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December 27th, 2004

Plazas And Barrios: Heritage Tourism And Globalization In The Latin American Centro Historico  By Joseph L. Scarpaci.  University of Arizona Press, December 2004.

As heritage tourism and globalization are reshaping the Latin American centro histórico, this book analyzes the transformation of the urban core from town plaza to historic center in nine cities. Scarpaci tells how modernization pressures, combined with the advantage of a downtown location, have raised the potential of redeveloping these inner city areas but have also created the dilemma of how to restore and conserve them while responding to new economic imperatives.

December 20th, 2004

¡Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia  By Oscar Olivera.  South End Press, November 2004.

Historically a common trust, water has become the focus of commodification and privatization. It is easy to understand why water is also the center of an international movement to turn back the rising tide of corporate globalization. Sounding a significant opening salvo in the water war is the triumphant struggle of grassroots activists in Cochabamba, Bolivia, who not only regained control of their water supply, but kicked out the transnational corporation that had privatized it.  Cochabamba! is the story of the first great victory against corporate globalization in Latin America. Oscar Olivera, a 45-year-old machinist at the center of the movement that brought thousands of ordinary people to the streets, conveys the ideas and emotions of a first-hand participant in this victorious rebellion that has inspired activists around the world.  Cochabamba! relates the selling of the city's water supply to Aguas del Tunari, partially owned by U.S.-based transnational Bechtel, the subsequent astronomical rise in water prices and the refusal of poverty-strapped Bolivians to pay them, explaining how the people organized an opposition and recounting the dramatic struggles that eventually defeated the privatizers.

December 13th, 2004

Juan Soldado: Rapist, Murderer, Martyr, Saint  By Paul J. Vanderwood.  Duke University Press, November 2004.

Paul J. Vanderwood offers a fascinating look at the events, beliefs, and circumstances that have motivated popular devotion to Juan Soldado, a Mexican folk saint. In his mortal incarnation, Juan Soldado was Juan Castillo Morales, a twenty-four-year-old soldier convicted of and quickly executed for the rape and murder of eight-year-old Olga Camacho in Tijuana in 1938. Immediately after Morales’s death, many people began to doubt the evidence of his guilt, or at least the justice of his brutal execution. There were reports of seeing blood seeping from his grave and of hearing his soul cry out protesting his innocence. Soon the "martyred" Morales was known as Juan Soldado, or John the Soldier. Believing that those who have died unjustly sit closest to God, people began visiting Morales’s grave asking for favors. Within months of his death, the young soldier had become a popular saint. He is not recognized by the Catholic Church, yet since 1938, thousands of people have made pilgrimages to his gravesite. While Juan Soldado is well known in Tijuana, southern California’s Mexican American community, and beyond, this book is the first to situate his story within a broader exploration of how and why such popular canonizations take root and flourish.

December 6th, 2004

Disappeared: A Journalist Silenced  By June Carolyn Erlick.  Seal Press, November 2004.

On a quiet October evening in 1980, Guatemalan journalist Irma Flaquer, returning to her downtown apartment after a visit with her four-year-old grandson, was dragged from her car, never to be seen again. Founder of the first Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, she was a crusading reporter who did not tolerate corruption or repression. Best known for her weekly column that ran for over twenty years in various Guatemalan newspapers-Lo Que Otros Callan or "What Others Don't Dare Write"-Flaquer criticized presidents, politicians, and the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, and championed the rights of the disenfranchised, in some cases, making and breaking political regimes. A tenacious detractor of U.S.-backed, corrupt Guatemalan governments, Flaquer survived government-organized beatings, a car bomb that riddled her body with shrapnel, and drive-by shootings of her newspaper office, refusing exile and continuing her call for freedom and democracy until her abduction. Disappeared paints a gripping and complicated portrait both of a vibrant woman with a passionate vision and of an emerging nation, struggling against the strictures of Cold War politics and behind-the-scenes U.S. involvement.

November 29th, 2004

Cuba: Portrait Of An Island  By David Nussbaum.  Interlinke, September 2004.

In this unique collection of vibrant and enchanting photographs, Donald Nausbaum has captured the essence of Cuba, the Caribbean's most fascinating island. Cuba has long preoccupied the imagination of photographers, with its spectacular contrasts of lush scenery and historic architecture. Generations of artists and travellers have visited this magnificent Caribbean island.  The streets of Havana show a surreal mix of grandeur and decay but it retains a defiant elegance. Through its ruins there is a glimpse at its wildly vibrant nightlife, before settling on a rooftop to watch the sun set on this special city. Cuba's misty valleys, its and colonial architecture, its stunning coastline and idyllic beaches are all waiting to be discovered by the unsuspecting visitor.  Nausbaum's portrait gives us a real sense of the island's scenery and evokes the rich diversity of Cuban life capturing images, which make us really feel Cuba. It takes us down spicy streets filled with music and the candy colors of the ubiquitous classic cars. It shows us, through snapshots, the essential elements of Cuban culture, from vivid pictures of gnarled, mahogany textured just-rolled cigars to images of bright carnival, of Cubans of every age dancing in every style to the incessant musical heart beat of the island. Cuba's fascinating political past and pervasive political mood, described in detail in Ron Base's introduction, also shows us its walls and billboards and its T-shirts plastered with that picture of Che Guavara, and the brightly painted political slogans and scrawled graffiti. In its most touching moments, this portrait shows us the humanity of Cuba, the children with cheeky faces playing in the streets, the old men making music together, the workers and the mothers and the activists, all brought together in this portrait of an island dancing in the sun. 

November 22nd, 2004

Barrio Dreams : Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City  By Arlene Davila.  University of California Press.  July 2004.

Arlene Davila brilliantly considers the cultural politics of urban space in this lively exploration of Puerto Rican and Latino experience in New York, the global center of culture and consumption, where Latinos are now the biggest minority group. Analyzing the simultaneous gentrification and Latinization of what is known as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem, Barrio Dreams makes a compelling case that--despite neoliberalism's race-and ethnicity-free tenets--dreams of economic empowerment are never devoid of distinct racial and ethnic considerations.  Davila scrutinizes dramatic shifts in housing, the growth of charter schools, and the enactment of Empowerment Zone legislation that promises upward mobility and empowerment while shutting out many longtime residents. Foregrounding privatization and consumption, she offers an innovative look at the marketing of Latino space. She emphasizes class among Latinos while touching on black-Latino and Mexican-Puerto Rican relations.

