Latin American Conflicts

I’m revamping my Hispanic Civilization course, people, and I welcome reading suggestions (for me). Students are asking for a more in-depth coverage of Latin American conflicts from the 1970s onwards. And, honestly, my knowledge of this area is quite limited. So here are the conflicts I want to address in greater detail in my course:

1. Peru: Fujimori and El Sendero Luminoso. I’m ashamed to recognize (what with the Peruvian side of the family and everything) that I know very little on the subject. What should I read?

2. Argentina: The Dirty War. I’m good on this one, more or less but there is never too much knowledge that one can possess. If you are aware of any good recent readings, do share.

3. Chile: Pinochet and Neoliberalism in Latin America. I’m going to read The Condor Years. Anything else people can recommend?

4. El Salvador: The Civil War (1979-1992). OK, on this subject I’m completely useless. Suggestions?

5. Nicaragua: Sandinistas and the Contras. I could do with expanding my knowledge of this subject. Again, I will be grateful for good, recent reading suggestions.

6. Panama: Manuel Noriega and the CIA. Ditto.

7. Cuba: The Embargo and the Future of Cuban-US Relations. I’m very good on this one.

8. Colombia and Mexico: the drug wars. I think I’m mostly fine on this topic. Although reading up on Colombia wouldn’t hurt.

What am I forgetting? I have a feeling I’m forgetting something important.

Has anybody read Greg Grandin’s Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism?

I don’t mind many reading suggestions. I never had a chance to take a course on anything connected to this subject, so now I will teach it to myself and then relay the knowledge to the students. This is the part I really dig about teaching. I get to learn new things all the time, and what can be better than that?

P.S. I really rock on the colonial era, the independence and everything up to 1970, so no suggestions needed there.

Burning Bush

This is what the heat wave did to the grass and the bushes in front of my house. I’m very worried about the farmers in the area. Last summer, they lost most of their crops to the scorching sun. This year, the heat is even more intense.

Is this bush you see in the photo likely to recover next year, or is it dead for good?

Romney in Israel

On his visit to Israel, Romney made the following remarks:

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.

Romney said some economic histories have theorized that “culture makes all the difference.”

“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.” He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.

I wonder if the Presidential candidate would be willing to apply this kind of analysis to his own country. The traditionally Democratic states all do much better economically than the traditionally Republican states. According to Romney’s approach, this must mean that the Democratic culture is superior to the Republican culture. Then why is he even running?

Jokes aside, is it true that Romney is making these hugely offensive and insensitive statements wherever he goes? It’s like he chooses to say the worst possible thing in any given circumstances. This is starting to sound like the guy is being set up. Who are his advisers?

Babies on an Airplane

Our plane from Charlotte, NC departed late. N. and I didn’t mind all that much but the travelers with connecting flights in St. Louis were nervous. A man traveling with his family was responsible for the delay. The little drama that he protagonized began as I was trying to get to my seat, so it all happened right in front of me.

As I was walking down the aisle towards my seat, the man in front of me stopped and started asking people who sat in his row to exchange seats with his daughters. He wanted them to go 5 rows back and let his daughters sit in the front with his father. The passengers he was asking for this favor refused because they had paid extra to be seated closer to the front of the aircraft.

A heated argument ensued. The older Chinese couple that the man was trying to get to move was very apologetic but still refused to exchange seats. The man started getting very agitated and was waving his arms about so actively that he almost toppled me over. The flight attendant tried to calm things down but the man didn’t want to settle down in his assigned seat.

“My babies!” he wailed. “Do you expect me to leave my babies sitting alone during this entire flight?”

At first, I was very sorry for the caring father who was so attached to his babies. It must really suck to be separated from small children on a flight. What if they get scared? Or thirsty? Or wet themselves?

As somebody who is always on the side of children no matter what happens, I was getting annoyed with the older couple who refused to let a father reunite with his babies.

And then, when the father moved down the aisle towards the row where his children were sitting, I finally saw the babies in question. The older girl was about 14 years of age and the younger was 11-12. They both wore the beleaguered teenage facial expression of “Here Dad goes again making us look stupid.” One of them was holding a book. The other one had an iPad. They looked more than capable of spending 1 hour 37 minutes that the flight was supposed to last sitting five rows away from their parents.

That was when I realized that the woman sitting close to where I stood was the girls’ mother. The reason why she was sighing heavily and rolling her eyes very far back in her head became clear.

Finally, the father realized he had no choice but to occupy his seat. He did it with the look of a person who was being condemned to a horrible punishment. I felt sorry for the Chinese couple who had to spend the flight sitting next to somebody looking extremely resentful. I was glad for the daughters, however. I’m sure they had a good time on a flight where, for once, they weren’t treated like babies.

P.S. I know that from the post’s title you expected yet another boring tale of how babies cry on airplanes and everybody gets annoyed. Here at Clarissa’s Blog things are never as predictable as boring as that, however. (A little self-promotion never hurts, I guess.)