Faces of Latin America

Faces of Latin America

Faces of Latin America

Faces of Latin America


Faces of Latin America has sold more than 50,000 copies since it first appeared in 1991, and is widely considered to be the best available introduction in English to the economies, politics, demography, social structures, environment and cultures of Latin America. Duncan Green and Sue Branford take the reader beyond the conventional media's fixation on the drug trade, corrupt politicians and military leaders, death squads, and guerrilla movements to celebrate the vibrant history and culture of Latin America's people. Faces of Latin America examines some of the key forces- from conquest and the growth of the commodity trade, military rule, land distribution, industrialization, and migration to civil wars and revolutions, the debt crisis, neoliberalism, and NAFTA- shaping the region's political and social history. Green also analyzes the response to these transformations- the rise of freedom fighters and populists, guerrilla wars and grassroots social movements, union organizing and trade movements, liberation theology, and the women's movement, sustainable development and the fight for the rainforest, popular culture and the mass media- providing a fascinating and unparalleled portrait of the continent. This new edition is thoroughly updated and covers recent developments in Latin America such as the growing costs of export agriculture, the rise of Brazilian manufacturing, connections between the war on drugs and the war on terror, the social costs of neoliberalism, the Argentinian default, the search for new economic models in Venezuela and elsewhere, the decline in direct U.S. military intervention in the region, growing urbanization, urban poverty and casual employment, outmigration and the importance of family remittances from abroad, rampant environmental destruction, the struggles of indigenous movements, and more.


Latin America has long been portrayed to the outside world through stereotype and myth. It started back in the sixteenth century when El Dorado, the mirage of a golden king in a golden city, first excited the Spanish conquistadores’ greed. Back in Europe, idealized accounts of the Inca and Mayan civilizations inspired Thomas More’s Utopia. the West has both plundered and been dazzled by Latin America ever since. Some of the greatest Latin American writers, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel García Márquez, were, in the words of one critic, “the equivalent of the Amazon rainforest, providing oxygen for the stale literary lungs of the developed world.”

But recently Latin American writers, weary of magic realism, have turned their attention away from the sleepy rural world of García Márquez’s Macondo to the drugs and violence that face so many Latin Americans in their daily lives. Chilean author Alberto Fuguet ironically brands the new genre “McOndo,” yet another Latin syncretic combination of old and new, external and internal influences.

This book tries to paint a picture of this complex and often contradictory society. It is about Latin Americans: not just presidents and businessmen, some of them among the richest in the world, but the millions of faces of the shantytowns, small farms, mountains, rain forests, factories, and plantations. It explores the processes that have shaped people’s lives, the jobs they do, where they live, and how they see and want to change their world. Through the lives of its inhabitants, the book attempts to capture the everyday ebullience and dynamism of Latin America, a world away from the cynicism and corruption of much of its formal political life.

Far from being the passive victims of circumstance, ordinary Latin Americans possess depths of courage and creativity, enabling them to confront with humor and grace a seemingly endless array of problems: how to feed and educate their families, find a home, improve their neighborhood. Many such attempts at self-help have in recent years been led by women, struggling to free themselves from the stifling values of machismo. the indigenous peoples . . .

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