November 15th, 2004

The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba  By Julia D. Shayne.  Rutgers University Press.  November, 2004.

What can revolutions do for women? For decades, feminists and revolutionaries have posed this question. Extending the dialogue on any issue, however, is not always a matter of providing more answers; sometimes it is a case of asking new questions. In The Revolution Question, Julie Shayne does just that. Rather than asking what revolutions can do for women she asks: What do women do for revolutions and, moreover, how does revolution relate to feminism?  Through an analysis of recent revolutionary movements in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba, Shayne documents the roles of women in armed and unarmed political activities and argues that women contribute to and participate in revolutionary movements in ways that are quite distinct from men. She suggests that despite the fact that women's political contributions tend to be seen as less important than those of their male comrades, the roles that women play are actually quite significant to the expansion of revolutionary movements. Shayne also explains how, given the convergence of political and ideological factors, feminism is often born in the wake of revolutions.

November 8th, 2004

The Children of NAFTA : Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border  By David Bacon.  University of California Press.  February, 2004.

Food, televisions, computer equipment, plumbing supplies, clothing. Much of the material foundation of our everyday lives is produced along the U.S./Mexico border in a world largely hidden from our view. Based on gripping firsthand accounts, this book investigates the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on those who labor in the agricultural fields and maquiladora factories on the border. Journalist David Bacon paints a powerful portrait of poverty, repression, and struggle, offering a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth examination of border workers published to date.   He describes harsh conditions of child labor in the Mexicali Valley, the deplorable housing outside factories in cities such as Tijuana, and corporate retaliation faced by union organizers. He finds that, despite the promises of its backers, NAFTA has locked in a harsh neoliberal economic policy that has swept away laws and protections that Mexican workers had established over decades. 

November 1st, 2004

Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War  By Grace Livingstone.  Rutgers University Press.  July 2004.

The South American nation of Colombia has seen more than forty years of unrest, conflict, and civil war. It is a country in which social violence and warfare are intricately intertwined. Colombia is also notorious for its drug trade, being one of the leading producers of cocaine in the world, and for its central role as a staging ground for the U.S. "war on drugs." Since 9/11 the Bush administration has sought to draw political links between the Colombian drug trade, guerrilla organizations, and terrorism.

Inside Colombia offers a valuable introduction and quick reference guide to this complex nation. With chapters devoted to history, human rights issues, the economy, drugs, the controversial antidrug intervention known as Plan Colombia, and relations with the United States, the book offers an easily accessible and comprehensive overview. Readers will learn about the major players in the conflicts, significant political figures, how Colombia’s economy has fared in the twentieth century, how the country’s geography influences its politics and economy, and how U.S. intervention shapes Colombia’s political scene.

October 25th, 2004

El Narcotraficante: Narcocorridos and the Construction of a Cultural Persona on the U. S. Mexican Border  By Mark Cameron Edberg.  University of Texas Press.  July 2004.

Since the late 1970s, a new folk hero has risen to prominence in the U.S.-Mexico border region and beyond--the narcotrafficker. Celebrated in the narcocorrido, a current form of the traditional border song known as the corrido, narcotraffickers are often portrayed as larger-than-life "social bandits" who rise from poor or marginalized backgrounds to positions of power and wealth by operating outside the law and by living a life of excess, challenging authority (whether U.S. or Mexican), and flouting all risks, including death. This image, rooted in Mexican history, has been transformed and commodified by the music industry and by the drug trafficking industry itself into a potent and highly marketable product that has a broad appeal, particularly among those experiencing poverty and power disparities. At the same time, the transformation from folk hero to marketable product raises serious questions about characterizations of narcocorridos as "narratives of resistance." This multilayered ethnography takes a wide-ranging look at the persona of the narcotrafficker and how it has been shaped by Mexican border culture, socioeconomic and power disparities, and the transnational music industry.

October 18th, 2004

America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United States and Puerto Rico  By Pedro A. Malavet.  September 2004.

The precise legal nature of the relationship between the United States and the people of Puerto Rico was not explicitly determined in 1898 when the Treaty of Paris transferred sovereignty over Puerto Rico from Spain to the United States. Since then, many court cases, beginning in 1901, have been instrumental in defining this delicate relationship.  While the legislation has clearly established the non-existence of Puerto Rican nationhood and lack of independent Puerto Rican citizenship, the debate over Puerto Rico's status continues to this day.

Malavet offers a critique of Puerto Rico's current status as well as of its treatment by the U.S. legal and political systems. Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States, and Puerto Ricans living on this geographically separate island are subject to the United States's legal and political authority. They are the largest group of U.S. citizens currently living under territorial status. Malavet argues that the Puerto Rican cultural nation experiences U.S. imperialism, which compromises both the island's sovereignty and Puerto Ricans' citizenship rights. He analyzes the three alternatives to Puerto Rico's continued territorial status, examining the challenges manifest in each possibility, as well as illuminating what he believes to be the best course of action.

October 11th, 2004

Waiting For Rain: The Politics And Poetry Of Drought In Northeast Brazil  By Nicholas Gabriel Arons.  University of Arizona Press.  October, 2004.

When droughts hit northeastern Brazil, thousands of rural workers are forced to abandon their homes for the cities in search of work. The double impact of drought and corruption--with politicians taking advantage of drought to buy votes and pilfer government accounts--contributes to an endless cycle of suffering. 

Nicholas Arons goes to sources such as novels, poetry, popular art, and oral history in order to understand the impact of drought and the phenomenon of drought politics. His book dramatically depicts a region where drought--even during rainy seasons--is ubiquitous in the hearts and minds of its residents.

October 4th, 2004

Burro Genius : A Memoir  By Victor Villaseñor.  Rayo.  July 2004.

When Victor Villaseñor stood at the podium and looked at the group of teachers amassed before him, he became enraged. He had never spoken in public before. His mind was flooded with childhood memories filled with humiliation, misunderstanding, and abuse at the hands of his teachers. With his heart pounding, he began to speak of these incidents. To his disbelief, the teachers before him responded to his embittered recollection with a standing ovation. Many could not contain their own tears.

