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Artful Assassins Cover

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Artful Assassins

Murder as Art in Modern Mexico

Fernando Fabio Sánchez

Violence as a way of life, and murder as a political tool. This philosophy is nothing new to Mexico, most recently demonstrated in the wave of assassination and indiscriminate killing brought on by the drug war gripping the country. In Artful Assassins, author and scholar Fernando Fabio Sánchez unveils the long record of violence inspiring artistic expression in Mexico, focusing on its use and portrayal in film and literature. Sánchez is uniquely positioned to explore this topic, through his work as a novelist and poet in Mexico before entering academia in the United States. Sanchez argues that the seemingly hopeless cycle of violence experienced by Mexico in the 20th century, as reflected in its "crime genre," reveals a broader intrinsic cultural and political failure that suggests grave implications for the current state of crisis. Tracing the development of a national Mexican identity from the 1910 Mexican Revolution onward, Sánchez focuses on the indelible presence of violence and crime underlying the major works that contributed to a larger communal narrative. Artful Assassins ultimately offers a panoramic overview of the evolution of Mexican arts and letters, as well as nationalism, by claiming murder and assassination as literary and cinematic motifs. The collapse of post-revolutionary political unity was presaged all along in Mexican culture, Sanchez argues. It need only to have been sought in the art of the nation.

The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming Cover

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The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming

Aesthetics, Transmission, Bonding, and Creativity

Kenneth Schweitzer

An iconic symbol and sound of the Lucum'/Santer'a religion, Afro-Cuban batá are talking drums that express the epic mythological narratives of the West African Yoruba deities known as orisha. By imitating aspects of speech and song, and by metaphorically referencing salient attributes of the deities, batá drummers facilitate the communal praising of orisha in a music ritual known as a toque de santo.


In The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming, Kenneth Schweitzer blends musical transcription, musical analysis, interviews, ethnographic descriptions, and observations from his own experience as a ritual drummer to highlight the complex variables at work during a live Lucum' performance.


Integral in enabling trance possessions by the orisha, by far the most dramatic expressions of Lucum' faith, batá drummers are also entrusted with controlling the overall ebb and flow of the four- to six-hour toque de santo. During these events, batá drummers combine their knowledge of ritual with an extensive repertoire of rhythms and songs. Musicians focus on the many thematic acts that unfold both concurrently and in quick succession. In addition to creating an emotionally charged environment, playing salute rhythms for the orisha, and supporting the playful song competitions that erupt between singers, batá drummers are equally dedicated to nurturing their own drumming community by creating a variety of opportunities for the musicians to grow artistically and creatively.

The Assassination of Gaitán Cover

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The Assassination of Gaitán

Public Life and Urban Violence in Colombia

Herbert Braun

Drawn in part from personal interviews with participants and witnesses, Herbert Braun’s analysis of the riot’s roots, its patterns and consequences, provides a dramatic account of this historic turning point and an illuminating look at the making of modern Colombia.

Braun’s narrative begins in the year 1930 in Bogotá, Colombia, when a generation of Liberals and Conservatives came to power convinced they could kept he peace by being distant, dispassionate, and rational. One of these politicians, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, was different. Seeking to bring about a society of merit, mass participation, and individualism, he exposed the private interests of the reigning politicians and engendered a passionate relationship with his followers. His assassination called forth urban crowds that sought to destroy every visible evidence of public authority of a society they felt no longer had the moral right to exist.

This is a book about behavior in public: how the actors—the political elite, Gaitán, and the crowds—explained and conducted themselves in public, what they said and felt, and what they sought to preserve or destroy, is the evidence on which Braun draws to explain the conflicts contained in Colombian history. The author demonstrates that the political culture that was emerging through these tensions offered the hope of a peaceful transition to a more open, participatory, and democratic society.

