Eric Hobsbawm on Latin America

A1kzaQ0nPBLJohn Paul Rathbone at the Financial Times:

Ten years before he died in 2012, the great British historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote that the only region outside Europe which he thought he knew well and where he felt entirely at home was Latin America. “Nobody who discovers South America can resist the region,” he wrote in his autobiography Interesting Times.

There was the persistent fascination of a continent that is a “laboratory of historical change … made to undermine conventional truths”. It was fun, too: Hobsbawm admits that he did “not even try to resist the sheer drama and colour of the more glamorous parts of that continent”. Because of its European linguistic and cultural overlays, Latin America was also accessible, with “an unexpected air of familiarity, like the wild strawberries to be found on the path behind Machu Picchu”.

Hobsbawm first visited the region in 1960 and was soon “permanently converted”. So began a 40-year intellectual engagement that is of particular interest today, as it illuminates Latin America’s apparent swing away from the political left and away from the revolutionary changes that Hobsbawm, a Marxist, hoped to see.

As a card-carrying Communist, Hobsbawm’s interest in Latin America was first piqued and then sustained by its potential for revolution. There was the “endearing” early promise of Fidel Castro’s triumph in January 1959. More importantly, beyond Cuba there was “a continent apparently bubbling with the lava of social revolutions” — first in Peru and Colombia, then in Chile, later in Central America and Venezuela, and finally Brazil.

more here.