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Forgotten Continent

Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul

MICHAEL REID
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npqv7
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  • Book Info
    Forgotten Continent
    Book Description:

    Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa's moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world's largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape.

    This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America's efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world's most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries-including Brazil, Chile and Mexico-democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chávez's oil-fuelled populism, and much is at stake. Failure will increase the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe, jeopardize stability in a region rich in oil and other strategic commodities, and threaten some of the world's most majestic natural environments.

    Drawing on Michael Reid's many years of reporting from inside Latin America's cities, presidential palaces, and shantytowns, the book provides a vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14526-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Charts and Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Maps of the Region
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xii-xvi)
    Michael Reid
  7. CHAPTER 1 THE FORGOTTEN CONTINENT
    (pp. 1-29)

    Scarcely a month goes by without some political leader or ageing rock star urging the citizens of the world’s richer countries to do something to aid Africa. With similar frequency, as yet another statistic of economic advance comes out of Asia, we are assured that the world’s future lies in China and India. Meanwhile, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and those thereafter in Madrid, London and elsewhere meant that for the United States and Europe, the Middle East and the broader Islamic world became of overwhelming strategic interest.

    But what of Latin America, the other great region of...

  8. CHAPTER 2 THE LATIN AMERICAN CONUNDRUM
    (pp. 30-51)

    Until at least the middle of the eighteenth century, the southern part of the Americas was on most counts far more developed than the Englishspeaking colonies of the north.¹ By 1551, universities had been founded in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, almost a century before Harvard. Though the economies of the Spanish colonies were dominated by plantation agriculture, subsistence farming and mining, they also boasted handcraft workshops. Some of these, especially for textiles, qualified as rudimentary factories. But in the second half of the eighteenth century the soon-to-be United States experienced incipient industrialisation and rapid economic growth. Some scholars...

  9. CHAPTER 3 THE SEED OF DEMOCRACY IN THE LAND OF THE CAUDILLO
    (pp. 52-80)

    ‘Weapons have given you independence. Laws will give you freedom.’ This pledge to his fellow countrymen from Francisco Paula de Santander, a Colombian independence leader, is inscribed above the doorway of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá’s Plaza Bolívar, its paved main square. The inscription has an unintentionally ironic ring to it – and not only because freedom and the rule of law long proved elusive, in Colombia and throughout Latin America. The current version of the palace, of blond stone blocks, dates only from the 1990s. The previous building was destroyed by fire after guerrillas from the nationalist M-19 movement...

  10. CHAPTER 4 COLD WAR AND REVOLUTION: THE UNITED STATES AND THE LEFT REJECT DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 81-105)

    Guatemala is the saddest country in Latin America. The beauty of its verdant highlands dotted with whitewashed colonial towns, its shimmering lakes overlooked by soaring volcanoes and its Mayan ruins half buried in rainforest cannot conceal the ancestral oppression of its indigenous majority. It has had an elected civilian government since 1986. But a guerrilla war lasting almost three decades was settled only in 1996. It cost some 200,000 lives; most of the victims were Mayan Indians killed by the army.¹ The war continues to cast a dark shadow. Guatemala’s democrats must struggle against what some have calledpoderes fácticos...

  11. CHAPTER 5 FAILED REFORMERS, DEBT-RIDDEN DICTATORS: THE RIGHT RESISTS DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 106-123)

    On the Rua do Catete, a busy commercial street that connects Rio de Janeiro’s central business district with the southern beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, stands a neo-classical mansion whose exuberant external embellishment bespeaks its tropical location. Built by a coffee baron, it served as the residence of Brazil’s presidents from the foundation of the Republic until the move to Brasília in 1960. It is now a museum. On the top floor, faithfully preserved, is the bedroom where, early in the morning of 24 August 1954, Getúlio Vargas reached for his revolver and shot himself through the heart. ‘I gave...