So begins a touching memoir of an extremely angry adolescent. Highly gifted and imaginative, Villaseñor coped with an untreated learning disability (he was finally diagnosed with extreme dyslexia at the age of forty-four) and the frustration he felt growing up Latino in an English-only American school system that had neither the cultural understanding nor the resources to deal with Hispanic students.  Often beaten by his teachers because he could not speak English, Villaseñor was made to feel ashamed about his heritage, and even questioned the core values prioritized by his tight-knit family. Villaseñor's dyslexia, and growing frustration over not fitting in, fueled his dream to one day become a writer. He is now considered one of the premier writers of our time.

September 27th, 2004

Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy And Latin America  By Kathryn Sikkink.  Cornell University Press.  October 2004.

Kathryn Sikkink believes that the adoption of human rights policy represents a positive change in the relationship between the United States and Latin America. In Mixed Signals she traces a gradual but remarkable shift in U.S. foreign policy over the last generation. By the 1970s, an unthinking anticommunist stance had tarnished the reputation of the U.S. government throughout Latin America, associating Washington with tyrannical and often brutally murderous regimes. Sikkink recounts the reemergence of human rights as a substantive concern, showing how external pressures from activist groups and the institution of a human rights bureau inside the State Department have combined to remake Washington’s agenda, and its image, in Latin America. The current war against terrorism, Sikkink warns, could repeat the mistakes of the past unless we insist that the struggle against terrorism be conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

September 20th, 2004

Liquid Mexico: Festive Spirits, Tequila Culture, and the Infamous Worm  By Betty Youman and Bryan Estep.  Bilingual Press, June 2004.

The authors delve into the locales, festivities, and history related to Mexico's most famous libations. Each of the chapters focuses on a specific beverage as well as the region of the country most closely associated with that particular drink as seen through the eyes of a U.S. couple.  The authors describe a wealth of interesting characters as they travel the country to unearth the traditions and unique culture associated with each drink and its corresponding location.

September 13th, 2004

Rio de Janeiro: City On Fire  By Ruy Castro.  Bloomsbury USA.  August 2004.

While stiff-collared poets flirted with prim young ladies in coffeehouses during the belle époque, revolts were being plotted that almost destroyed the city. We learn how the iconic wave-patterned mosaics of Copacabana pavements were baptized with blood, and how more than a hundred years before the girl from Ipanema passed by, the girls from Ouvidor Street adopted French chic - and never really gave it up. From what is arguably the most breathtakingly beautiful city in the world, the people of Rio - the Cariocas - tell their stories: of cannibals charming European intellectuals; of elegant slaves and their shabby masters; of how a casual chat between two people drinking coffee on Avenida Rio Branco could affect world coffee markets; of an awe-inspiring beach life; of favelas, drugs, police, carnival, football, and music. With his own Carioca good humor and great storytelling gifts, Ruy Castro brings the reader thrillingly close to the flames.

September 6th, 2004

A Death in Brazil : A Book of Omissions  By Peter Robb.  John McRae Books, May 2004.

From his own near murder in Rio at the hands of an intruder twenty years ago and continuing through the recent slaying of a former president's bagman who looted the country of more than a billion dollars, violent death poses a steady threat in Peter Robb's brilliant travelogue through modern-day Brazil. It's not death, however, that leaves a lasting impression but the exuberant life force that emanates from the country and its people.  Seeking to understand how extreme danger and passion can coexist in a nation for centuries, Robb travels from the cobalt blue shores of southern Brazil to the arid mountains of the northeast recounting four centuries of Brazilian history from the days of slavery to the recent election of the country's first working-class president. Much more than a journey through history, Robb renders in vivid detail the intoxicating pleasures of the food, music, and climate of the country and references the work of Brazil's greatest writers to depict a culture unlike any other.

Week of August 30th, 2004

The Mexico City Reader  By Ruben Gallo and Lorna Scott Fox.  University of Wisconsin Press, July 2004.

Mexico City is one of Latin America's cultural capitals, and one of the most vibrant urban spaces in the world. The Mexico City Reader is an anthology of "Cronicas"--short, hybrid texts that are part literary essay, part urban reportage--about life in the capital. This is not the "City of Palaces" of yesteryear, but the vibrant, chaotic, anarchic urban space of the 1980s and 1990s--the city of garbage mafias, necrophiliac artists, and kitschy millionaires.  Like the visitor wandering through the city streets, the reader will be constantly surprised by the visions encountered in this mosaic of writings--a textual space brimming with life and crowded with flâneurs, flirtatious students, Indian dancers, food vendors, fortune tellers, political activists, and peasant protesters.  The essays included in this anthology were written by a panoply of writers, from well-known authors like Carlos Monsiváis and Jorge Ibagüengoitia to younger figures like Fabrizio Mejía Madrid and Juieta García González, all of whom are experienced practitioners of the city. The texts collected in this anthology are among the most striking examples of this concomitant "theory and practice" of Mexico City, that most delirious of megalopolises.

Week of August 23rd, 2004

Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century  By Beverly Harris.  Talion Publishing, March 2004.

This book started out as a simple look at ES&S and other voting machine companies and their curious ties to elected officials, foreign nationals, and political parties. Within a few months it morphed into an expose of bad software, criminal activity, and fraudulent use of taxpayer money.  Bev Harris and David Allen were a very unlikely "Woodward & Bernstein", she being a 53 year-old grandmother and he a 43 year-old comic publisher. Initially, David was simply playing the role of publisher. But as Bev's investigation became more technical, he was able to draw upon his 18 years as a computer systems tech and engineer to help Bev unravel the technical aspects of the story.  What she learned was that modern-day voting systems are run by private for-profit corporations, rely on a few cronies for oversight, using a certification system so fundamentally flawed that it allows machines to miscount and lose votes, with hidden back doors that enable "end runs" around the voting system.

Week of August 16th, 2004

Chávez: Venezuela and the New Latin America  By Hugo Chávez.  Edited by David Deutschmann and Javier Salado.  Consortium, August 2004.

Is President Chávez the new Fidel Castro? Is Venezuela the new Cuba? Elected by an overwhelming popular mandate in 1998, Hugo Chávez is now one of Latin America's most controversial political figures. In this exclusive interview, Chávez expresses a fiercely nationalist vision for Venezuela and a commitment to a united Latin America. He discusses the significance of the military coup against his government in April 2002, Venezuela's new democratic constitution and assesses his relations with the United States and Cuba.

