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Lima: A Cultural History Americas South America Peru James Higgins Oxford University Press USA

6th July 2013 History Books 15 Comments

Lima boasts a Nobel Prize-winning author (Mario Vargas Llosa) and a wealth of lesser known poets and novelists, who have created its rich literary history. Higgins, an academic specialist in Peruvian literature, quotes extensively from these writers as he chronicles Lima’s history from its founding by conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 to the political gyrations of recent decades. Most of all, Higgins encourages readers to linger in Lima instead of rushing through en route to Machu Picchu. Both works will reward the traveler in search of a city’s character. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

James Higgins Professor at Liverpool University, specializes in Peruvian literature. A regular visitor to Lima since the 1960s, he is an honorary professor of the city’s University of San Marcos and a corresponding fellow of the Peruvian Academy.

Formerly the viceregal capital of Spain’s vast South American empire, Lima is today a sprawling metropolis struggling to cope with a population of eight million. Located on the coast between the Andean foothills and the Pacific Ocean, it is many cities in one, with an indigenous past, an old colonial heart, and turn-of-the-century quarters modeled on Paris. Leafy suburbs like San Isidro and tranquil seaside communities such as Barranco contrast with ever-expanding shantytowns. Lima has always dominated national life, as the center of political and economic power. Long a stronghold of the European elite, the city is now home to millions of Peruvians from the Andean region as well as the descendants of African slaves and migrants from Europe, China and Japan. As a popular saying puts it, the whole of Peru is now in Lima. James Higgins explores the city’s history and evolving identity as reflected in its architecture, literature, painting and music. Tracing its trajectory from colonial enclave to modern metropolis, he reveals how the capital now embodies the diversity and dynamism of Peru itself. — CITY OF HISTORY: ceremonial sites and museums of pre-Hispanic antiquities; colonial churches and mansions; the Museum of the Inquisition; monuments to the heroes of Independence. — CITY OF CULTURE: pre-Columbian textiles, pottery and goldwork; Baroque architecture and art; writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Alfredo Bryce Echenique; painters and sculptors; a vibrant popular culture. — CITY OF MULTICULTURAL EXCHANGE: the indigenous legacy; the imposition of Spanish culture; African slaves; European and Asian immigrants; mass migration from the provinces.

Lima: A Cultural History (Cityscapes)

The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics

“A livelier, more literate introduction to a foreign world could not be hoped for. A Peruvian trove, indeed; so much that one hardly knows where to begin dipping into its treasures.”—Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution

“This is an extremely deep, broad, and insightful collection on Peru.”—Jorge Castañeda, author of Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left after the Cold War and former Foreign Minister of Mexico

Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on his way to rediscovering the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Seventy years later, news crews from ABC and CBS traveled to Peru to report on merciless terrorists, starving peasants, and Colombian drug runners in the “white gold” rush of the coca trade. As often as not, Peru has been portrayed in broad extremes: as the land of the richest treasures, the bloodiest conquest, the most poignant ballads, and the most violent revolutionaries. This revised and updated second edition of the bestselling Peru Reader offers a deeper understanding of the complex country that lies behind these claims.

Unparalleled in scope, the volume covers Peru’s history from its extraordinary pre-Columbian civilizations to its citizens’ twenty-first-century struggles to achieve dignity and justice in a multicultural nation where Andean, African, Amazonian, Asian, and European traditions meet. The collection presents a vast array of essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present.

The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)

  • 15 responses to "Lima: A Cultural History Americas South America Peru James Higgins Oxford University Press USA"

    3:24 on July 6th, 2013
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    Excellent selections that give the reader a comprehensive overview of the fascinating country of Peru. Selections extend from pre-Inca to present day and include everything from politics to poetry. Filled with primary sources, the reader should appeal to both students and travelers alike.

  • Retarded crew
    4:12 on July 6th, 2013
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    I highly recommend this book if you’re traveling to Peru and would like to know about Lima’s history, treasures, problems. It’s very useful for people doing Latin American studies.