  12. CHAPTER 6 THE RISE AND FALL OF THE WASHINGTON CONSENSUS
    (pp. 124-158)

    The Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace, turns its back on the estuary of the Rio de la Plata and looks out over the Plaza de Mayo, the heart of Buenos Aires during the centuries of Spanish rule when it was no more than a small muddy settlement for the trading of hides. The present palace was built in the 1870s in an eclectic mixture of the Florentine and French styles, just as Argentina was beginning its rise to fleeting greatness. From its balcony, Juan and Eva Perón conducted their love affair with thedescamisados(literally, ‘shirtless ones’), the masses of...

  13. CHAPTER 7 THE POPULIST CHALLENGE
    (pp. 159-178)

    In 2001, on one of his many foreign trips, Hugo Chávez visited the editorial offices ofThe Economistin St James’s Street in London. Over coffee and biscuits, he expounded on his globetrotting diplomacy aimed at sustaining the oil price, which had only recently climbed from the low levels of the late 1990s. Asked for his response to criticisms in Venezuela that he was concentrating all power in his own hands, he suddenly unleashed a lengthy diatribe, accusing his enemies of lying and his questioner of being an opposition propagandist. Already running late, he stopped on the way out to...

  14. CHAPTER 8 THE REFORMIST RESPONSE
    (pp. 179-211)

    Twenty years ago, the Casablanca valley was a dusty place of sleepy farms through which traffic crawled on a narrow road linking Santiago, Chile’s capital, with Valparaíso, its largest port. Today, the valley floor is carpeted with mile after mile of trim vineyards. They produce good quality white wine, in a country which until recently had been known in the world only for cheap but reliablevino tinto.A fast new toll motorway snakes through the valley and over the dun-coloured hills to the coast. It was built and maintained by private investment under a public–private partnership. Beside the...

  15. CHAPTER 9 CHANGING SOCIETIES
    (pp. 212-232)

    Walk down the side of the presidential palace in Lima, cross the River Rímac on a stone bridge built in 1610, turn right past the colonial-era bullring at Acho and you are transported from the remnants of viceregal splendour into the grubby, dynamic chaos of twenty-first-century urban Latin America. Hundreds of brightly painted minibuses and battered Volkswagen Beetles operating as self-appointed taxis vie to take you to San Juan de Lurigancho, a broad desert valley surrounded by grey Andean foothills that stretches north-eastwards for miles. Settlement only began there in the 1960s; by 1980 the district had a population of...

  16. CHAPTER 10 EVOLVING STATES
    (pp. 233-263)

    The state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico is a corrugated land of forested mountains scored by brown, serpentine rivers. Such are its geographical contortions and ethnic diversity that its 3.4 million people are divided into 570 separate municipalities, more than twice as many as in any other Mexican state. One of them is Santiago Tlazoyaltepec, reached by a drive of a little less than two hours from the state capital up a precipitous dirt road flanked by cool forests of pine and evergreen oak. Like many of the settlements established by the Mixtec people (whose name means ‘people of the...

  17. CHAPTER 11 THE STUBBORN RESILIENCE OF FLAWED DEMOCRACIES
    (pp. 264-292)

    Like many Latin American airports, that of El Alto – which serves Bolivia’s capital, La Paz – has in the decades since its construction been enveloped by urban sprawl. It is now surrounded by dusty streets lined with houses of concrete and brick in varying stages of completion. The airport shares its name with a satellite city which in 1980 had less than half its current population of 700,000. In those days, the airport bordered pasture dotted with small adobe farmhouses. The passenger stepped out, breathless, on to the tarmac of what, at 4,000 metres above sea level, is the world’s highest...

  18. CHAPTER 12 THE LONELINESS OF LATIN AMERICA
    (pp. 293-315)

    The small state of Tlaxcala, in the highlands east of Mexico City, was home to the people who would become Hernán Cortés’s most important allies in his assault on the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. More recently, Tlaxcalans have had to respond to a different sort of invasion, one of cheap Asian textiles. That this involved painful change was clear from a visit to the state in 1992, five years after Mexico’s government had begun to open the economy to international trade and just when it was negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada:...

  19. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 316-321)
  20. NOTES
    (pp. 322-356)
  21. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 357-365)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 366-384)
  23. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)