Week of August 9th, 2004

How Soccer Explains the World : An Unlikely Theory of Globalization  By Franklin Foer.  Harper Collins, June 2004.

Franklin Foer, a lifelong devotee of soccer dating from his own inept youth playing days to an adulthood of obsessive fandom, examines soccer's role in various cultures as a means of examining the reach of globalization. Foer's approach is long on soccer reportage, providing extensive history and fascinating interviews on the Rangers-Celtic rivalry and the inner workings of AC Milan, and light on direct discussion of issues like world trade and the exportation of Western culture.  By creating such a compelling narrative of soccer around the planet, Foer draws the reader into these sport-mad societies, and subtly provides the explanations he promises in chapters with titles like "How Soccer Explains the New Oligarchs", "How Soccer Explains Islam's Hope", and "How Soccer Explains the Sentimental Hooligan."  Foer posits that globalization has eliminated neither local cultural identities nor violent hatred among fans of rival teams, and it has not washed out local businesses in a sea of corporate wealth nor has it quelled rampant local corruption.

Week of August 2nd, 2004

The Handsomest Man in Cuba  By Lynette Chiang.  Small Wheel Books, June 2004.

The Handsomest Man in Cuba is an intensely personal, on the road tale of what it is like to eat, drink and be cautiously merry among ordinary and extraordinary Cubans, as told by a lone traveller who can take almost everything that's flung at her – and just about everything is.  From pedalling across the country on a small folding bicycle, voyaging to Trinidad with the world's worst sailor, fighting off feet-eating mosquitoes and males with mucho calor (loosely translated as ‘a lotta hotta testosterone’) and adapting to a country that hits the pause button for precisely one hour every day for a syrupy soap opera, Lynette Chiang unveils a wild and crazy land that embraces life, a little food, a lot of love, a huge family – and her.  La China, as the Cubans call her, discovers a people who earn as little as $10 a month, yet refuse to accept money for help, arguing that ‘friendship is better’. Who are rationed one bread roll a person per day, but insist she take their share ‘for energy’. Who might have to choose between a bottle of shampoo or food in any given month, yet who seem strangely more at peace with themselves than the average wealthy foreigner.  This is not just a story about Cuba, but about what people were like just before the world started spinning too fast to jump off.

Week of July 25th, 2004

How to Succeed at Globalization : A Primer for Roadside Vendors  By Rafael Barajas.  Metropolitan Books, July 2004.

In hopes of curing his business woes, Charro Machorro—windshield washer, roadside vendor, and free-market enthusiast—pays a visit to a faith healer in the Arizona desert and learns more than he bargained for about how the free market really works. To increase his profits, the healer suggests, he should establish his company during the Middle Ages, gain a monopoly, exploit natural resources, break up unions (though currently he’s the only employee), and, of course, become a multinational corporation. The healer’s $20,000 fee shows that she, at least, knows how to manage her own little business.

In a single, hilarious rush, cartoonist Rafael Barajas, aka El Fisgón (“the peeper”), takes us from the dawn of capitalism to the age of global conglomerates, showing how the world economy developed and how it functions today. Amid the laughs, he offers a critique of a planet in which the few “globalize” to their endless benefit, while everyone else suffers poverty, famine, migration, and war.  El Fisgón’s graphically stunning, visually sophisticated book, filled with allusions to the history of art and cartooning, cleverly reverses every self-help manual for playing the market, teaching us not how to become rich but rather why so many remain poor.

Week of July 18th, 2004

Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo  By Ned Sublette.  Chicago Review Press, May 2004.

This entertaining history of Cuba and its music begins with the collision of Spain and Africa and continues through the era of Miguelito Valdés, Arsenio Rodríguez, Benny Moré, and Pérez Prado. It offers a behind-the-scenes examination of music from a Cuban point of view, unearthing surprising, provocative connections and making a case for Cuba as fundamental to the evolution of music in the New World. Revealed are how the music of black slaves transformed 16th-century Europe, how the claves appeared, and how Cuban music influenced ragtime, jazz, and rhythm and blues. Music lovers will follow this journey from Andalucía, the Congo, the Calabar, Dahomey, and Yorubaland via Cuba to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Saint-Domingue, New Orleans, New York, and Miami. The music is placed in a historical context that considers the complexities of the slave trade; Cuba's relationship to the United States; its revolutionary political traditions; the music of Santería, Palo, Abakuá, Vodú, and much more.

Week of July 11th, 2004

Specular City: The Transformation of Culture, Consumption, and Space After Peron  By Laura Podalsky.  Temple University Press, June 2004.

A sweeping account of one of the cultural centers of Latin America, Specular City tells the history of Buenos Aires during the interregnum after Juan Perón's fall from power and before his restoration. During those two decades, the city experienced a rapid metamorphosis at the behest of its middle class citizens, who were eager to cast off the working-class imprint left by the Perónists. Laura Podalsky discusses the ways in which the proliferation of skyscrapers, the emergence of car culture, and the diffusion of an emerging revolution in the arts helped transform Buenos Aires, and, in so doing, redefine Argentine collective history.

More than a cultural and material history of this city, this book also presents Buenos Aires as a crucible for urban life. Examining its structures through the films, novels, and telenovelas that reflect Argentina's sense of its own culture, Specular City reveals the representative power that Buenos Aires has for reflecting the massive change Latin America underwent in its struggle for a modern definition of itself.

Week of July 4th, 2004

Mexicans & Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code  By Ned Crouch.  Nicholas Brealey Publishing.  June 2004.

From the workplace to the Mall, Americans and Mexicans come together as co-workers, students, friends, and neighbors. For any American who encounters some of the millions of Mexicans residing in the U.S—as well as travelers to Mexico, retirees contemplating a move, businesspeople looking to build U.S.-Mexico collaboratives—this book gets to the very heart of our cultural differences and demonstrates what it takes to build a cultural fluency essential to success, on both sides of the border.

