Latin AmericaResources

Background reading: Latin America

Brightly coloured apartments in Valparaíso, Chile
Heading to South America or Central America? Here’s a handy list of background reading:

The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics edited by Gabriela Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo
An invaluable resource for those interested in learning about Argentine history and culture, whether in the classroom or in preparation for travel in Argentina.” [Argentina]

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? by Francisco Goldman
A tense and astonishing true detective story that opens a window on the new Latin American reality of mara youth gangs and organized crime, and tells the story of a remarkable group of engaging, courageous young people, and of their remarkable fight for justice.” [Guatemala]

The Fat Man from La Paz: Contemporary Fiction from Bolivia edited by Rosario Santos
The most comprehensive collection of modern Bolivian literature yet published in English, [the book] offers a kaleidoscopic view of the country’s last fifty years, from a sociological and cultural viewpoint.” [Bolivia]

How to Travel without Seeing : Dispatches from the New Latin America by Andres Neuman
“A dizzying, fast-paced tour of Latin America provides one of the Spanish-speaking world’s most outstanding writers with the occasion for an experimental travelogue somewhere between personal diary and critical essay.” [Latin America]

I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchú, translator: Ann Wright
A book unique in contemporary literature which records the detail of everyday Indian life.” [Guatemala]

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, [this] exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes. [Chile, Argentina]

Inca-Kola: A Traveller’s Tale of Peru by Matthew Parris
Inca-Kola is the funny, absorbing account of Matthew Parris’ fourth trip to Peru on a bizarre holiday which takes him among bandits, prostitutes, peasants and riots.” [Peru]

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover… a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. [Mexico, United States]

Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries by Kim MacQuarrie
Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer.” [Latin America]

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, [this book] is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century. [Honduras]

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. [Colombia]

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
[Latin America]

My Documents by Alejandro Zambra
My Documents is by turns hilarious and heart-stopping, tragic and tender, but most of all, it is unflinchingly human and essential evidence of a sublimely talented writer working at the height of his powers. [Chile]

Nicaragua and the Politics of Utopia: Development and Culture in the Modern State by Daniel Chavez
“[The author] investigates the cultural and ideological bases of what he identifies as the three decisive movements of social reinvention in Nicaragua.” [Nicaragua]

Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, translator: Daniel Hahn
With sudden shifts in the characters’ lives, this novel takes in the whole story: telling of love, loss and family, it spans the worlds of São Paulo’s rich kids and dispossessed Guarani Indians along Brazil’s highways.” [Brazil]

Rio de Janeiro: Extreme City by Luiz Eduardo Soares, translator: Anthony Doyle
Taking us on a journey into Rio’s intricate world of favelas, beaches, and corridors of power, Soares reveals one of the most extraordinary cities in the world in all its seething, agonistic beauty. [Brazil]

Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia by Tom Feiling
Vital, shocking, often funny and never simplistic, Short Walks from Bogota unpicks the tangled fabric of Colombia, to create a stunning work of reportage, history and travel writing. [Colombia]

Viva South America! A Journey Through a Surging Continent by Oliver Balch
By stepping into people’s homes and into inmates’ prison cells, by climbing onto dance floors and over road blocks, Oliver Balch unearths untold stories from the front line of South America’s contemporary fight for freedom.[Latin America]

A Visit to Don Otavio by Sybille Bedford
And so she set out for Mexico–and, incidentally, to write what Bruce Chatwin called the best travel book of the twentieth century, a book of marvels, to be read again and again and again. [Mexico]

Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey by Ed Stafford
In April 2008, Ed Stafford began his attempt to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the River Amazon. Nearly two and a half years later, he had crossed the whole of South America to reach the mouth of the colossal river. [Latin America]

Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette
Under the lens of John Gimlette—brilliantly offbeat, irreverent, and canny—these three small countries are among the most wildly intriguing places on earth. [Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana]