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The Latin Americanist, September 2012 These nine chapters rest atop what Castañeda calls “fonts of wisdom” (xii), which are the reading of classic materials about Mexico, the analysis of “mountains of data” (xiii), and the author’s personal experience. With them he seeks to unravel the conundrum that is Mexico. But in reality the book looks more like a series of opinions and impressions supported by data and anecdotes gathered for that specific purpose. The information presented is precise, but the opinions are sometimes correct and sometimes outrageous, and always disappointing because they are presented very matter-of-fact by an ex Minister of Foreign Affairs. In general, the task of explaining any country, but particularly Mexico to Americans, has its risks, which maybe impossible to avoid altogether, however, one would expect much more from someone who has first hand experience not only of Mexico, but of its circles of power. R. Hernandez Rodriguez Department of World Languages and Literatures Southern Connecticut State University LAWS OF CHANCE: BRAZIL’S CLANDESTINE LOTTERY AND THE MAKING OF URBAN PUBLIC LIFE. By Amy Chazkel. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. 2011. Pp. xvii, 346. Numbers and animals pervade the Brazilian public sphere. Whether it be in market stalls, national television, or gambling houses, the jogo do bicho, or animal game, is deeply embedded in the political and moral economies of contemporary Brazilian urban life. The gambling game encourages the adventurous to rely on their luck and bet any amount of money on a number and/or a given animal out of a range of twenty-five. Despite a federal law that made the game illegal in 1946, it enjoys great popularity. Amy Chazkel’s path-breaking study Laws of Chance: Brazil’s Clandestine Lottery and the Making of Urban Public Life unearths the game’s deep history and reveals fascinating analysis on the linkages between the political and moral economies of commercial leisure activities. Chazkel’s skills as a careful historian immediately become evident in the introduction and first chapter. In these sections, the author reads along and against the grain when peeling back the layers of a game that was once sanctioned and promoted by the state. Chapter one looks at the origins of the game and the processes by which it became criminalized. During the 1870s, the young Baron João Baptista Vianna Drummond, left his small hamlet in the province of Minas Gerais and went to Rio de Janeiro, the imperial capital, in search of financial opportunities. A steadfast entrepreneur in tune with the socio-cultural zeitgeists of beautification, edification, and spectacle, Drummond won a concession from the city to build the city’s first zoo. Due to the fall of the Empire and the creation of the First Republic in 1889, the zoo’s funding was threatened due to a series of budgetary crises. In order to raise 112 Book Reviews revenue, Drummond petitioned the city to operate games that would be “useful institution(s) (32).” In October 1890, the Municipal Council granted Drummond a concession for such games, and as a result, the jogo do bicho was born. While Drummond is credited with the game’s creation, hundreds of small business owners independent of Drummond and the zoo appropriated the lottery. Alongside operators (banqueiros), vendors (bicheiros) and players swelled the ranks of this gambling hydra. By 1895, the first law was passed in order to curtail the jogo do bicho and other games of the same ilk (39). Why did the state attempt to place limits on games such as the jogo do bicho? Chazkel brings into sharp focus republican state fears of a disordered and unruly crowd whose passions can be inflamed by games of chance as a probable reason to prohibit the jogo do bicho. In addition, she also brings to bear deft analysis on the complex understandings of early consumer capitalism. State officials, perceived the game not only as a threat to public order but also as a threat to the rational intricate workings of capitalism. They attempted to regulate not only influential capitalists, but also small enterprising capitalists, “such as petty vendors, who sought freedom from the reach of state regulations and contractual...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-203X
Print ISSN
1557-2021
Pages
pp. 112-114
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-25
Open Access
No
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