  • shadowsun
    7:00 on July 6th, 2013
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    Really good collection of a variety of excerpts from some interesting books. A lot of good poetry too; like Osman Morote’s “A Frightening Thirst for Violence”:

    “The dictator
    shifts his gaze
    and a rose
    acclaimed as fragrant
    falls, in a slice,
    from just one

    The dictator
    swivels his hands
    one worker
    falls, the wife of a
    falls, the children of a

    what a frightening thirst
    for vengeance
    devours me”

    Morote became the second-in-command in the Shining Path, which the book treats even-handedly, except it does tend to leave out sufficient details of the kind of daily suffering due to exploitation and inequality that led people like Morote to sacrifice his life. The book does include testimony from a government soldier, casually discussing his rapes, murders and tortures, and mentions that during the war, far more people were killed by the government than by the rebels. Some surprise.

    The best instance of a description of the kind of reality people lived in – terribly far away from the wealth and comfort of rich countries – that would explain a bit about why people would give up their lives in the Shining Path or the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to create a better society: another poem, an excerpt from “The Battle of Ayacucho” by Antonio Cisneros, which strips of glory the decisive battle that won Peru independence from Spain:

    From a Mother

    My sons and the rest of the dead still
    belong to the owner of the horses
    and the owner of the lands, and the battles.
    A few apple trees grow among their bones
    and the tough gorse. That’s how they fertilize
    this dark tilled land,
    That’s how they serve the owner
    of war, hunger, and the horses.”

  • Sports Fan
    7:51 on July 6th, 2013
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    I know virtually nothing about Peru and I am going there for two weeks in August. This book was suggested as a thorough primer. It is proving to be just that…

  • Wyatte
    10:50 on July 6th, 2013
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    This is a great book for the history of Peru. The chronological order is perfect. All the essays are wonderful to read. I think I learned more about Peru with this book than any other.

  • Adi Mishra
    16:37 on July 6th, 2013
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    Five stars for this book. After I returned from a six week trip to Peru, I was perplexed, astonished, and intrigued by so much that I saw and experienced there. I bought this book hoping it would answer some of my questions. On the contrary, it answered ALL of my questions and left me asking and wanting to read more. What a fascinating country and culture! I was a Latin American Studies major in college, and I learned an incredible amount from this book. I wouldn’t recommend taking this book on your trip with you (it’s quite large and heavy), but it would be a great intro to the country you’re about to visit, or when you’re back home missing your vacation, a great resource to dip into to remember and learn more about Peru. As another reviewer mentioned, I too wish there was such a book like this for every country I travel to! I will be reading this book again, and I highly recommend it to those who will be traveling to Peru, or to those armchair travelers who have an interest in Latin America.

  • Big Boy
    18:18 on July 6th, 2013
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    This anthology contains materials written by Peruvians and by outsiders who have studied Peru closely.

    The first half of the collection contains essays and excerpts from the writings about major historical events and some historical documents.

    The second half of the book contains articles on Velasco Alvardo and the military reformist government, the Shining Path and drug traffic. There are also a wide range of materials: essays, folklore, poetry, songs, extracts from novels, short stories, autobiographical accounts, a menu, a travel account, a death sentence, and photographs and other materials.

    Ruben Berrios wrote a scholarly review of the 1995 edition for the “Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs”, Summer 1997, which is available online.

    At this writing, Amazon allows one to search through part of the 1995 edition; it is worth searching out the 2005 edition. There are not a large number of changes from the first edition, but a few contributions explore more recent developments. The cover of the 1995 edition is in black and white; the cover of the 2005 edition is in color.

    The book is too rich and complex to carry to Peru on a short tour, but is a great resource when preparing for your trip.

    Robert C. Ross 2008

  • Gary Altman
    20:46 on July 6th, 2013
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    I haven’t gotten too far in this book yet, but it is a very diverse and comprehensive overview of Peru’s history. Some of the pieces are of a more “textbook” nature, but inclusion of poetry and other sources makes for a less boring read than the average historical tome.

  • J Y Vance
    22:45 on July 6th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Perhaps this book’s overwhelming for a newcomer. But, if you have a basic knowledge of Peru already, this over 500-page collection of stories, chapters from academic books, poems, folktales, political reportage, popular journalism and interviews, and historical and anthropological coverage satisfies the need in English for a comprehensive starter for further research and reading on many topics.

    Organised into chronological order, sections progress from pre-Inca, Inca, Conquest, Post-Conquest, Colonial and Republican periods into the 19c. These intersperse scholarly investigations with narratives. Then, politics, the Shining Path, the drug wars, the urban squatters turning land into new communities, activists among the feminist, evangelical, and gay communities, liberation theology and local leadership, and life among both villages and in Lima add chapters that comprise about half of the total text.

