Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Tinsman, Heidi. Buying into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Tinsman, Heidi. Buying into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

Article excerpt

Tinsman, Heidi. Buying into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

Given the fluid writing style and the Californian/Chilean geographic setting encountered in this historical case study, one could easily imagine that the book under review is the latest installment of acclaimed Chilean novelist Isabel Allende's saga of the adventures of Eliza Sommers and her descendants. Buying into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States, however, is so much more than a well-written novel. Heidi Tinsman, Professor of History at the University of California at Irvine, has done extensive research into the historical linkages of production, consumption, and social movements in Californian and Chilean grape industry during the Cold War era. Readers familiar with Duke University's American Encounters/Global Interactions series, edited by Gilbert M. Joseph and Emily S. Rosenberg, will not be surprised that Buying into the Regime is part of this illustrious series of scholarly works.

The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in US supermarkets expanded rapidly after 1970. According to Tinsman, the "growth in the US appetite for grapes outpaced that for all other fruits" (1). At the same time that grapes became more available to US consumers, they also "earned political notoriety" (1). The author explains how Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) struggled to improve the lives of agricultural laborers, especially in California's grape industry. Although the UFW organized several grape boycotts, US consumers dramatically increased their consumption of grapes. As the US passion for grapes grew, consumers demanded access to grapes year-round. Following the 11 September 1973 military coup that overthrew Marxist President Salvador Allende, "almost all grapes eaten in the United States between January and April have come from Chile" (2). Military leader Augusto Pinochet implemented neo-liberal economic reforms that salvaged Chile's tattered economy adversely affected by three years of Allende's Socialist experiment. For many, Chile's grape exports were heralded as an example of Pinochet's success in re-invigorating the economy. Tinsman, however, laments that the so-called economic miracle was "predicated on extensive repression and exploitation: persecution of organized labor, ghastly human rights abuses, and the massive employment of low-paid workers, unprecedented numbers of which were women" (2).

For the author, grapes were part of a long list of commodities, such as sugar, bananas, and coffee, that were produced overseas by authoritarian regimes and exported to US markets to satisfy the eating habits of US consumers. …

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