Steeped in the richness of Mexican culture and history, the author goes head-to-head against the argument that America should try to recapture its Anglocentric core. He argues, instead, for working together to bridge the gap between Hispanics and Americans. He explores the three most critical elements that determine what works and what doesn’t when Mexicans and Americans come together: our different views of time, of space, and our construction and use of language. He debunks the mañana stereotype. And he shows how the patterns, sounds, and construction of English and Spanish shape cultural attitudes that drive specific behaviors and our differing ideas of hierarchy, authority, class, and gender.

Week of June 27th, 2004

Border-Line Personalities : A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting  By Michelle Herrera Mulligan and Robyn Moreno.  Rayo Press, July 2004.

" '¿Y qué dice la juventud?' 'What does the youth have to say for itself?' " Julia Alvarez, in her introduction, remembers childhood family gatherings, when one of the viejos would wander over to ask the young people this question, fishing for intimidades. Of course, the juventud shut up immediately.  A generation later, editors Moreno and Herrera Mulligan are also asking questions—and now, finally, it's okay to talk. How do today's young Latinas deal with the expectations of their mamis? Do they deal with men any better than their mothers did? What does it mean to be Latina today? The essays show a variety of Latina attitudes and lifestyles. Most contributors have survived several romances or divorces; some have children and spouses. All have struggled, somehow or other, to define and understand themselves as they straddle cultural borderlines. Readers will have their own favorites, but no one should miss Maria Hinojosa's "Ain't Dishin'," on her strong preference for sexual privacy, or Lynda Sandoval's painful essay on her relationship with her alcoholic father.

Week of June 20th, 2004

My Cocaine Museum  By Michael Taussig.  University of Chicago Press.  April 2004.

In this book, a make-believe cocaine museum becomes a vantage point from which to assess the lives of Afro-Colombian gold miners drawn into the dangerous world of cocaine production in the rain forest of Colombia's Pacific Coast.  Although modeled on the famous Gold Musuem in Colombia's central bank, the Banco de la República, Taussig's museum is also a parody aimed at the museum's failure to acknowledge the African slaves who mined the country's wealth for almost four hundred years.  Combining natural history with political history in a filmic, montage style, Taussig deploys the show-and-tell modality of a museum to engage with the inner life of heat, rain, stone and swamp, no less than with the life of gold and cocaine.

Week of June 13th, 2004

Latina Health in the United States : A Public Health Reader  Edited by Marilyn Aguirre-Molina and Carlos W. Molina.  Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Latina Health in the United States identifies and offers an in-depth examination of the most critical health issues that affect Latinas' health and health care within the United States. In this comprehensive resource, the contributors examine a wide variety of topics that address Latina women's health concerns such as sexual and reproductive health issues; chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; the impact of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; mental health issues; adolescent health; and rural and migrant occupational health. 

Week of June 6th, 2004

Jose Marti: An Introduction  By Oscar Moreno  Palgrave Macmillan.  April 2004.

Jose Marti, Cuban national hero, was one of Latin America's most influential literary and political figures. There is currently no introductory overview to his complex body of works. Jose Marti: An Introduction offers such an introduction to Marti's most pertinent, enduring ideas, exploring his writing on race, gender, the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., and issues of displacement and bilingualism. The writing is accessible on the undergraduate level, yet Montero does not oversimplify ambiguities and contradictions of Marti's work and life.

Week of May 30th, 2004

Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas
Edited by Steve Striffler and Mark Mobury.  Duke University Press.  December 2003.

Bringing together the work of anthropologists, sociologists, economists, historians, and geographers, this collection reveals how the banana industry marshaled workers of differing nationalities, ethnicities, and languages and, in so doing, created unprecedented potential for conflict throughout Latin American and the Caribbean. The frequently abusive conditions that banana workers experienced, the contributors point out, gave rise to one of Latin America’s earliest and most militant labor movements. Responding to both the demands of workers’ organizations and the power of U.S. capital, Latin American governments were inevitably affected by banana production. Banana Wars explores how these governments sometimes asserted their sovereignty over foreign fruit companies, but more often became their willing accomplices. With several essays focusing on the operations of the extraordinarily powerful United Fruit Company, the collection also examines the strategies and reactions of the American and European corporations seeking to profit from the sale of bananas grown by people of different cultures working in varied agricultural and economic environments.

Week of May 23th, 2004

The Japanese in Latin America
By Daniel Masterson.  University of Illinois Press.  January  2004.

Japanese migration to Latin America began in the late nineteenth century, and today the continent is home to 1.5 million persons of Japanese descent. Combining detailed scholarship with rich personal histories, The Japanese in Latin America is the first comprehensive study of the patterns of Japanese migration on the continent as a whole.  When the United States and Canada tightened their immigration restrictions in 1907, Japanese contract laborers began to arrive in mines and plantations in Latin America. Daniel M. Masterson, with the assistance of Sayaka Funada-Classen, examines Japanese agricultural colonies in Latin America, as well as the subsequent cultural networks that sprang up within and among them, and the changes that occurred as the Japanese moved from wage labor to ownership of farms and small businesses. Masterson also explores recent economic crises in Brazil, Argentina, and Peru, which combined with a strong Japanese economy to cause at least a quarter million Latin American Japanese to migrate back to Japan.

Week of May 16th, 2004

Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood
By Clara E. Rodriguez.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  May 2004.

Heroes, Lovers, and Others tells the fascinating history of Latinos in film, from the birth of the movies to the present, through a series of stories about Hollywood's most famous and enduring stars. The book features such Latino legends as Dolores del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Ramon Navarro, Desi Arnaz, Anthony Quinn, Raquel Welch, Selma Hayek, and Antonio Banderas. But this is much more than a just collection of celebrity stories. Clara E. Rodríguez shows how the careers of these stars were shaped by the temper of the times in which they lived and how they managed their own sense of personal and screen identities.  The sparkling parade of Latino film stars presented against the backdrop of American social and cultural history changes the way we think of race and ethnicity in Hollywood and challenges us to reexamine conventional ways of viewing our past. Not least of all, Heroes, Lovers, and Others will inspire readers to watch old and new movies with a sharpened sense of the personal, artistic, and social dynamics underlying their history and, by telling the stories of several long-forgotten stars, make readers wish these stories themselves would be made into movies

Week of May 9th, 2004

Paradise in Ashes : A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope  By Beatrice Manz.  University of California Press.  March, 2004.

