Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Latin America for (lefty) dummies

Democracy: Latin America Leaps Ahead

Change is the rule in today's Latin America. The people demanded a new direction, and dictatorships have given way to democracies. After 20 years of stagnation, economies are taking off, and people are rising out of poverty. Here are stories of change from the bottom up — Latin America shows us the way.

I know I'm always blabbing about obscurish Andean politics and boring the pants off of you. Believe me, I tried and couldn't really get invested in it before I moved down there and made it personal. And my attention still wanders when I read about places like Brazil and Venezuela, that are really more important in the scheme of world affairs but aren't close to my heart. Plus it seems like the only news you see about the region in English are wordy economic analyses or lazy AP reports. So I was excited that this month's Yes! magazine features a shiny special guide to recent developments and newly elected leaders.

For anyone who ever wondered what the real deal is with the so-called rise of the left in South America, beyond the Chavez vs. Bush namecalling headlines that dominate US media. They offer a cool interactive map overview followed by a comprehensive array of articles on hot issues. With easy words and big pretty pictures. And other fun things like quotes, lists, "in their own words" sidebars, art, poetry. But conscientiously researched and reported with a focus on race/gender/class issues and respect for popular culture. Kind of like if your junior high social studies reader got smarter and decided to promote a liberal agenda. You can find it all at your local library, bookseller, or over here on their website. (It's even in Spanish here!)

My only complaint is that this magazine sometimes seems less about educating than providing Inspiration! to middle-class progressive types. (The name alone is nauseating.) For example, their Cuban report telling of the enormous generosity of Cuba's medical work abroad is titled "Health Care for All. Love, Cuba." Whoa. We all like to bust the US government's bubble of propaganda, but give the rose colored glasses a rest there folks. To be fair, this uplifting rhetoric of progress and solidarity is just how the movements are sold at home in Latin America, and so it rings true in that sense. (As does the Cuba-philism.) Indeed, the articles are mainly written by contributing Latino experts in their field - props to the people at Yes! for getting that right.


  1. Cool. I will. Also, consider "The Price of Fire", by Benjamin Dangl. All about "Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia". by the AK Press in Oakland, 2007.

    Those of us who used to seek out the Progressive, Mother Jones, and other mags with a slant slightly different from Time find the politics familiar. The facts are intriguing. Tom Hayden wrote a blurb, so did other more contemporary writers. I ordered mine through a local bookstore instead of on-line, just in case Senor Gonzales brings me up on - screen.

  2. Ha, you so don't need this 101 level guide, you of your million trips down south and your economist subscription and your many-newspaper-a-day habit. The Price of Fire does look great, I ordered it from the bookstore a while back after seeing it advertised in every relevant magazine and reading some excerpts. It's currently languishing on my pile of books to read. It's more for those of us who have a specific interest in Bolivia however. The reason I liked this magazine feature so much was that it's a super accessible way to pick up basic literacy of the issues in latin america. Which I always encourage, not just for my own selfish reasons, but because of the increasing resistance to US policy, and our immigration issues. If anyone can refer me to similarly awesome resources about other regions, it would be much appreciated, because i'm still an ignorant american too much of the time.

    And speaking of Mr Dangl, he runs a good Latin American news blog here:

    am i still talking?