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Reviewed by:
  • The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics ed. by Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Thomas Miller Klubock, Peter Winn, and: The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics ed. by Peter Lambert, Andrew Nickson
  • Yoly Zentella
Hutchison, Elizabeth Quay, Thomas Miller Klubock, Nara B. Milanich, and Peter Winn, eds. The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
Lambert, Peter and Andrew Nickson, eds. The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics and The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics present basic beginnings: European colonization, destruction of indigenous cultures, forced labor, indigenous uprisings, and repression. Such were common beginnings throughout the Americas as a result of European conquest and colonization. Yet what occurs after the period of colonization, the unfolding of capitalist intervention, nation building, ethnic and racial identity building, and the search for democracy evolved in each country differently. Both volumes provide the reader with materials to build an understanding of each country. In addition to primary sources, some published in English for the first time, the readers include black and white photos as well as a few color plates.

Divided into eight sections, The Chile Reader provides a comprehensive portrayal of a people and a nation. [End Page 247] Part of this picture is the perspective of Chile as an exceptional country, a model of progress and development among Latin American countries, a nation with strong ties to Western civilization. This exceptionalism is explored within the text. Is Chile truly exceptional within the context of western success? The volume is organized around a number of tensions. Examples such as economic modernization versus social and economic inequality, authoritarian rule versus democratic forms of government, and Europeanization of Chilean society versus the inclusion of indigenous and African descent populations permeate the book.

Especially revealing is the discussion of Chile’s experiment with neo-liberalism that began in the 1940s and its impact on Chilean workers. Equally engaging is the discussion of Chilean new song [la nueva cancion] in Chile’s socialist movement from the 1960s to 1973. Supporters and artists of la nueva cancion were a threat to Chilean elite and foreign interests. During the military repression that followed Salvador Allende’s death in 1973, several supporters and artists of the genre were killed.

Read in chronological order or as stand-alone selections, this reader is an impressive national narrative. Thumbing through the thick tomes one finds topics that raise interest, often connecting to other areas outside the scope of the country being discussed. For example, the authors provide a brilliant discussion of the Palestinian Yarur family textile industry, a virtual monopoly established in Chile decades before the 1948 Palestinian exodus known as the Nakba. This episode not only highlights worker-capitalist relations in Chile during the turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s, but also adds dimension to the discussion on the [End Page 248] Palestinian diaspora. The segment brought to light the tumultuous relationship of the Yarur industrialists with Chilean labor unions and the Allende government.

The aim of the editors in creating The Paraguay Reader was to “produce an enjoyable, informative, and well-structured anthology of writings on the politics, society, and culture of the country” (p. 7). Political drawings, advertisements, photos from various eras, and a section of color plates breathe life to the written page. The penultimate color plate is especially poignant. It is a photo of a lush tropical scene. The preceding plate, however, is a map on the progress of deforestation. Here one can see the impact of environmental destruction on Paraguay’s natural beauty. Lushness is destroyed in the interest of profit while the native inhabitants are dispersed.

The Paraguay Reader offers a carefully planned chronology of the country. The narrative, which takes the reader on a journey of experiences by a spectrum of actors is arranged in seven sections. These units span the period from indigenous beginnings to the quest for democracy to the nature of Paraguayan identity. Especially revealing in the inclusion of a piece of Guaraní oral history: the creation story known as the Ayvu Rapyta [The Foundation of Human Speech]. Before the god Ñamandu created the Guaraní, other people...


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pp. 247-251
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