This account of the settlement, destruction and rebuilding of a single Guatemalan village, Santa Maria Tzeja, is as emotionally enveloping as an Isabel Allende novel. Manz, a Chilean anthropologist, did over two decades of field work in the Mayan highlands and rain forests, and her deep familiarity with her subjects allows them to emerge as characters with individual hopes, dreams and sophisticated political goals. Santa Maria Tzeja was founded as a farming cooperative in the 1970s by intrepid Mayan and Ladino peasants seeking to escape the crushing debt peonage of the lowland plantations, but precisely because of its remote highland location, it was caught in the crossfire of the Guatemalan civil war. In 1982, after several years of escalating violence and intimidation, the village was brutally destroyed in an army raid retaliating against villagers' involvement with the guerrillas. From then on, the community was split, and Manz was often the only link among former inhabitants; some had fled to a refugee camp across the border in Mexico, while a remnant submitted to authoritarian "reorganization" by the military. Through interviews (and 23 b&w photos), villagers like Edwin Canil, a young boy who lost his entire family in the 1982 raid, or Rose, whose husband was "disappeared" by the army, reveal their struggles to uphold and return to their ideals of community, honor and independence through land ownership. Manz, a vivid and capable writer, is thoughtful about the contradictions inherent in her chosen discipline of "political anthropology," which turns out to include activism and advocacy as well as the humanization of those who too often suffer anonymously.

Week of May 2nd, 2004

A Death in Brazil : A Book of Omissions  By Peter Robb.  Henry Holt & Company.  May 2004.

From his own near murder in Rio at the hands of an intruder twenty years ago and continuing through the recent slaying of a former president's bagman who looted the country of more than a billion dollars, violent death poses a steady threat in Peter Robb's brilliant travelogue through modern-day Brazil. It's not death, however, that leaves a lasting impression but the exuberant life force that emanates from the country and its people.  Seeking to understand how extreme danger and passion can coexist in a nation for centuries, Robb travels from the cobalt blue shores of southern Brazil to the arid mountains of the northeast recounting four centuries of Brazilian history from the days of slavery to the recent election of the country's first working-class president. Much more than a journey through history, Robb renders in vivid detail the intoxicating pleasures of the food, music, and climate of the country and references the work of Brazil's greatest writers to depict a culture unlike any other.

Week of April 25th, 2004

Mexican Masculinities  By Robert McKee Irwin.  University of Minnesota Press, March 2003.

The first of its kind and a powerful challenge to customary views of gender and sexuality in the life and literature of Mexico, this book traces literary representations of masculinity in Mexico from independence in 1810 to the 1960s, and shows how these intersect with the constructions of nation and nationality.  The rhetoric of "Mexicanness" makes constant use of images of masculinity, though it does so in shifting and often contradictory ways. Robert McKee Irwin's work follows these shifts from the male homosocial bonding that was central to notions of national integration in the nineteenth century, to questioning of gender norms stirred by science and scandals at the turn of the century, to the virulent reaction against gender chaos after the Mexican revolution, to the association of Mexicanness with machismo and homophobia in the literature of the 1940s and 1950s-even as male homosexuality was established as an integral part of national culture.

Week of April 18th, 2004

Mediating Two Worlds: Cinematic Encounters in the Americas  Edited by John King, Ana Lopez and Manuel Alvarado.  British Film Institute.

The five hundredth anniversary of the landing of Columbus in the Americas was the occasion for a prolonged debate on the consequences for both Americans and Europeans of that fateful event. Now another anniversary looms, the centenary of the invention of the cinema, a moment in its way no less revolutionary in its effect on consciousness. Cinematic encounters between Europe and America have taken place almost throughout the entirety of this period. This collection of essays is the first to take stock of mutual enrichment that has been the result. In the first half of the book, the contributors explore the many and varied ways in which European and North American cinemas have attempted to represent the societies of Latin America. In the second part, the focus shifts to Latin American cinema in its own terms.

Week of April 11th, 2004

A Girl Like Che Guevara  By Teresa de la Caridad Doval.  Soho Press.  April 2004.

1982. Havana, Cuba. Sixteen-year-old Lourdes yearns to emulate Che Guevara, and has a healthy disgust for gusanos (worms)-those who fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift. Every summer she and other high school students work in the nationalized tobacco fields to prove their dedication to Fidel and the Revolution.  Lourdes, herself the product of a biracial marriage, outwardly scoffs at the old ways but she wears an azabache amulet under her clothing, next to her Che medallion to ward off evil spirits. She secretly prays to the orisha Yemayá, while she pledges her fealty to Fidel and the socialist ideals of her father, a professor of scientific communism at the University of Havana.  As she struggles with her confused sexuality, the pervasive race issues that are sundering her parents' marriage, and the harsh realities of life in a glorified work camp, Lourdes begins to question her allegiances. Why does she want to be like Che?

Week of April 4th, 2004

Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America  Edited by Matthew C. Gutmann.  Duke University Press, February 2003.

Historically grounded and attuned to global political and economic changes, this collection investigates what, if anything, is distinctive about and common to masculinity across Latin America at the same time that it considers the relative benefits and drawbacks of studies focusing on men there. Demonstrating that attention to masculinities does not thwart feminism, the contributors illuminate the changing relationships between men and women and among men of different ethnic groups, sexual orientations, and classes.  Whether analyzing rape legislation in Argentina, the unique space for candid discussions of masculinity created in an Alcoholics Anonymous group in Mexico, the role of shame in shaping Chicana and Chicano identities and gender relations, or homosexuality in Brazil, Changing Men and Masculinities highlights the complex distinctions between normative conceptions of masculinity in Latin America and the actual experiences and thoughts of particular men and women.

Week of March 28th, 2004

Spanglish : The Making of a New American Language  By Ilan Stavans.  New Press.  February 2004. 

In today's America, communication is built around inclusion and efficiency, and this is no more apparent than in the blending of the two most spoken languages in the United States: English and Spanish.  But el español has not spread on this side of the Atlantic in its unadulterated Iberian form. Instead it is metastasizing into something altogether new: an astonishingly creative code of communication known as Spanglish, which in large part is the result of sweeping demographic changes, globalization, and the newly emergent "Latin Fever" that is sweeping the country.

