The Guatemala Reader

The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Greg Grandin, Deborah T Levenson and Elizabeth Oglesby
2012, Duke University Press
663 pages, plates hardback

THIS LATEST volume in Duke’s excellent Latin American Reader series brings us more than 200 texts and images from Guatemala providing a rounded introduction to this fascinating Central American country’s history and culture. It is the perfect point of departure from which to begin exploring this diverse and often troubled society, and Duke has also issued the weighty text as an e-book, a splendid idea for travellers armed just with a backback and a reader that will provide them with a valuable resource without weighing them down on the way. This volume has been expertly compiled and edited to take us from the Popul Vuh of the 16th century – one of the mosty important documents in world history – through the trials and tribulations of colonial rule, the birth of a “caffeinated” modernism within the export economy, and the revolutionary insurgency and Mayan movements of recent times, to Guatemala’s uncomfortable contemporary peace. Many of these texts have been translated and are presented here for the first time in English. Notable chapters include the interview between the courageous Mexican Communist Fernández Anaya and the Guatemalan sociologist Carlos Figueroa Ibarra – “A Mexican Bolshevik in Central America” – as well as “A Good Place to Commit Murder” by the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. But the menu is literally brimming with delicious fare and it is probably unfair to single out any section. Better, in fact, to get the book and read it from cover to cover. – EC