The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela by Brian A. Nelson

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On April 11, 2002, nearly a million Venezuelans marched on the presidential palace to demand the resignation of Hugo Chavez. The opposition represented a cross-section of society furious with Chavez’s economic policies, specifically his mishandling of Venezuelan oil. As the day progressed, the march turned violent, sparking a military revolt that led to the temporary ousting of Chavez. Over the ensuing turbulent seventy-two hours, Venezuelans would confront the deep divisions within their society and ultimately decide the best course for their country–and its oil–in the new century.
Drawing on unprecedented reporting, Nelson renders a mesmerizing account of the coup. An “Economist” Book of the Year, “The Silence and the Scorpion” provides rich insight into the complexities of modern Venezuela.

The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela

Tropic of Capricorn by Simon Reeve

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In Tropic of Capricorn, bestselling author Simon Reeve embarks on a 23,000-mile trek around the southernmost border of the tropics – a place of both amazing beauty and overwhelming human suffering. Heading east through Africa, Australia and South America, Simon encounters breathtaking landscapes and truly extraordinary people: from Bushmen of the Kalahari and Namibian prostitutes battling with HIV to gem miners in Madagascar and teenagers in the Brazilian favela once described as the most dangerous place on earth. It is a collection of daring adventures, strange rituals and exotic wildlife, all linked together by one invisible line.
Like the best travel writing, Tropic of Capricorn confronts important issues of our time – our changing environment, poverty, globalisation – by taking us on an unforgettable journey of discovery.

Tropic of Capricorn

Ripped And Torn: Levi’s, Latin America and the Blue Jean Dream by Amaranta Wright

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Amaranta Wright was a young writer living in Miami when Levi’s hired her to travel through Latin America. Her brief was to befriend teenagers and report back with every aspect of their lives: their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations. At first, she saw the job as a means to travel around a continent she loved. But as time passed, the more sinister and divisive aspects of what she was being asked to do became apparent, her attempts to understand the dispossessed of these countries constantly frustrated by the mechanics of corporate globalisation – its unspoken aim to reduce individuals to bullet points.
This is a compellingly humane portrait of a continent in crisis – riddled with paradox, complexity, beauty and brutality. It is a book about the arrogance with which we in the West refer to ‘developing’ continents, the developed world’s overarching desire to turn people into consumers, and the often insidious methods employed to this end. It is about what happens when indigenous voices are silenced by corporate vision.

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Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil by Caetano Veloso

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“Caetano Veloso is one of the greatest songwriters of the century: a master melodist, a lyricist who merges surreal imagery with a sense of history” – “The New York Times.” Often described inadequately as the John Lennon or Bob Dylan of Brazil, Caetano Veloso is unquestionably one of the most influential and beloved of Brazilian artists and has developed a worldwide following. Now, in his long awaited memoir, he tells the heroic story of how, in the late sixties, he and a group of friends from the Northeastern state of Bahia created tropicalismo, the movement that shook Brazilian culture and civic order and pushed a nation then on the margins of world politics and economics into the pop avant-garde. “Tropical Truth” recounts the story of a country, its most subversive generation, and the odyssey of a brilliant constellation of artists. By turns erudite and playful, dreamlike and confessional, “Tropical Truth” is a revelation of Brazil’s most famous artist, one of the greatest popular composers of the past century.

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Rio De Janeiro by Ruy Castro

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Occupying what is arguably the most breathtakingly beautiful site in the world, the people of Rio – the Cariocas – tell their stories: of cannibals charming European intellectuals; of elegant slaves and their shabby masters; of how a casual chat between two people drinking coffee on Avenida Rio Branco could affect world coffee markets; of an awesome beach life; of faveals, drugs, police, carnival, football and music. With his own Carioca good humour and spellbinding storytelling gifts, Ruy Castro brings the reader thrillingly close to the flames.

