September 25, 2007

b>Mining and Agriculture in Highland Bolivia: Ecology, History, and Commerce Among the Jukumanis by Ricardo A. Godoy, University of Arizona Press, 1990, 169 pp., $29.95 (cloth).

Much of Bolivia’s mining has traditionally been performed not by proletarians in large companies, but by peasants who perforate the hills and fields of their communities in search of tin, antimony, copper and wolfram. In fact, Bolivian mining has relied increasingly on peasants over the past 80 years, reverting to more archaic forms of production. In this study of one peasant mining community, anthropologist Godoy explains this phenomenon in terms of peasants’ precapitalist moral outlook.

Economic Change and Rural Resistance in Southern Bolivia 1880-1930 by Erick D. Langer, Stanford University Press, 1989, 269 pp., $42.50 (cloth).

When the silver-mining economy finally disintegrated at the end of the nineteenth century, the Sucre elite vastly expanded their landholdings at the expense of peasant communities. This study of the province of Chuquisaca explores the various ways in which peasants resisted, including community-wide intransigence, labor disputes on agro-industrial estates, migration, and widespread banditry. Historian Langer concludes that the forms of peasant resistance played a large role in determining the shape of twentieth-century society.

Taxes and State Power: Political Instability in Bolivia, 1900-1950 by Carmenza Gallo, Temple University Press, 1991, 173 pp., $34.95 (cloth).

This illuminating study uses the case of twentieth-century Bolivia to demonstrate the centrality of tax policy to state formation, particularly in export-oriented economies. In Bolivia the fiscal importance of the tin elite, Gallo argues, rather than enhance the political leverage of the mme-owners, sowed a deep conflict between that elite and the state, and led the state to seek alliances with other classes. A dry but thoughtful book.

Developing Country Debt and the World Economy by Jeffrey D. Sachs (ed.), University of Chicago Press, 1989, 335 pp., $16.95 (paper), $50 (cloth).

Edited by the architect of Bolivia’s restructuring, this collection of papers stakes out a middle ground between creditors’ optimism regarding rapid adjustment and growth and debtors’ pessimism regarding the long-term results of adjustment. Articles on eight indebted countries, the history of debt crises, and other debt issues argue in favor of debt relief and “outward-oriented” trade policies (“not to be confused with trade liberalization”). No easy read, but certainly informative.

An Uncertain Grace photographs by Sebastião Salgado, with essays by Eduardo Galeano and Fred Ritchin, Aperture Foundation, 1990, 155 pp., $60 (cloth), $30 (paper).

From a Brazilian gold mine to the Bolivian altiplano, to the desert of the Sahel, Salgado’s photographs are brutal, beautiful, and unforgettable. As Galeano writes in his introduction, this portrait of human pain invites us nonetheless to celebrate the dignity of humankind.

Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution by Lou Dematteis with Chris Vail (eds.), W.W. Norton, 1991, 168 pp., $39.95 (cloth).

An album of the Sandinista revolution by some of the best photographers from Nicaragua and the United States. Eduardo Galeano offers another lyrical introduction, while the accompanying text gives a year-by-year summary of events.

Puerto Rican Writers at Home in the USA by Faythe Turner (ed.), Open Hand Publishing, 1991, 349 pp., $39.95 (cloth), $19.91 (paper).

Puerto Rican immigration has produced a rich literary tradition that spans two worlds, combining Caribbean lyricism with New York realism. During the 1970s, a vibrant Puerto Rican writers’ circle emerged in New York, centered around the Lower East Side’s Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe. Drawing on that history, this anthology features seventeen of the most important Puerto Rican writers, including poet Víctor Hernández Cruz, Pultizer Prize nominee Judith Ortíz Cofer and playwright Miguel Piñero. An important contribution to and celebration of Puerto Rican culture.

Places of Origin: The Repopulation of Rural El Salvador by Beatrice Edwards and Gretta Tovar Siebentritt, Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1991, 158 pp., $27.50 (cloth).

Repatriation and repopulation are issues of growing interest and concern throughout Central America. This detailed account of the collective return of refugees and displaced persons, and their incorporation into the country’s popular movement looks at the mechanics of grassroots organizing, the negotiating skill which achieved the mass returns, and the stance of the Salvadoran government and army.

Human Rights in Mexico: A Policy of Impunity, an Americas Watch Report, 1990, 89 pp., $7 (paper).

Mexico has traditionally relied on its progressive foreign policy to keep foreigners’ noses out of its dirty laundry. The fact is, as this excellent report by the prestigious human rights organization documents, the Mexican government routinely perpetrates the worst sort of abuse against its citizens: torture, extrajudicial killing, disappearance, massacre, intimidation. With special chapters on election-related violence, rural violence, attacks on the labor movement, and control of the press, this report offers a broad and detailed picture of state-sponsored repression, one which will certainly haunt the government’s efforts to portray itself as a modern democracy. An additional chapter on U.S. violations of the rights of Mexicans in this country adds an essential dimension to the picture.

Grenada: Revolution in Reverse by James Ferguson, Latin America Bureau, 1990, 138 pp., $8 (paper).

Grenada faded from the headlines soon after the 1983 U.S. invasion, but the island’s importance for U.S. strategists continued during the 1980s. Millions of dollars in U.S. aid went toward privatizing the Grenadian economy, a harbinger for free-market policies soon to be introduced throughout Latin America. With the rigorous research and clarity of writing that is LAB’s hallmark, this book is incisive behind-the-headlines history.


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