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  • Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History ed. by Gretchen Pierce and Áurea Toxqui
  • Daniel Lorca
Gretchen Pierce and Áurea Toxqui, eds. Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014. 305 pp. ISBN 978-0-8165-3076-2. $51.12.

The book is a collection of ten articles divided into three thematic sections and with four introductions. The first introduction presents the project as a whole, and its length is comparable to the articles; the other three introductions are brief and explain what each section is trying to accomplish. The first section deals with alcohol in the prehispanic and colonial periods, the second with the nineteenth century (1820s to 1930), and the last with the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. [End Page 217]

The book does not pretend to give a linear or quasi-linear historical account of alcohol-related themes but rather presents the reader with ten aspects (one per article) that are representative of the above-mentioned periods.

In the first part (prehispanic and colonial periods), Justin Jennings utilizes Marcel Mauss’s The Gift to explain how alcohol was used by the elite to cement their power and the negative consequences of refusing a drink in that cultural period. João Azevedo Fernandes explains the difficulty of studying cachaça (a type of alcohol) themes because of lexicographical variations and then moves on to explain its role in social and even national identity formation (e.g., revolution, trafficking, and marriage). Aaron P. Althouse argues that the relation between drunkenness and violence in colonial Michoacán shows that the population was highly individualistic, and he also explains how that type of violence was triggered by the disruption of social conventions (e.g., proper greetings).

In the second part (the nineteenth century, from the 1820s to 1930), Nancy Hanway explains the importance placed by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento on the production of wine in Argentina to modernize (read “civilize” or “Europeanize”) the nation and arrest the power of the barbaric interior. Áurea Toxqui explains that the temperance efforts and always-higher taxations of various governments were invariably met with resistance by the lower-income women who produced pulque and sold it in pulquerias, a resistance demonstrating their political power, which in turn reveals their participation in nation-building processes. She also explains that wealthy women, for social reasons, used male representatives to sell their alcohol from their haciendas. David Carey Junior reveals the complex relations and deep contradictions surrounding alcohol during the nation-building process; for example, cantinas were a place of both freedom and scrutiny, and various governments in Latin America used a rhetoric of temperance yet permitted alcohol because they needed the highly profitable taxes for growth.

In the last part of the book (the twentieth and twenty-first centuries), Gretchen Pierce argues that the temperance efforts of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1930), as part of revolutionary reform, were not always popular and were met with active resistance by the poor producers of pulque, beer, and mezcal. According to them, selling alcohol did not show that they were immoral but rather that they were running a business. She then takes into account the ultimate failure of the anti-alcohol campaign and argues that one of the reasons for its failure was the political power of the poor producers of alcohol, which demonstrates their important role in the nation-building process. José Orozco explains how three generations of the Sauza family succeeded in changing the national drink of Mexico from pulque to tequila, arguing that the third member of the family, Francisco Javier (1946–1988), contributed the most. The strategy used by the Sauza family was twofold: producing and advertising a product that smelled clean (avoiding the image [End Page 218] of the Indian created by the smelly pulque) and winning international prizes in both Europe and North America (which validated the “civilized” quality of their product). Steve Stein explains how Argentina recently became the fifth-largest producer of wine in the world, by both improving the quality of the product and using successful advertising campaigns that rely on sensuality and images of sophistication (the advertisements included in his...


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pp. 217-219
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