“Most Colombians regard Jorge Eliécer Gaitán as a pivotal figure in their nation’s history, whose assassination on April 9, 1948 irrevocably changed the course of events in the twentieth century. . . . As biography, social history, and political analysis, Braun’s book is a tour de force.”—Jane M. Rausch, Hispanic American Historical Review

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Authoritarian El Salvador

Politics and the Origins of the Military Regimes, 1880-1940

Erik Ching

In December 1931, El Salvador’s civilian president, Arturo Araujo, was overthrown in a military coup. Such an event was hardly unique in Salvadoran history, but the 1931 coup proved to be a watershed. Araujo had been the nation’s first democratically elected president, and although no one could have foreseen the result, the coup led to five decades of uninterrupted military rule, the longest run in modern Latin American history. Furthermore, six weeks after coming to power, the new military regime oversaw the crackdown on a peasant rebellion in western El Salvador that is one of the worst episodes of state-sponsored repression in modern Latin American history. Democracy would not return to El Salvador until the 1990s, and only then after a brutal twelve-year civil war. In Authoritarian El Salvador: Politics and the Origins of the Military Regimes, 1880-1940, Erik Ching seeks to explain the origins of the military regime that came to power in 1931. Based on his comprehensive survey of the extant documentary record in El Salvador’s national archive, Ching argues that El Salvador was typified by a longstanding tradition of authoritarianism dating back to the early- to mid-nineteenth century. The basic structures of that system were based on patron-client relationships that wove local, regional, and national political actors into complex webs of rival patronage networks. Decidedly nondemocratic in practice, the system nevertheless exhibited highly paradoxical traits: it remained steadfastly loyal to elections as the mechanism by which political aspirants acquired office, and it employed a political discourse laden with appeals to liberty and free suffrage. That blending of nondemocratic authoritarianism with populist reformism and rhetoric set the precedent for military rule for the next fifty years.

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The Awakening Coast

An Anthology of Moravian Writings from Mosquitia and Eastern Nicaragua, 1849-1899

Karl Offen

The indigenous and Creole inhabitants (Mosquitians of African descent) of the Mosquito Reserve in present-day Nicaragua underwent a key transformation when two Moravian missionaries arrived in 1849. Within a few short generations, the new faith became so firmly established there that eastern Nicaragua to this day remains one of world’s strongest Moravian enclaves.
 
The Awakening Coast offers the first comprehensive English-language selection of the writings of the multinational missionaries who established the Moravian faith among the indigenous and Afro-descendant populations through the turbulent years of the Great Awakening of 1881 to 1882, when converts flocked to the church and the mission’s membership more than doubled. The anthology tracks the intersection of religious, political, and economic forces that led to this dynamic religious shift and illustrates how the mission’s first fifty years turned a relatively obscure branch of Protestantism into the most important political and spiritual institution in the region by contextualizing the Great Awakening, Protestant evangelism, and indigenous identity during this time of dramatic social change.
 
 

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The Bachelet Government

Conflict and Consensus in Post-Pinochet Chile

Silvia Borzutzky and Gregory B. Weeks

Michelle Bachelet was the first elected female president of Chile, and the first women elected president of any South American country. What was just as remarkable, though less noted, was the success and stability of the political coalition that she represented, the Concertacion. Though Bachelet was the fourth consecutive Concertacion president, upon taking office her administration quickly faced a series of crises, including massive student protests, labor unrest, internal governmental divisions, and allegations of ineptitude and wrongdoing as a result of a major reorganization of Santiago's transportation system.

Candidate Bachelet promised not only different policies but also a different policymaking style--a style characterized by a kinder and gentler approach to politics in a country with a long tradition of machismo and strong male rulers. Bachelet promised to listen to the people and to return power to those who had been denied it in the past. Her attitude enhanced the influence of existing social movements and inspired the formation of new ones.

The Bachelet Government is the first book to examine the policies, political issues, and conflicts of Bachelet's administration, and the first to provide analyses of the challenges, successes, and failures experienced by the Concertacion since 1989.

