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a cup of Forgotten Continent

September 13, 2012

I love research. I spend a lot of time researching coffee related information, as well as a few location based blogs and projects, but did not yet have an over arching picture of Latin America,( defined in the book as countries in Central and South America as well as Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.) Michael Reid’s Forgotten Continent was recommended to me as a great introduction to fix this missing link.

Reid is British and as a good researcher, he strives to be unbiased as he discusses the challenges that Latin America faces. He jumps around from country to country following a timeline based on a specific theme. These themes include the incidents surrounding the debt crisis and the Washington Consensus and how they affected specific countries. Reid also discusses how Each Latin American country reacted and how they progressed until 2006. This is a bit confusing as he goes back and forth through time but he takes on this task very well and allows a full picture of an issue to be addressed. I almost wish the book was in two parts. One by major historical incidents and one a chronological history of each country so that I could have a cohesive linear picture as well as one that is based in events.

This book was referred to me by a trusted friend and advisor who is from Nicaragua and I gained gained better insight into the mentality of Latin America through our discussion about the book. He says that in Latin America the driving mentality is to accept your fate and stay quiet, there is nothing to be done while North America says Protest! you must act to change the world. Neither positive or negative alone, both attitudes direct and drive the two areas as they interact with each other whether they realize it or not. Even in my desire to work with and learn more about coffee farmers I want to change the system to make it better. This book reveals the very North American mindset of this idea and its implications for ethnographic research.

I would recommend the book if you are interested in a comprehensive overview of Latin America. I know it has added to my worldview as I research coffee farmers’ and their lives.

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