The best books (in English) to see the world from a Latin American perspective

Why are we passionate about this?

As professors of Latin American Studies, with more than 35 years of teaching experience on these topics, and as Latin Americanists who have lived experiences in our countries of origin, we can connect to themes of social justice as well as the wonders that indigenous cultures can offer globally in the fight against climate change as well as social and racial injustices. When we were students in the US, these texts gave us ways to reconnect to our roots; as professors, they offered us ways to connect with today’s students searching for global justice and service to others. These books help us to realize that there are other ways of looking at the world.


We wrote...

Anthology of Spanish American Thought and Culture

By Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell,

Book cover of Anthology of Spanish American Thought and Culture

What is our book about?

Our anthology is a first—and so far the only in English—to bring together such a wide variety of texts exploring the cultural identities of Spanish America. We begin with artifacts and myths—Mayan, Aymaran, and more—to demonstrate the complex worldviews of indigenous peoples. Succeeding selections offer an array of historiographies, thought-pieces, and personal accounts portraying colonial conflicts and (mis)perceptions, the experiences of conquistadors, Jesuits, and mestizos, the struggles of famous women like Sor Juana and celebrated revolutionaries like Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara along with lesser-known labor activists, artists and marginalized figures like the gay Cuban poet, Reinaldo Arenas. This rich tapestry of readings is woven together by the important question: “Who are we?” The answers are always fascinating—and often surprising.

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of The Huarochiri Manuscript: A Testament of Ancient and Colonial Andean Religion

Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell Why did I love this book?

As a person from the Andes—and moreover from Bolivia, from a small town in an Andean valley—I also lived and grew up in the US, and I always had to explain where I was from, because so little was known of Bolivia’s geographical location, not to mention its indigenous cultures. The Huarochiri manuscript, in its English translation, is one of the earliest oral testaments of the experience of indigenous peoples under Spanish rule: it’s a testament to their oral tradition and beliefs, it’s a testament of cultural survival, coded in their myths, such as that of the Fox’s Tail, explained as cosmological knowledge in our Anthology. I love this book because it brought me back to understanding my own roots and traditions, it was a source of pride, and it undermined all the negative school teachings about Andean indigenous cultures. Originally written in Quechua, it underwent a translation into Spanish and then into English, but it still keeps its vivid language, where one can sense the passion of these voices, which go to the heart of every reader.

By Frank Salomon, George L. Urioste,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Huarochiri Manuscript as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great repositories of a people's world view and religious beliefs, the Huarochiri Manuscript may bear comparison with such civilization-defining works as Gilgamesh, the Popul Vuh, and the Sagas. This translation by Frank Salomon and George L. Urioste marks the first time the Huarochiri Manuscript has been translated into English, making it available to English-speaking students of Andean culture and world mythology and religions.

The Huarochiri Manuscript holds a summation of native Andean religious tradition and an image of the superhuman and human world as imagined around A.D. 1600. The tellers were provincial Indians dwelling on the west…


Book cover of Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru

Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book because it makes me understand the value of being part of many cultures, of a multicultural world, of building bridges between those cultures and surviving in all of them, just as the Inca Garcilaso did, growing up in his mother’s indigenous culture as a member of Inca royalty, while also acknowledging his Spanish father’s culture. I love the way this piece is almost a biography, written in lucid prose, and thus providing an early instance of the linguistic, historical, and cultural fusion that became a distinguishing mark of Spanish American culture. Inca Garcilaso’s text teaches us how to survive in a multicultural world, how to accept change, and at the same time value our diverse identities.

By Garcilaso de la Vega, Harold V. Livermore (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Garcilaso de la Vega, the first native of the New World to attain importance as a writer in the Old, was born in Cuzco in 1539, the illegitimate son of a Spanish cavalier and an Inca princess. Although he was educated as a gentleman of Spain and won an important place in Spanish letters, Garcilaso was fiercely proud of his Indian ancestry and wrote under the name EI Inca. Royal Commentaries of the Incas is the account of the origin, growth, and destruction of the Inca empire, from its legendary birth until the death in 1572 of its last independent…


Book cover of A Sor Juana Anthology

Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell Why did I love this book?

