Southern vision

DEC looking northLooking North: Writings from Spanish America on the US, 1800 to the Present
Edited by John J Hassett and Braulio Muñoz
2012, University of Arizona Press
261 pages, paperback

THIS unassuming book is something of a revelation, bringing together possibly for the first time a broad range of Spanish American perspectives on the United States and in so doing establishing an important level of equivalence in the study of relations between these two regions. In the Anglophone world, Latin American and Caribbean studies have invariably resorted to, even depended upon, approaches to the region’s culture and politics constructed largely on the basis of empirical or ethnographic observations that objectify the region as a target of research. Within these, the perspectives of Latin Americans and their comparisons with the North are either assumed or deduced from the work of a small number of high-profile literary or cultural figures. Looking North dispenses with this approach and turns Latin Americans into the subjects and the US into the object, gathering together a fascinating collection of writing by well-known historical and contemporary Spanish American figures about their northern neighbour. Many of the pieces included – from the observations of Simón Bolívar to the contemporary work of Christine Granados – have either lived or travelled in the US, and they have much to say about its society, politics and culture and do so with considerable eloquence. As with all collections of this kind, the real art lies in selection, and the editors have excelled in this task. The result is a fascinating, balanced and very fair snapshot of the US taken with a Latin camera that is quite simply hard to put down.