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Area and Ethnic Studies > Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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Banana Cultures Cover

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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.

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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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The Bare-toed Vaquero

Life in Baja California's Desert Mountains

Peter J. Marchand

Rarely visited by outsiders, the ranchers of the Sierra de la Giganta in Baja California Sur live much as their ancestors have for the past two centuries. They raise goats and cattle and grow a magnificent variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In this book a gifted photojournalist introduces us to individual ranchers and their families and describes their traditional practices and the ways they have adapted to twenty-first-century challenges and technological advances.

Marchand’s photographs and text are both informative and intimate. His introduction to this little-known corner of Mexico will delight travelers and scholars alike.

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Baroque Sovereignty

Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico

By Anna More

In the seventeenth century, even as the Spanish Habsburg monarchy entered its irreversible decline, the capital of its most important overseas territory was flourishing. Nexus of both Atlantic and Pacific trade routes and home to an ethnically diverse population, Mexico City produced a distinctive Baroque culture that combined local and European influences. In this context, the American-born descendants of European immigrants—or creoles, as they called themselves—began to envision a new society beyond the terms of Spanish imperialism, and the writings of the Mexican polymath Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700) were instrumental in this process. Mathematician, antiquarian, poet, and secular priest, Sigüenza authored works on such topics as the 1680 comet, the defense of New Spain, pre-Columbian history, and the massive 1692 Mexico City riot. He wrote all of these, in his words, "out of love for my patria."

Through readings of Sigüenza y Góngora's diverse works, Baroque Sovereignty locates the colonial Baroque at the crossroads of a conflicted Spanish imperial rule and the political imaginary of an emergent local elite. Arguing that Spanish imperialism was founded on an ideal of Christian conversion no longer applicable at the end of the seventeenth century, More discovers in Sigüenza y Góngora's works an alternative basis for local governance. The creole archive, understood as both the collection of local artifacts and their interpretation, solved the intractable problem of Spanish imperial sovereignty by establishing a material genealogy and authority for New Spain's creole elite. In an analysis that contributes substantially to early modern colonial studies and theories of memory and knowledge, More posits the centrality of the creole archive for understanding how a local political imaginary emerged from the ruins of Spanish imperialism.

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A Beauty That Hurts

Life and Death in Guatemala, Second Revised Edition

By W. George Lovell

Though a 1996 peace accord brought a formal end to a conflict that had lasted for thirty-six years, Guatemala’s violent past continues to scar its troubled present and seems destined to haunt its uncertain future. George Lovell brings to this revised and expanded edition of A Beauty That Hurts decades of fieldwork throughout Guatemala, as well as archival research. He locates the roots of conflict in geographies of inequality that arose during colonial times and were exacerbated by the drive to develop Guatemala’s resources in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The lines of confrontation were entrenched after a decade of socioeconomic reform between 1944 and 1954 saw modernizing initiatives undone by a military coup backed by U.S. interests and the CIA. A United Nations Truth Commission has established that civil war in Guatemala claimed the lives of more that 200,000 people, the vast majority of them indigenous Mayas. Lovell weaves documentation about what happened to Mayas in particular during the war years with accounts of their difficult personal situations. Meanwhile, an intransigent elite and a powerful military continue to benefit from the inequalities that triggered armed insurrection in the first place. Weak and corrupt civilian governments fail to impose the rule of law, thus ensuring that Guatemala remains an embattled country where postwar violence and drug-related crime undermine any semblance of orderly, peaceful life.

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Becoming Mapuche

Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile

Magnus Course

Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.

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Becoming the Tupamaros

Solidarity and Transnational Revolutionaries in Uruguay and the United States

Lindsey Churchill

In Becoming the Tupamaros, Lindsey Churchill explores an alternative narrative of US-Latin American relations by challenging long-held assumptions about the nature of revolutionary movements like the Uruguayan Tupamaros group. A violent and innovative organization, the Tupamaros demonstrated that Latin American guerrilla groups during the Cold War did more than take sides in a battle of Soviet and US ideologies. Rather, they digested information and techniques without discrimination, creating a homegrown and unique form of revolution.


Churchill examines the relationship between state repression and revolutionary resistance, the transnational connections between the Uruguayan Tupamaro revolutionaries and leftist groups in the US, and issues of gender and sexuality within these movements. Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver, for example, became symbols of resistance in both the United States and Uruguay. and while much of the Uruguayan left and many other revolutionary groups in Latin America focused on motherhood as inspiring women's politics, the Tupamaros disdained traditional constructions of femininity for female combatants. Ultimately, Becoming the Tupamaros revises our understanding of what makes a Movement truly revolutionary.

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Before Fidel

The Cuba I Remember

By Francisco José Moreno

Before Fidel Castro seized power, Cuba was an ebullient and chaotic society in a permanent state of turmoil, combining a raucous tropical nature with the evils of arbitrary and corrupt government. Yet this fascinating period in Cuban history has been largely forgotten or misrepresented, even though it set the stage for Castro’s dramatic takeover in 1959. To reclaim the Cuba that he knew—and add color and detail to the historical record—distinguished political scientist Francisco José Moreno here offers his recollections of the Cuba in which he came of age personally and politically. Moreno takes us into the little-known world of privileged, upper-middle-class, white Cubans of the 1930s through the 1950s. His vivid depictions of life in the family and on the streets capture the distinctive rhythms of Cuban society and the dynamics between parents and children, men and women, and people of different races and classes. The heart of the book describes Moreno’s political awakening, which culminated during his student years at the University of Havana. Moreno gives a detailed, insider’s account of the anti-Batista movement, including the Ortodoxos and the Triple A. He recaptures the idealism and naiveté of the movement, as well as its ultimate ineffectiveness as it fell before the juggernaut of the Castro Revolution. His own disillusionment and wrenching decision to leave Cuba rather than accept a commission in Castro’s army poignantly closes the book.

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Before the Revolution

Women's Rights and Right-Wing Politics in Nicaragua, 1821–1979

By Victoria González- Rivera

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Beyond Displacement

Campesinos, Refugees, and Collective Action in the Salvadoran Civil War

Molly Todd

During the civil war that wracked El Salvador from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, the Salvadoran military tried to stamp out dissidence and insurgency through an aggressive campaign of crop-burning, kidnapping, rape, killing, torture, and gruesome bodily mutilations. Even as human rights violations drew world attention, repression and war displaced more than a quarter of El Salvador’s population, both inside the country and beyond its borders. Beyond Displacement examines how the peasant campesinos of war-torn northern El Salvador responded to violence by taking to the hills. Molly Todd demonstrates that their flight was not hasty and chaotic, but was a deliberate strategy that grew out of a longer history of collective organization, mobilization, and self-defense.

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