The Heart that Bleeds: Latin America Now
By Alma Guillermoprieto
Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, 288 pp.
Despite the overblown claims by David Remnick on the cover of this book, where he calls Alma Guillermoprieto Latin America's Orwell (The New Yorker writers should have the good sense not to proclaim each other's brilliance in public), this collection of letters, originally written for that magazine between 1989 and 1993, offers many fascinating insights. Guillermoprieto focuses principally on urban Latin America. Among the best vignettes here is a marvelously crafted account of Mexico City garbage pickers and their political links to the PRI, Mexico's ruling political party; it is a story that tells more about the Mexican regime than 50 turgid accounts by political scientists. Equally instructive is an account of the weird and wonderful world of Brazilian politics and telenovelas where life and art (or at least life and popular culture) are sometimes so interwoven that it is difficult to know where one begins and the other ends. Overall this book is as good a place to begin as anywhere for those who want a better feel for the vicissitudes, follies and heroic everyday struggle for survival in Latin America today.