Drawing on Michael Reid’s many years of reporting from inside Latin America’s cities, presidential palaces, and shantytowns, the book provides a vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world. More
Simon Bolivar: A Life
by John Lynch
Simon Bolivar was a revolutionary who freed six countries, an intellectual who argued the principles of national liberation, and a general who fought a cruel colonial war. His life, passions, battles and great victories became embedded in Spanish American culture almost as soon as they happened.
This is the first major English-language biography of ‘The Liberator’ in half a century. John Lynch draws on extensive research on the man and his era to tell Bolivar’s story, to understand his life in the context of his own society and times, and to explore his remarkable and enduring legacy. The book illuminates the inner world of Bolivar, the dynamics of his leadership, his power to command and his modes of ruling the diverse peoples of Spanish America. Encompassing Bolivar’s entire life and his many accomplishments, this is the definitive account of a towering figure in the history of the western hemisphere. More
Cosmopolitan Routes: Houston Collects Latin American Art
by Gilbert Vicario, Mari Carmen Ramirez, Elizabeth Cerejido
Cosmopolitan Routes situates 20th-century Latin American art as an evolving discourse of individual impulses, universal themes, and shared ideas. It further illustrates the parallels between works produced in Latin America and the artistic movements that have come to define modern and contemporary art on a global level. Showcased in detail are nearly 100 masterworks from Houston collections, ranging from early Modernist and postwar pieces to contemporary creations by artists from Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and Mexico. From the Constructive Universalism of Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia to the figurative and Surrealist work of artists such as Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Pedro Friedeberg, a host of diverse movements are represented. More
These books are available to buy from Yale University Press.