Back to top

Alma Guillermoprieto - Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America

Looking for History is a collection of essays that Alma Guillermoprieto wrote while working for the New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. This makes for great reading and for many of the stories means that if you are interested in the topic you immediately get a list of books to pursue. For example, many Americans are insterested in Cuba due to the embargo which limits our trade and therefore our knowledge. Guillermoprieto's review of several books related to Che, Cuba, and Fidel gives us not only insight but a starting point for further investigation. Additionally, the fact that she primarily lives in Mexico provides a bit more credence to her point of view - this is not yet another view of America from north of the Rio Grande.

This perspective on Latin America from within, combined with Guillermoprieto's psycho-analyst like prose is what makes her writing so interesting to me. In most writing, perhaps especially in writing about Latin America, you get more of the writer's bias than you do reality. Guillermoprieto skips over that presenting situations as they are without bias or innuendo. She leaves you to make decisions for yourself and the end result is enormously high quality and satisfying for the reader.

While putting the essays into book form, Guillermoprieto has altered them to provide better flow and also grouped them together, where possible. So, we get pictures of Eva Peron, Violence and "War" in Colombia, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Cuba, Mario Vargas Llosa's bid for president, and a survey of Mexican politics, rebellion, drugs, and their intersections. Several of these essays were based on books about famous individuals, but in most of the cases the individuals formed such major parts of the country and regional history that you finish the essay with a far greater understanding of both person and place.

The fact that these were essays makes for rather easy reading - you're not bogged down in a long fight through a book but instead can just breeze through individual essays putting the book aside and picking it back up as time allows.