The Lima Reader: History, Culture, Politics.

Author:Puente, Javier
Position:LATIN AMERICA - Book review

Aguirre, Carlos, and Charles F. Walker. The Lima Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

Lima, the capital city of Peru, is among the most populated cities in Latin America and the world. The city has approximately 11 million inhabitants, more than a third of the national population. Its vast geographical extent, its manifold socioeconomic identities, and its entangled cultural practices express a combination of political centralization, economic disenfranchisements, and racialized segregation as dominant features in the making of contemporary Peru. Editors Carlos Aguirre and Charles F. Walker offer a much-needed overview of the creation of this most important coastal city of the Andes. The Lima Reader presents a series of unpublished or not previously translated primary sources and excerpted literature that reveal the multiplicity of forces that converged to shape this contemporary metropolis.

The book follows a fairly conventional structure that parallels the standard periodization of Peruvian history: pre-Columbian, early colonial, late colonial, the national period, and the contemporary years. However, a more detailed observation reveals two important interventions in the history and historiography of Lima. First, The Lima Reader makes a fleeting but evocative mention of the pre-Columbian past of the city, challenging a dominant assumption that associates the "foundation" of Lima with the arrival of the Pizarros from Spain. The valley of Limaq preceded the Ciudad de los Reyes and provided an enduring name for centuries to come. Second, the book also refers to competing discourses--one nostalgic, the other young and iconoclastic--that are used to contrast the city's romanticized past with its decadent present. Every section of The Lima Reader includes carefully framed introductions that provide context for the primary source documents.

Considering the ambitious aim of this volume of summarizing more than five centuries of historical developments in a few hundred pages, it might be pointless to mention omissions of any sort. However, a few editorial choices deserve more scrutiny in the spirit of constructive criticism. Aside from a brief reference to the pre-Hispanic legacy of Lima, the first section presents an image of an early colonial city that was almost exclusively propelled by religious affairs. Friars and nuns become the protagonists of a foundational period that merged political formations...

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