Naturally controversial, Spanglish outrages English-language-only proponents, who seek to ban all languages other than English north of the Rio Grande. Equal in their outrage are Spanish-language purists and the supporters of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language in Madrid, as they deem Spanglish a cancer to their precious and centuries-old tongue. With elegance and erudition, Ilan Stavans reflects on the verbal rift that has given birth to Spanglish.

Week of March 21st, 2004

The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents  By John Dinges.  New Press.  February 2004. 

Operation Condor, set up by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, was a secret alliance among six Southern Cone intelligence agencies that waged an international dirty war against internal enemies. Between 15,000 and 30,000 people were tortured and murdered as the operation, with funding and operational support from the CIA, ranged across national borders to destroy "subversion."

Award-winning journalist John Dinges, who was himself interrogated at a secret Chilean torture camp, draws on hundreds of interviews and newly opened secret police files to prove the extent of cooperation between Operation Condor and the United States government. Revolutionaries, spies and military officers—many speaking out for the first time—retell the brutal struggle between Condor and its enemies, alongside the suspenseful present-day narrative of the lawyers and judges whose relentless efforts to end the impunity of Condor's perpetrators led to Pinochet's arrest and changed international human rights law forever.

Week of March 14th, 2004

Opening Mexico : The Making of a Democracy  By Julia Preston and Sean Dillon.  Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  March 2004. 

Opening Mexico is a narrative history of the citizens' movement which dismantled the kleptocratic one-party state that dominated Mexico in the twentieth century, and replaced it with a lively democracy. Told through the stories of Mexicans who helped make the transformation, the book gives new and gripping behind-the-scenes accounts of major episodes in Mexico's recent politics.

Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party, led by presidents who ruled like Mesoamerican monarchs, came to be called "the perfect dictatorship." But a 1968 massacre of student protesters by government snipers ignited the desire for democratic change in a generation of Mexicans. Opening Mexico recounts the democratic revolution that unfolded over the following three decades. It portrays clean-vote crusaders, labor organizers, human rights monitors, investigative journalists, Indian guerrillas, and dissident political leaders, such as President Ernesto Zedillo-Mexico's Gorbachev. It traces the rise of Vicente Fox, who toppled the authoritarian system in a peaceful election in July 2000.

Week of March 7th, 2004

The Presumed Alliance : The Unspoken Conflict Between Latinos and Blacks and What It Means for America  By Nicolas C. Vaca.  RAYO.  January 2004.

As Latinos and African Americans increasingly live side by side in large urban centers as well as in suburban clusters, the idealized concept of a "rainbow coalition" would suggest that these two disenfranchised groups are natural political allies. Such a notion would be based on the presumption of a commonality between the two groups that serves as the glue for forming political and economic alliances on a mass level. However, contrary to this theoretical approach stands evidence that few formal or even informal coalitions exist between Latinos and African Americans.  Many political insiders are asking themselves in private how one might interpret the taboo yet very real subjectof the often-frayed relations between African Americans and Latinos. Many who do not address this divisive issue fear that to acknowledge such a rift would invite adversaries to cast tension as a political weakness.

In The Presumed Alliance, Vaca examines the historical context as well as the contemporary manifestations of the conflicts between Latinos and African Americans in an engaging, informative manner. Using case studies from New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C., Compton, and Houston, Vaca illustrates just how contentious the two groups have been toward each other, and what issues are at the root of such discord. With its discussions of language barriers, competition over affirmative action, and the overlooked contributions of Hispanics during the American Civil Rights movement, Vaca's narrative is both eye-opening and well informed.

WEEK OF February 29th, 2004

Dancing with Cuba : A Memoir of the Revolution  By Alma Guillermoprieto.  Pantheon Books.  February 2004.

A vivid and mesmerizing memoir of the six months the author spent in Cuba in 1970, a time when she began to develop her own fervent political conscience.Alma Guillermoprieto?an award?winning journalist and arguably our most clear-eyed observer of Latin America?now turns her keen powers of observation onto her own, younger self. In this richly evocative chronicle, Guillermoprieto describes the remarkable, transforming journey she made as a twenty-year-old, when her love of dance?which had led her from her native Mexico to the New York dance studios of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Twyla Tharp?took her to a job teaching poorly trained but ardent dance students in Cuba. At first unaffected by the revolutionary spirit and the adoration of Castro that pervaded the island, Guillermoprieto slowly fell under the spell of the idealism that buoyed the often destitute lives of the Cuban people. And as she opened herself to what became a complex, galvanizing revolutionary experience, she found, as well, the ideas and ideals that would shape her thinking for the rest of her life. Beautifully written and deeply felt, Dancing with Cuba is a revelatory account of the making of an impassioned political heart and mind.

WEEK OF February 22nd, 2004

Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia  By Steven Dudley.  Routledge.  January 2004.

Black Vladimir, as he is called, was a ruthless mercenary in Colombia's civil war, having committed murders for both sides in the ongoing conflict. He has confessed to murdering over 800 people, and when Steven Dudley interview him in a Colombian prison a few years ago, he was serving out his sentence for all those murders: 30 years.  In Walking Ghosts , Dudley expertly crafts story after story of politicians, drug kingpins, revolutionaries, and killers like Black Vladimir to map out the complicated and murderous absurdity that is everyday life in Colombia. The current government there is trying to negotiate a peace settlement with FARC, the largest guerilla group. With close to 20,000 troops, FARC remains the most powerful guerilla group in our hemisphere today. But as in Israel or Ireland, peace is not really peace. Worried about the FARC's strength and its role in the drug trade, the United States recently approved a $1.3 billion aide package to help the Colombian government fight FARC.  Steven Dudley seeks to make sense of this complicated conflict by focusing on the stories of key actors in the struggle, from the earliest days to the present. He has seen the civil war up close: dead bodies, paramilitaries, guerillas, victims, and survivors.

WEEK OF February 15th, 2004

Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza  By Michael Taussig.  New Press.  November, 2003.

In January 2003, US troops were sent to Colombia to train army units engaged in a bloody civil war, deepening a multi-billion-dollar American commitment that makes that country the third-largest recipient of US foreign aid.  Despite the potential for disaster embodied in the US's looming entanglement with another jungle war, America's role in Colombia has received little critical media attention. The interlacing of terror, drugs and oil with endemic political instability makes the country a likely international flashpoint in the near future.

