Some of us at Sabor went to Colombiage for the first time just a couple of years ago; this is a festival of Colombian literature, music, cinema and even gastronomy, which has been held at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for the last couple of years. During that weekend in 2008, we were captivated by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera’s interview with Gerald Martin, who at that time had just published a biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (highly recommended).

Since that time Oscar has become a good friend and regular customer of Sabor, and we were excited when we heard that he had a book of his own coming out, to be titled ‘What if Latin America Ruled the World?’. Oscar’s earlier books have been aimed at the academic community, but this promises to be a great read for any members of the general public with an interest in the broad sweep of history and geo-politics, especially if they are particularly interested in Latin America.
We don’t think we can improve on what his publishers have to say about the book, so we’ve reproduced their introduction to it below – it’s well worth a read.
“For most Europeans and Americans, Latin America is still little more than their underdeveloped sibling, its inhabitants pitching up in Madrid, Paris and London, or struggling across the Rio Grande into the USA. It is a place of exuberant music, mesmerising football, extravagant beauty, fantastic literature, drug-trafficking and guerrilla warfare – in short, exotic, dangerous and exciting.
In this counterintuitive and hugely engaging book, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera sets the record straight about Latin America’s role in world. He shows that, far from fitting its stereotype a region of banana republics and idealistic utopias, the peoples of Latin America have risen up and now stand together. Taking control of their own destinies and resources while distributing rewards, Latin Americans have resisted some of the worst consequences of the unfettered market policies associated with deregulated finance, demand sustained by debt, resource depletion and ‘free trade’ that have wreaked havoc elsewhere. Retelling the story of Latino peoples from their pre-Columbian origins through the Spanish and Portuguese ascendancy and the British commerce and piracy of the Caribbean, to the IMF and ‘the end of history’ until today, this book shows that the official story of globalisation is wrong and misleading.
After having witnessed South American countries fare better than most during the current Great Recession, make their mark in global debates about climate change and assume their role as world leaders, as in the case of Brazil, the rest of the world seems ready to listen. Making its presence felt from Quito to Shanghai, from Brazilia to London and from Buenos Aires to New York, Latin America no longer specialises in losing.
While the world acknowledges the continuing importance of the US in international affairs, few have noticed that with Spanish language and culture in the ascendant the US is quietly but quickly becoming the next Latin American country. In fact, Guardiola-Rivera argues, the next Barack Obama is more than likely to be of Latino origin.
Oscar introduced the book to British audiences during the Hay Literary Festival –the most important of its kind in the United Kingdom, and one of the most reputed literary festivals in Europe – last 31 May. The highly qualified audience attending Hay gave the book a very warm welcome, and the ‘preview’ copies of the book sold out in less than a day. Oscar will be appearing in several venues presenting his book and speaking of its wider implications in the context of the celebrations of the bicentenary of independence in the Americas. On 11 June he will appear at Birkbeck College. On 27 June, Oscar will be at the Trycicle Cinema in London for the ‘Women in Power’ workshop and film exhibition. On 29 June, Oscar will join historian Eduardo Posada-Carbó at the British Library to celebrate the bicentenary of independence in Latin America and the Caribbean, after having talked to Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan at UCL’s Bentham House on the same day. On 14 July Oscar will be at Sabor for a special fundraiser on behalf of Latin American arts festival Colombiage, featuring a selection of readings from his book, and a book signing session. Copies of What If Latin America Ruled the World? will be available for purchase that day.
This is an unmissable opportunity to share what many critics and commentators are already calling ‘an experience’ with Oscar. His appearances in person always involve a fun and deeper experience, as confirmed by the attendants to this years’ Hay Festival and University of East Anglia’s reputed encounter of storytellers from around the world. ‘It’s the man, not just the book. You have to go and see him!’, says Kevin Conroy Scott from London-based literary agency Tibor Jones. On 14 August and 27 August, Oscar will be appearing at the Edinburgh Literary Festival, before travelling to the USA in September for the American launch of his book. In the second part of 2010 Oscar will be at Southbank, and on 16 November in conversation with the author of Gabriel García Márquez’s biography, Gerald Martin, at the Instituto Cervantes in London. Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, the most reputed and widely read newspaper of Brazil, is preparing a feature on the book including an interview with the author. He is scheduled to appear on radio and television in Britain, Spain, Mexico and the United States during the first leg of his book tour.
Both a hidden history of the modern world from the silver peso (the world’s first truly global currency) to Latin America’s clever use of its grassroots politics, new economics and culture, aimed at developing the region’s rich resources, and an imaginative vision of the world to come rooted in a sure understanding of the past, What If Latin America Ruled the World? is essential and entertaining reading.”
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