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International Supermodels, Pisco Sour, and Lithium Batteries: Recent Research Topics in the Handbook of Latin American Studies

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(The following is a post by Tracy North, Reference Librarian and Social Sciences Editor, Handbook of Latin American Studies, Hispanic Division.)

[Architectural detail in San Juan, Puerto Rico.] Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer, [between 1980 and 2006], Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
At the end of 2016, the Hispanic Division published Volume 71 of the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS), marking the 80th year of this ongoing joint undertaking between Library of Congress staff, scholars around the country (and the world), and our current publisher, the University of Texas Press. The annotated bibliography provides a selective guide to recent publications about Latin America. The guide includes information about recent books, journal articles, book chapters — as one might expect — and also offers information about recent webcasts, podcasts, videos, blog posts, and web sites with relevant information for students, scholars, and anyone with an interest in Latin America (Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, and South America).

As HLAS Social Sciences Editor, I have the delightful yet challenging task of synthesizing the publications included in the volume into my Editor’s Note. I aim to highlight publishing and research trends for the region. If you’re curious, please consider reading the HLAS Volume 71 Editor’s Note. In the meantime, here are a few of the most intriguing resources included in the volume:

A podcast from a November 2014 conference about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico preserves the panelists’ discussion about the challenges facing the island. The recording and transcript are available for streaming on the Brookings Institution web site.

Male and female Kisêdjê drawn in traditional adornment. As seen in the book “Kisêdjê Kapere: livro para alfabetização na língua Suyá” (São Paulo: Instituto Socioambiental, 1999). This image appears in the article under discussion (Revista de Antropologia (São Paulo), Vol. 55, No. 1, janeiro/junho 2012, p. 213).

In a related work, a 2012 US Congressional Hearing addressed Puerto Rico’s political status vis-à-vis the United States. A full transcript of the hearing along with appendices of supplemental information is freely available online.

It is admittedly rare for us to discuss international supermodels in our line of work. However, one study in this volume looks at the interaction between an indigenous group in Brazil (the Kisêdjê) and a company who worked with Brazilian actress and model Gisele Bündchen to promote sandals with Kisêdjê patterns. Through this story, we come to understand the significance of striking a balance between preserving and promoting indigenous culture and exposing indigenous designs, ornaments, and songs to the world at large. The open-access article is freely available online. You may also want to watch the 2015 webcast of a talk hosted by the American Folklife Center with ethnomusicologist Dr. Tony Seeger – who has worked with the Kisêdjê people since 1971 – about this exact topic. A transcript of the talk is available – but you really should watch the video to get the full effect of Dr. Seeger’s singing!

Another example of research with contemporary relevance is a study that looks at the origins of the popular South American brandy, Pisco (think Pisco sour)—a topic that may be entertaining to some but is serious business to others, especially as global brands and name recognition continue to drive profits. The authors review the contentious issue of who “owns” Pisco—Chile or Peru (Geographical Review (New York), Vol. 101, No. 4, October 2011, p. 518-535).

As more people around the world rely on battery-operated devices for communication and access to information, one study of lithium, an invaluable metal resource for batteries used in computers and hand-held devices, looks at the local impact of lithium mining in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. The author examines the sometimes conflicting needs and goals of government policies, indigenous communities, and economic development, while also studying how the extraction of this precious mineral has affected water rights, among other issues. The open-access article is freely available online.

Puente Incaico en Ollantay [sic]. [Between 1895 and 1905] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
In 2014, UNESCO designated Qhapaq Ñan, the intricate Andean road system constructed by the Incas, as a cultural heritage site on the World Heritage List. While this decision has been celebrated throughout the region, what people may not realize is the amount of effort required for such an achievement. A recent book analyzes the process and looks at how local, national, and international organizations worked together to accomplish this goal.

I hope these examples will tempt you to visit your library and look at print volumes of the “Handbook of Latin American Studies.” The HLAS Online web site offers free access to all bibliographic records corresponding to HLAS Volumes 1–71 and includes tables of contents and linked introductory essays for Volumes 50–65, as well as introductory essays for the historical Volumes 1–49, which are searchable in the database by using the phrase “general statement.” The interface for the site is trilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese). HLAS records from Volume 44 onward may also be searched through the advanced features of HLAS Web. Searches may be refined by language, publication date, place of publication, and/or type of material (book or journal article). Several enhancements to the HLAS Web display of bibliographic records ease the transition from the site to the Library of Congress Online Catalog and offer new ways of navigating the citations.

Comments (7)

  1. Very interesting

  2. Clever postings passed on to latinamericanists !

  3. Passing on to others in field .

  4. Excellent posting! What a great resource.

  5. Excellent write-up of the very rich resources to be found in the HLAS. Thank you!

  6. Pisco is a Peruvian product prepared from a type of grape, Quebranta Grape. The grapes arrived in Peru from the Canary Islands during the sixteenth century. The blacks grapes brought by the Spaniards, due to the environmental conditions of soil and desert climate in the Ica valley (south of Lima, capital city of Peru) was geneically transformed into Quebranta Grape. Quebranta grape was disributed through the coast of Peru and Chile included. In Ica, there is a city called Pisco, that’s the lace where the Pisco comes from ancient times.
    People from my generation never had any problem rcognizing that Pisco is a Peruvian product, the problem started around the 80s approximately, When it was becoming recognized as a high quality drink. From the Pisco we prepare Pisco Sour, its a delicious drink. Chileans lately claim that the Pisco Sour belongs to them. And that’s not the truth. They go forward into claiming that the Pisco belongs to them also, that’s ludicrous. There are historcial sources that justify the authenticity of the Peruvian Pisco and its drink Pisco Sour.
    When Spaniards arrived to America they established its center of control in Lima (Perus capital) it was called “The City of Kings,” the highest authority outside Spain where the Viceroys, they Viceroys were in Lima, and from Lima control the rest of its dominions in America. They brought to Lima their traditions, culture, produces (e.g. grapes), and almost everything that exist in Lima is older than in any other city in America. Lima was founded on January 15, 1535,it is the oldest city in Americas. The University of San Marcos was founded on May 12, 1551; it was created by royal cedula signed by King Charles V in the city of Valladolid Spain.
    This historic process, well documented, prove that Spain established its center of Power in Peru; and the conquerors brought with them their cultural institutions, religious institutions,and their produces: grapes among other products.

  7. Thank you for the comments, all.

    Hector, the historiography is growing about the origins of Pisco, and most support your argument. However, a 2016 book claims “El pisco nació en Chile,” so we will have to examine the evidence (the book is not yet in LC).

    At least 6 books about Pisco (the drink) appear in the Library’s online catalog: – and 3 more about its history specifically:

    A keyword search on Pisco in the Handbook of Latin American Studies ( reveals “a historical archeology study of the wine and pisco (brandy) industry in Moquegua, Peru, from 1533-1823” that sheds more light on the discussion:

    Thanks again for your comments!

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