Friday, January 13, 2012

Chile Journal: Prologue

The North American who hasn’t visited Latin America may feel a little like Candide arrrivng with Cunegonde in Buenos Aires and meeting the governor Don Fernando d’Ibarra y Figueroa, y Macacarens, y Lampourdos, y Souza. While Europe and even far away spots like China, India and Japan are familiar to many Americans, Latin America still has a certain exoticism, a certain mystique whose flames are fanned by magical realists like Marquez and sexual realists like Vargas Ilosa. Americans know about Rio with its reputation for Carnival, Venezuela, Oil, Columbia, drugs and Peru, the Shining Path. We are aware that Paraguay, which was once a place of refuge for Nazis, had a dictator named Stroessner and that Chile had Pinochet and Argentina, the legendary Eva Peron. But Argentina while also providing a place of refuge for Adolf Eichmann and others also became home for refugee Jews who were at home in a Latin American city that is particularly known for its European flavor. Buenos Aires still hosts a thriving psychoanalytic community, which evidences the kind of influences which still make it an outpost of European cosmopolitanism on the Latin American continent. You don’t need to travel to Latin America to participate in these generalizations and yet they along with the Andes and the Amazon, two of the most monumental natural wonders on earth carry an enormous sway in the  imagination.  Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, was overthrown by Pinochet  Pork barrel politics obviously exist in Latin America as they do everywhere else on earth, but the result is more often than not a metaphoric boudin in which tantalizing scents emerge from the blood.

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