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Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America
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Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  120 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Gringo charts two journeys, both of which began a decade ago. The first is the sweeping transformation of Latin American politics that started with Hugo Chávez's inauguration as president of Venezuela in 1999. In that same year, an eighteen-year-old Chesa Boudin leaves his middle-class Chicago life -- which is punctuated by prison visits to his parents, who were incarcerat ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  120 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Michael Andersen-Andrade
Sophomoric Latin America 101.
Mar 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
Stay away from this mundanely written snoozefest.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is about the indigenous peoples of South America along with the Spanish common people and the obstacles that they both face with globalization and industrialization of their country without regard to the environment or the wishes of the people who have lived there for centuries without the modern trappings of civilization of mega tv’s . It is a sad story of the common man exploited by the rich men in power without regard to what is happening to the poor. Exploitation only benefits the ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this book because it was like a lighter and more contextual version of Maximum City, which I read immediately prior. The author takes lots of buses, somehow abandons the crippling sense of not-belonging that I feel in places where I'm richer than everyone else, and talks to people, mostly poor, all around Latin America. The book casually chronicles his travels and contextualizes them with descriptions of the political and social climates of each country. I wish I knew what "neoliberal" p ...more
Sam Dye
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book because it gives a first hand view in multiple countries of the destructive effects of the neoliberal policies effects on the countries he visited and writes about including Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chili, Argentina. The fact that none other than Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Greg Grandin wrote notes goes to illustrate the importance of this book.
Jul 10, 2009 rated it liked it
After reading a review of this book on The Tenured Radical, I was excited to receive it as a graduation gift from family friends. The book offers a rundown on the contemporary politics of Latin America in the guise of a travel narrative.

There is an earnest tone to this book. The author is willing to admit his faults, and be upfront about the contradictions about his privileged traveling through Latin America where he happened to be just about every place that made headlines in the U.S. at the ti
Nov 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Another serendipitous find when picking up River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon another book from the shelves.

This subject of this book is actually much more interesting than he seems. Normally these are fairly well-off white kids bumming around. (I have no quarrel with that; it's just standard in the genre.) This guy is the son of two of the jailed members of the Weather Underground, raised by Bill Ayres & family. As such, his persp
Sep 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ruth by: Christine
Shelves: recently-read
Boudin is truly fascinated with Latin America, & it was fun to accompany him on his journeys by reading this book.

As an editor, I would have liked not having to notice quite so many dangling modifiers--they became more common toward the end of the book. And there were a few errors of fact that I noticed in the chapter on Colombia. The most glaring one: regarding "the people of Cacarica," "many of their ancestors had settled the Chocó well before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers." Not po
Mar 17, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book about a young man's travels in Latin America (beginning as a foreign exchange student in high school), and how his worldview changed as he lived outside the United States. Chesa becomes interested in politics, and as he graduates from high school and then college, he takes different jobs in Latin American countries that help him understand the politics and culture. Like most Americans, I'm fairly ignorant about what goes on outside my country's borders (seriously ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. One of the quotes in this book did such an excellent job at describing how I feel about traveling that I kept it.

"somewhere along the dust-chocked Guatemalan road between...and ...was where I confirmed that I preferred traveling around the slow, bone-rattling way: by bus,with ordinary people. The bus we were riding in had been repainted in bright reds. The inside was colorful too: the seats had springs popping out of the upholstery, and the floor was caked with dirt a
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
I give it a 2.5.

Chesa came of age with a backdrop of Latina America to guide him but I don't think he tells a story very well.

I thought his attempt to engage indigenous people about the government and their educating him on what aspect of politics they know and what they feel actually affects their livelihood was the most interesting part but he didn't explore that enough. He also didn't give enough credit to the history of all of his parents, their views and the privileges he received both due
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Chesa's a buddy of mine, so I was excited to read his book - a travelogue / coming of age story about his many trips throughout South/Central America. The book was easy to read, and the stories were unique and filled with interesting personal details. The writing is thoughtful, and you can feel the author's love of his subject(s). Chesa clearly knows a lot about the history and politics of the region, and has thought a lot about his [very radical:] views on U.S.-Latin American relations. And whi ...more
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Boudin had my ear for the first couple chapters...I love food, chicken buses, and language faux pas. I even wanted to meet this author and swap stories. However, when Boudin tried to get serious about the struggles of life and politics in Latin America, he came out sounding repetitive at best, disingenuous at worst. He did not delve deep enough into the root issues; rather, he followed the party line and spouted leftist political theory with few words used for reflection. Latin America is far to ...more
Boudin is a pretty good writer and this book went faster than I expected. From the description I read of the book before picking it up, I thought it would be a more personal account -- although the whole thing is indeed personal, it's very heavy on the politics. This book will probably fascinate those already interested in human rights politics in Latin America, and maybe bore those who were looking for more of a travel story. I expect Boudin will continue writing through out his life, and it wi ...more
Danielle Chamney
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. Though it was a 'hard' read because of all the facts and political jargon, I found it insanely interesting. Having traveled through some of Latin America myself it helped me to put a lot of the recent history into context. Loved reading about his opinion on Venezuela. Wish there were more thought-provoking, truthful books out there like this one.
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this is an extraordinary book because it allows you to see and feel that other world that is latinamerica. Chesa Boudin's clear language and keen observation are a window into an inspiring time in south america. As a latinamerican I have tried to explain my culture to my US friends and know I wasn't getting through, here is someone who explains it wonderfully.
Highly recommended!
Jun 22, 2009 rated it liked it
From the cover and the blurbs I had no idea this was going to be a political essay. The history on the Latin American countries was useful and sometimes interesting, but the politics were far too slanted for my tastes.
Nov 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't super keen on the writing style, but I'm a sucker for Latin American travelogues. The political history combined with the perspective on present day leftist revolutions on the continent more or less overshadowed the less than stellar writing.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book and found it engrossing, though perhaps a bit too simplistic in its political views. The author is earnest and transparent about conflicts in his philosophy and his travels. A good travel book for the left side of South America.
Bilingual Librarian
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because of the title; I’m a big fan of the word “Gringo”.

Read more at;
Jan 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
Doctrinaire leftists are rarely as naive as this young man. I slowly realized in the course of the book that he actually believes in the pablum he was fed by his surrogate father, Bill Ayers.
Jan 18, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am boy. I travel Latin America.
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
if you are into latin american politics or want to lear more about L.A./S.A. politics......some juicy travel stories.
Mar 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lauren
Chesa Boudin is very reflexive. He thinks deeply about his actions and their consequences. Very interesting book to get a sense of how recent events have shaped Latin America.
Apr 23, 2009 marked it as to-read
Based on a review from the Tenured Radical:
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
Not very well written, this guy thinks he's the first one to notice the nuances of Latin America. Overly leftist and cannot see that everything is not black and white.
May 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
Sort of a snore fest.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, I found it really interesting especially after I visited Guatemala. He shows you a whole new side of South American and a new perspective on their government and politics.
rated it really liked it
Jan 27, 2019
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“somewhere along the dust-chocked Guatemalan road between...and ...was where I confirmed that I preferred traveling around the slow, bone-rattling way: by bus,with ordinary people. The bus we were riding in had been repainted in bright reds. The inside was colorful too: the seats had springs popping out of the upholstery, and the floor was caked with dirt and garbage. Chickens, some tied in bunches and others wandering loose, squawked noisily. Bouncing along a road to a place I had never been, and would never go back to, suddenly felt exciting, liberating even” 1 likes
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