    Most rewarding for me were the chronicles by the Incas after the Conquest, John Hemming’s chapter on Atahualpa and Pizarro, folktales bookending the text from early and Amazon peoples, Steve J. Stern’s analysis of post-Conquest creolisation and its discontents, Manuel Cordova’s tale of life a century ago after he was abducted by Amazon indians, and the fascinating account by Catherine J. Allen from her The Hold Life Has all about coca-leaf ritual bonding. Anyone who associates coca only with cola or crack might learn a lot from this anthropological description of how chemicals sustain fellowship, and also force gatherings to acknowledge etiquette and social class distinctions–even under the influence!

    The literary offerings, poems, novel excerpts, and stories, are less intriguing, but worthwhile. I sense some of these–as with the Vargas Llosa chapter from his novel Conversations in the Cathedral–were a bit wrenched out of a more rewarding context.
    I wish the past ten years, the downfall of Fujimori and the attempt by Toledo to stabilise a tottering state, could have been included in an updated edition, which could also look at the fate of Guzmán and his Shining Path cohorts. Life in the diaspora–a million Peruvians live abroad–would also be enlightening. But, until these hypothetical additions, this is a promising book for anyone curious about Perú. As the back jacket asserts, there’s nothing like this in English–or Spanish.

    Also recommended: Robin Kirk’s The Monkey’s Paw for 1980s/early 90s Peru; Gustavo Gorriti’s history, translated by Kirk, on the Shining Path, and Vargas Llosa’s memoir of running for president, Fish Out of Water; his novelisation of Guzman, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta; his mystery novel also set in this period, Death in the Andes.

  • Brandy
    4:24 on July 7th, 2013
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    This book tells about it all from all sorts of people from the conquiers to the Indeans plus the shing path and the Presedint

  • Vavvvv
    10:21 on July 7th, 2013
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    I took this book to Peru on a trip to see the great archeological sites. I was blown awqy by the information I got from this book. Not only was I informed on so many topics but introduced to several brilliant Peruvian authors. The book was so strong I wept deeply over the history of the native peoples, I was amazed at the strength to survive under the most difficult political and cultural situations. The book was so well written that all the history and politics, not my usual reading, soaked in painlesssly, actually joyfully. I wish there were such a great book to take on every trip I go on, it enhanced my trip a million times over.

  • Nelda Vane
    19:03 on July 7th, 2013
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    What a wonderfully literate collection of writings which give the traveler (actual or armchair) both the information and flavor he needs to introduce him to this complex country. I started too close to my departure for Peru to read every word, but found myself unable to decide what to skip. What seemed a boring topic turned out to be fascinating! So, start early — the book is pretty bulky to carry on your trip.

  • Rick Z
    22:03 on July 7th, 2013
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    this is an interesting collection of exerpts from books, articles, archives… for those interested in learning more about Peru’s history and development. i would have liked to see bibliographical references for the selected materials.

  • How Lame
    1:08 on July 8th, 2013
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    James Higgins describes the “mysterious city,” of Lima with such great expertise that even frequent visitors of Lima will benefit from this new Oxford University Press publication. On that note…if you are going to Lima for the first time, certainly do yourself the favor and buy this book.

    This is a five part book. Part One is short (14 pages), introduces Lima’s setting, climate, history, power struggles, painful independence and modernization and change. Part Two is super short (7 pages) and reviews the pre-history of Lima. Part Three and Four is the meat of the book and provides an extensive guide to practically everything of historical importance to Lima. Finally, Part Five covers the expanding metropolis and ends with a passage on the future.

    James Higgins is a master of Lima’s history, architecture, literature, painting and music. Moreover, the author includes outstanding drawings, a list of further reading (on pgs. 232 -235), plus a highly organized index of literary and historical names as well as a detailed index of places. This book is mandatory reading for the serious visitors of Lima. Highly recommended.

    Bert Ruiz

  • IthacaMatt'sCow
    6:07 on July 8th, 2013
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    Best deep cultural introduction to Peru I have found. This is NOT a travel guide, but an introduction to the “culture, politics and history” of the country as the title suggests. It lives up to its name. Especially useful if you get outside of Lima in your Peruvian visit. This has a permanent place in my library.

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