|Cover of the second edition of Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, by John Charles Chasteen, 2006. (Photo by Mark C. Taylor)|
While I generally pride myself on being a well-rounded individual, I will readily confess that knowledge of Latin American history is one of my blind spots. For whatever reason, I don’t remember learning much about Latin America throughout my educational journey. Now that I’m teaching World History to 10th graders, I decided I needed to learn more about this part of the world, and a fellow teacher recommended John Charles Chasteen’s Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. I read the second edition, published in 2006, but the most recent edition is the fourth, which just came out in June, 2016.
Chasteen’s book is an excellent overview of Latin American history from 1492, when the Old and New Worlds first collided, to the present day. As an overview, it certainly helped me to understand more about the historical trends of Latin America, and the difficult journey that many countries in the region have faced since winning their independence nearly two hundred years ago. There were many people and events that I wanted to learn more about-for example, Simon Bolivar, who gets the briefest of mentions in the text, or Getulio Vargas, the longtime President of Brazil who committed suicide in office in 1954. It would have been nice to get a little more insight into some of these leading players, but I understand the difficulty in recapping five hundred years of history for more than twenty countries in less than 350 pages.
If you’re looking to start learning about the rich and vibrant history of Latin America, Born in Blood and Fire is a very good place to start.