The best books about Latin America 📚

Browse the best books on Latin America as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Potosí Global: Viajando con sus primeras imágenes (1550-1650)

Potosí Global: Viajando con sus primeras imágenes (1550-1650)

By Rossana Barragán

Why this book?

In this methodologically creative approach, Rossana Barragán narrates the history of colonial Andean silver through images. The slim, 90-page book is organized around 12 images and their global movements. Barragán expertly analyzes scenes of underground mining that other European empires used to justify their own violence, depictions of the Cerro Rico that appealed to Ottoman sensibilities, and the architecture of the mint of Antwerp, the city responsible for coining much of Potosí’s silver and printing many of the books and images that shaped early modern understandings of the Andes. Readers looking for an accessible history of the global consequences of…

From the list:

The best books on mining in colonial Latin America

Book cover of East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies

East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies

By Chiara Olivieri, Jordi Serrano-Muñoz

Why this book?

This book uses a transpacific, decolonial, and interdisciplinary approach to study the connections between Latin America and East Asia, concentrating on contemporary commodity extraction and exchanges. The book explores South-South exchanges without Global North metropolitan mediations, thus recentering East Asia-Latin America as an epistemological lens through which to consider these sophisticated networks and produce new knowledge. In my view, the originality of this book resides first in the interdisciplinary connection it makes between the decolonial project and transpacific studies, and secondly, in the two-pronged approach from two unfortunately often disconnected academic perspectives: Latin American and East Asian Studies. 

From the list:

The best books about transpacific studies and Asian-Latin American exchanges and cultural production

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Book cover of Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

By Carrie Hamilton

Why this book?

By analyzing fascinating oral history interviews that allow readers to “listen” to people telling their stories in their own words, Hamilton offers an insightful examination of sexual practices and ideas after the 1959 Revolution. This is a “sexual history from below” that delves into same-sex relations, contraception, marriage, and the intersections between race and gender. The book shows that the political, cultural, and economic changes introduced by Fidel Castro’s regime did not always result in a radical transformation of sexuality. On the contrary, sexuality was a sphere of life in which old values and practices coexisted—sometimes full of tensions—alongside new,…

From the list:

The best books on the history of sexuality in modern Latin America

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Book cover of The Day the World Ended

The Day the World Ended

By Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan-Witts

Why this book?

In early May 1902, the Mount Pelée volcano at the northern tip of Martinique rumbled and smoked. On May 8 it released its fury, killing approximately 30,000 people. It remains an active volcano. The authors tell this story with elan, using original sources to bring in the experience of victims and survivors. But the book is much more than a narrative history, as it uncovers how authorities in this French overseas department in the Caribbean neglected the threat posed by the volcano and obfuscated and stalled in the horrid aftermath.


The Day the World Ended joins these other books in…

From the list:

The best books on natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Book cover of Inside the Company: CIA Diary

Inside the Company: CIA Diary

By Philip Agee

Why this book?

Long before Edward Snowden there was Phillip Agee. A former CIA officer, Agee turned whistleblower, publishing this unauthorized account of his life undercover and exposing many of the “Company’s” operations in the process. Agee worked for the CIA in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. He claimed the turning point came in Uruguay where he listened to the beating of a political prisoner (whose name he had provided to the police) while the police chief turned up the volume of a soccer game on the radio. His matter-of-fact diary included a controversial appendix of agent and officer names and cryptonyms. Incensed at…

From the list:

The best books about covert ops in Latin America

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Book cover of Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí

Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí

By Jane E. Mangan

Why this book?

Mangan’s work completely changed the way that I thought about the colonial mining industry and the complexities of Andean gender systems. Through careful case studies and historical scholarship, Mangan gives voice and texture to the lives of Andean market women, artisans, and ordinary miners who filled the streets of Potosí and its surrounding communities. Trading Roles translates global histories of credit, market capitalization, and urbanization into intimate details of family and community life, and in so doing makes it clear that gender was – and is – a central part of Andean mining history. Readers interested in the interactions of…

From the list:

The best books on mining in colonial Latin America

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