In this stunning account of Colombian violence and disorder, acclaimed anthropologist Michael Taussig recounts two weeks in a village under siege by paramilitaries. Routinely visited by autodefensas brandishing weapons and a laptop containing a list of names, victims are rounded up, tortured, and killed, their bodies left on display as a warning to others. In his diary of the limpieza (the "cleaning"), Taussig offers unusual insight into the nature of Colombia's present peril and a nuanced account of the human consequences of a disintegrating state.

WEEK OF February 8th, 2004

Death in Precinct Puerto Rico: Book One  By Steven Torres.  St. Martin's Minotaur, June 2002.  Helping recover bodies after a shipwreck off Puerto Rico's west coast, Luis Gonzalo isn't surprised to learn that the deceased are illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic. But he is startled to discover a murder victim among the drowned. When that corpse subsequently vanishes into the trunk of a mysterious police cruiser, Gonzalo, who serves as sheriff in the hill hamlet of Angustias, is understandably curious. He just doesn't anticipate the violence that will follow his inquiries.

Death in Precinct Puerto Rico: Book Two  By Steven Torres.  Thomas Dunne Books, May 2003.  Luis Gonzalo, sheriff of the small town of Angustias in Puerto Rico’s central mountains, knows all there is to know about the people he has worked to protect for more than two decades. He knows that Elena Maldonado was beaten as a child. He knows that she was beaten as a wife. But when she winds up dead on the same day that she brings her newborn home from the hospital, he doesn’t know who has killed her.  Before the case is solved, Gonzalo and his deputies will be hard pressed to be certain that justice has been served, and the town of Angustias will be changed forever.

WEEK OF February 1st, 2004

Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities.  By Martha Knisely Huggins, Mika Haritos-Fatouros, and Philip G. Zimbardo.  University of California Press, November 2002.

Of the twenty-three Brazilian policemen interviewed in depth for this landmark study, fourteen were direct perpetrators of torture and murder during the three decades that included the 1964-1985 military regime. These "violence workers" and the other group of "atrocity facilitators" who had not, or claimed they had not, participated directly in the violence, help answer questions that haunt today's world: Why and how are ordinary men transformed into state torturers and murderers? How do atrocity perpetrators explain and justify their violence? What is the impact of their murderous deeds-on them, on their victims, and on society? What memories of their atrocities do they admit and which become public history?  Its conclusions allow us to understand how state-sponsored violence is a social illness, and how easily moral boundaries can be destroyed. Our lesson is to grasp carefully how the technique of transforming individuals into evildoers is a highly rational exercise of constructed hatred, the isolation of individuals, and the blurring of the border between duty and cruelty.

WEEK OF January 25th, 2004

Anna In The Tropics.  By Nilo Cruz.  Theater Communications Group, 2003.  (Winner of the 2003 Pullitzer Prize for Drama)

. . . there are many kinds of light.
The light of fires. The light of stars.
The light that reflects off rivers.
Light that penetrates through cracks.
Then there’s the type of light that reflects off the skin.

This lush romantic drama depicts a family of cigar makers whose loves and lives are played out against the backdrop of America in the midst of the Depression. Set in Ybor City (Tampa) in 1930, Cruz imagines the catalytic effect the arrival of a new "lector" (who reads Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to the workers as they toil in the cigar factory) has on a Cuban-American family.  

WEEK OF January 18th, 2004

Women Filmmakers in Mexico: The Country of Which We Dream.  Edited by Elissa Rashkin.  University of Texas Press, 2001.

Women filmmakers in Mexico were rare until the 1980s and 1990s, when women began to direct feature films in unprecedented numbers. Their films have won acclaim at home and abroad, and the filmmakers have become key figures in contemporary Mexican cinema. In this book, Elissa Rashkin documents how and why women filmmakers have achieved these successes, as she explores how the women's movement, film studies programs, governmental film policy, and the transformation of the intellectual sector since the 1960s have all affected women's filmmaking in Mexico. After a historical overview of Mexican women's filmmaking from the 1930s onward, Rashkin focuses on the work of five contemporary directors--Marisa Sistach, Busi Cortés, Guita Schyfter, María Novaro, and Dana Rotberg. Portraying the filmmakers as intellectuals participating in the public life of the nation, Rashkin examines how these directors have addressed questions of national identity through their films, replacing the patriarchal images and stereotypes of the classic Mexican cinema with feminist visions of a democratic and tolerant society.

WEEK OF January 11th, 2004

The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan  By Marisol.  RAYO, August, 2003.

According to a Latin American proverb, in order for a woman to discover her power over men, she must learn to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a courtesan in the bedroom. After perfecting the grace and elegance of each, a woman will ultimately understand her own potential in life, and the command she has over everyone around her, including herself.  When Pilar is left her grandmother's legacy books, she not only discovers what she is missing in her own life but also discovers the secret life her grandmother carried with her to her grave.  Bound in black silk, the three books teach the sacred beauty rituals that South American women have followed for centuries, the rules of social etiquette every young woman must master, and delicious recipes to seduce men -- recipes that can teach the strong-willed Pilar how to be the perfect lady, wife, and lover.  As Pilar reads through the diaries, she slowly begins to discover the importance of tradition and how to incorporate the secrets into her life as an independent, professional woman. And finally, perhaps -- with her grandmother's wise words floating in her mind -- she will find the courage to follow her heart, wherever it may lead.

WEEK OF January 4th, 2004

Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight  By Paul Hoffman.  Hyperion Press, June 2003

On the eve of the centennial of the Wright brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, a new generation will learn about the other man who was once hailed worldwide as the conqueror of the air -- Alberto Santos Dumont. Because the Wright brothers worked in secrecy, word of their first flights had not reached Europe when Santos Dumont took to the skies in 1906. The dashing, impeccably dressed inventor entertained Paris with his airborne antics -- barhopping in a little dirigible that he tied to lampposts, circling above crowds around the Eiffel Tower, and crashing into rooftops. A man celebrated, even pursued by the press in Paris, London, and New York, Santos Dumont dined regularly with the Cartiers, the Rothschilds, and the Roosevelts.  But beneath his lively public exterior, Santos Dumont was a frenzied genius tortured by the weight of his own creation.

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