THE HEART THAT BLEEDS: Latin American Now by Alma Guillermoprieto


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A splendid collection of reports originally from the New Yorker. Guillermoprieto (Samba, 1990) is a journalist born in Mexico and raised there and in the US. The dispatches, written between 1989 and 1993, range from an account of Panama in the aftermath of the invasion to an analysis of cocaine politics in Medellín and a description of evangelicals in Rio, but this doesn't do justice to their variety. A description of the intricacies of mariachi singers in Mexico becomes a meditation on what it means to be Mexican, and how Mexican it is to be modern. An account of the off-screen dramas of TV's telenovelas (soap operas) in Brazil merges seamlessly into a discussion of the corruption scandal involving President Collor, who is described, at the time of his election, as ""sleek as a borzoi, articulate, sincere-looking, and, above all, a highly palatable contrast to his rivals on the left."" Guillermoprieto is a beautiful and observant writer (of Lima: ""Squinting, on days when the weather is good, one can almost see the ways in which this place could have been lovely""), and also a touchingly funny one (""Mexicans know that a party has been outstandingly successful if at the end of it there are at least a couple of clusters of longtime or first-time acquaintances leaning on each other against a wall, sobbing helplessly""). The collection is not without faults, including predictions now overtaken by events, and the absence of more bold or conclusive judgments as to the success of major free-market reforms, but these are minor quibbles. A triumphant and evocative collection: journalism at its best.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1994
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Knopf