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Bakers and Basques

A Social History of Bread in Mexico

Robert Weis

Mexico City’s colorful panaderías (bakeries) have long been vital neighborhood institutions. They were also crucial sites where labor, subsistence, and politics collided. From the 1880s well into the twentieth century, Basque immigrants dominated the bread trade, to the detriment of small Mexican bakers. By taking us inside the panadería, into the heart of bread strikes, and through government halls, Robert Weis reveals why authorities and organized workers supported the so-called Spanish monopoly in ways that countered the promises of law and ideology. He tells the gritty story of how class struggle and the politics of food shaped the state and the market. More than a book about bread, Bakers and Basques places food and labor at the center of the upheavals in Mexican history from independence to the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution.

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Ballads of the Lords of New Spain

The Codex Romances de los Señores de la Nueva España

Transcribed and translated from the Nahuatl by John Bierhorst

Compiled in 1582, Ballads of the Lords of New Spain is one of the two principal sources of Nahuatl song, as well as a poetical window into the mindset of the Aztec people some sixty years after the conquest of Mexico. Presented as a cancionero, or anthology, in the mode of New Spain, the ballads show a reordering—but not an abandonment—of classic Aztec values. In the careful reading of John Bierhorst, the ballads reveal in no uncertain terms the pre-conquest Aztec belief in the warrior’s paradise and in the virtue of sacrifice. This volume contains an exact transcription of the thirty-six Nahuatl song texts, accompanied by authoritative English translations. Bierhorst includes all the numerals (which give interpretive clues) in the Nahuatl texts and also differentiates the text from scribal glosses. His translations are thoroughly annotated to help readers understand the imagery and allusions in the texts. The volume also includes a helpful introduction and a larger essay, “On the Translation of Aztec Poetry,” that discusses many relevant historical and literary issues. In Bierhorst’s expert translation and interpretation, Ballads of the Lords of New Spain emerges as a song of resistance by a conquered people and the recollection of a glorious past.

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Banana Cultures

Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States

By John Soluri

Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, “banana republics,” and Banana Republic clothing stores—everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s when bananas first appeared in the U.S. marketplace, Soluri examines the tensions between the small-scale growers, who dominated the trade in the early years, and the shippers. He then shows how rising demand led to changes in production that resulted in the formation of major agribusinesses, spawned international migrations, and transformed great swaths of the Honduran environment into monocultures susceptible to plant disease epidemics that in turn changed Central American livelihoods. Soluri also looks at labor practices and workers' lives, changing gender roles on the banana plantations, the effects of pesticides on the Honduran environment and people, and the mass marketing of bananas to consumers in the United States. His multifaceted account of a century of banana production and consumption adds an important chapter to the history of Honduras, as well as to the larger history of globalization and its effects on rural peoples, local economies, and biodiversity.

Bandit Nation Cover

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Bandit Nation

A History of Outlaws and Cultural Struggle in Mexico, 1810-1920

Chris Frazer

Stories about postcolonial bandits in Mexico have circulated since the moment Mexico won its independence. Narratives have appeared or been discussed in a wide variety of forms: novels, memoirs, travel accounts, newspaper articles, the graphic arts, social science literature, movies, ballads, and historical monographs. During the decades between independence and the Mexican Revolution, bandit narratives were integral to the broader national and class struggles between Mexicans and foreigners concerning the definition and creation of the Mexican nation-state.

Bandit Nation is the first complete analysis of the cultural impact that banditry had on Mexico from the time of its independence to the Mexican Revolution. Chris Frazer focuses on the nature and role of foreign travel accounts, novels, and popular ballads, known as corridos, to analyze how and why Mexicans and Anglo-Saxon travelers created and used images of banditry to influence state formation, hegemony, and national identity. Narratives about banditry are linked to a social and political debate about “mexican-ness” and the nature of justice. Although considered a relic of the past, the Mexican bandit continues to cast a long shadow over the present, in the form of narco-traffickers, taxicab hijackers, and Zapatista guerrillas. Bandit Nation is an important contribution to the cultural and the general histories of postcolonial Mexico.

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