As a Latin American woman, a university professor, and a scholar, I have, at times, found myself having to prove my expertise, and Sor Juana’s book presents this same challenge in 17th-century Mexico (New Spain), giving me the strength to follow her example. Sor Juana fought for recognition in her lifetime, only later to become one of Latin America’s most important thinkers and writers, most notably for her challenges to patriarchal authority, both in her life and in her remarkable writings. In one of the texts of A Sor Juana Anthology, “Reply to Sor Filotea,” Sor Juana set forth a series of brilliant arguments for maintaining her intellectual space, which was threatened by the Church at that time. I recommend this book because it taught me how to reverse an argument intended against you, to transform it in your favor, and how to overturn the gender hierarchy, without negating yourself as female. I also found her arguments to be solid, yet charged with irony, which would make any reader smile, if not laugh out loud.  

By Juana Inés de la Cruz, Alan S. Trueblood (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sor Juana Anthology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a new voice-new to us-reaching across a gap of three hundred years. Sor (Sister) Juana Ines de la Cruz was acclaimed in her time as "Phoenix of Mexico, America's Tenth Muse"; a generation later she was forgotten. In our century she was rediscovered, her works were reissued, and she is now considered one of the finest Hispanic poets of the seventeenth century. She deserves to be known to English-speaking readers for another reason as well: she speaks directly to our concern for the freedom of women to realize themselves artistically and intellectually.

Her poetry is surprising in its…


Book cover of I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala

Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell Why did I love this book?

As a Latin American from a country of such diverse cultures as Mexico, I recommend this book by Rigoberta Menchú because it is the first 20th-century voice from an indigenous woman who has taken up arms in defense of her people. For me this connection also touches my family’s past, because I too, lost a brother to armed conflict, just like Rigoberta. A biography from an author that speaks so personally of this struggle stirs the pages in this book and makes this testimony overwhelmingly moving for any reader. But this deep connection with the reader also creates an international concern for justice. Menchú’s voice puts forward in book form a Maya tradition of community where the collective “we” is stressed in the testimony, as well as a history where experience is one, uniting the writer with the events that are being reported.  

By Rigoberta Menchú,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked I, Rigoberta Menchú as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a global bestseller, the remarkable life of Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan peasant woman, reflects on the experiences common to many Indian communities in Latin America. Menchu suffered gross injustice and hardship in her early life: her brother, father and mother were murdered by the Guatemalan military. She learned Spanish and turned to catechistic work as an expression of political revolt as well as religious commitment. Menchu vividly conveys the traditional beliefs of her community and her personal response to feminist and socialist ideas. Above all, these pages are illuminated by the enduring courage and passionate sense of justice of…


Book cover of Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings

Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, and Barbara C. Ewell Why did I love this book?

Subcomandante Marcos’ weapon, as the title of the book indicates, are his words, coming from his experience as a member and spokesman of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). As a writer myself, I admire the clarity and fluidity of Marcos’ writing, which links the political and moral, the moral and the racial, racial issues with social concerns, social problems with economic ones. The result is a complex and multidimensional image of Mexican reality. The Zapatista revolt is the culmination of a history of rebellions such as the ones by Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa and the student revolts of 1968. I recommend this book because it also touches me personally, both as a participant in the student revolt of 1968 in Mexico, which later became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre, and as an author writing about the Mexican Revolution, Una muerte sencilla justa eterna. Cultura y guerra durante la revolución mexicana. 

By Subcomandante Marcos, Juana Ponce De Leon (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Word is Our Weapon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Today?s Zapatista revolution in Mexico is lead by the fair-skinned, urban, university educated poet-warrior-spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos. Marcos has created a unique fusion between ?the two Mexicos?: the one white / mestizo and western, the other traditional. For the first time, a bridge has been built between both sides, a bridge so powerful that it now seems possible for the indigenous peoples to achieve rights for indigenous peoples and democracy, justice and liberty for all. This book is the first collection of Marcos?s writings to appear in book form. In it he sets out the social and political situation in Mexico,…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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