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A Gringa in Bogota: Living Colombia’s Invisible War by June Carolyn Erlick

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To many foreigners, Colombia is a nightmare of drugs and violence. Yet normal life goes on there, and, in Bogota, it’s even possible to forget that war still ravages the countryside. This paradox of perceptions – outsiders’ fears versus insiders’ realities – drew June Carolyn Erlick back to Bogota for a year’s stay in 2005. She wanted to understand how the city she first came to love in 1975 has made such strides toward building a peaceful civil society in the midst of ongoing violence. The complex reality she found comes to life in this compelling memoir. Erlick creates her portrait of Bogota through a series of vivid vignettes that cover many aspects of city life. As an experienced journalist, she lets the things she observes lead her to larger conclusions. The courtesy of people on buses, the absence of packs of stray dogs and street trash, and the willingness of strangers to help her cross an overpass when vertigo overwhelms her all become signs of convivencia – the desire of Bogotanos to live together in harmony despite decades of war. But as Erlick settles further into city life, she finds that ‘war in the city is invisible, but constantly present in subtle ways, almost like the constant mist that used to drip down from the Bogota skies so many years ago’. Shattering stereotypes with its lively reporting, “A Gringa in Bogota” is must-reading for going beyond the headlines about the drug war and bloody conflict.

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Ninety-two Days: A Journey in Guiana and Brazil by Evelyn Waugh

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Evelyn Waugh’s chronicle of a South American journey in which he describes the isolated cattle country of Guinea, sparsely populated by a bizarre collection of visionaries, rogues and ranchers and records his nightmarish experiences travelling on foot, by horse and by boat.

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The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont

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In 2008, Mark Beaumont smashed the world record for cycling around the world, by an astonishing 81 days. His race against the clock took him through the toughest terrain and the most demanding of conditions. In 2009, Mark set out on his second ultra-endurance challenge. And this one would involve some very big mountains.
The Man Who Cycled the Americas tells the story of a 15,000 mile expedition that once again broke the barriers of human achievement. To pedal the longest mountain range on the planet, solo and unsupported, presented its own unique difficulties. But no man had ever previously summited the continents’ two highest peaks, Mt McKinley in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina, in the same climbing season, let alone cycling between them. Oh, and Mark had never even been up Ben Nevis before.
Full of his trademark charm, warmth and fascination with seeing the world at the pace of a bicycle, Mark Beaumont’s second book is a testament to his love of adventure, his joy of taking on tough mental and physical feats, and offers a thrilling trip through the diverse cultures of the Americas.

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Cochineal Red: Travels Through Ancient Peru by Hugh Thomson

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Peru wears its ancient cultures wrapped around in layers, like one of the mummified bodies so well preserved by the nitrates of its deserts. After his acclaimed book on the Incas, The White Rock, Hugh Thomson unwraps those layers to show how civilisation emerged so early and so spectacularly in this toughest and most arid of terrains. Many of the extraordinary cultures of Ancient Peru, from the lines of Nasca to the temple-cult of Chavin, buried in the mountains, and the great pyramids of the coast, have only started to give up their secrets and antiquity in just the last few years. Hugh Thomson has been at the forefront of some of these discoveries himself, having made headlines with his work near Machu Picchu. Now he takes the reader on a journey back from the world of the Incas to the first dawn of Andean civilisation, to give an immensely personal and accessible guide to the wonders that have been revealed.

The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey From South America by Tom Miller

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This 15th anniversary reissue of writer/humorist Tom Miller’s travel classic follows the making and marketing of a single Panama hat from the basement of the third world to the penthouse of the first. It’s a captivating story of cultures in collision, raw capitalism, “bus-plunge highways,” and Miller’s unending search for a drinkable cup of coffee. The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey from South America explains that Panama hats don’t come from Panama; they are made two countries away, in Ecuador. (The headwear became popular when gold-rush veterans returning from California to the eastern U.S. snapped up the Ecuadoran straw hats they found on sale in Panama.) Tom Miller knows that, because he traveled there to track down the hat’s origins. His account – a fascinating look at South American culture – relates an exotic and humorous journey that Miller also reported in a four-part series for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The Panama hat trail leads from the Ecuadoran capital of Quito to the boisterous port of Guayaquil, where tropical indulgence is a way of life; from the village of Deleg in the Andes, (where half the adult males have gone to work in the United States) to Lago Agrio in the Amazon (where one-fifth of adult females are prostitutes). He learns of Catholic missionaries seeking converts in a country that is 98 percent Catholic; tries not to think about his chances of surviving bus rides over mountain roads; and profiles some of the last Jews living in Ecuador. Oh, and did we mention the hats? Miller investigates everything from the harvesting of straw in the jungles of Ecuador (where straw-cutters load up their donkeys with sacks of silky fiber) to the remote villages where skilled artisans painstakingly weave each Panama hat by hand (only to sell it for 70 cents) to the chic boutique in downtown San Diego where a well-heeled American purchases the finished product for 35 dollars. Much more than a mere adventure, this book is a study in both culture and the workings (and failings) of global commerce.

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