Gold, Oil and Avocados: A Recent History of Latin America in Sixteen Commodities

Andy Robinson. Melville House, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61219-935-1
La Vanguardia reporter Robinson makes his English-language debut with an incisive look at how an overreliance on the extraction and export of raw materials has fueled Latin America’s recent political, social, and economic turmoils. Drawing inspiration from Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, Robinson sketches the rise and fall of progressive governments across the region over the past two decades, as efforts to “accelerate growth in order to eliminate poverty and extreme inequality” were undermined by the 2008 financial crisis; tensions between extractivist industries and environmental activists; and U.S. meddling, among other factors. In Venezuela, the collapse of international oil prices, coupled with “erratic management” of the state-owned oil company and harsh U.S. sanctions, contributed to an economic crisis in 2019. In the Michoacán region of Mexico, Americans’ growing taste for avocados has “annihilated” crop diversity and led to the takeover of local farms by criminal cartels. Other commodities that come under Robinson’s microscope include lithium, soy, beef, diamonds, and peyote. It’s a sobering and well-documented picture, shot through with Robinson’s caustic wit (avocados, he writes, are a “tasteless alternative to butter spread on trillions of slices of students’ toast”). This sweeping survey packs a punch. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/08/2021
Release date: 08/17/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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