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Mourning El Dorado

Literature and Extractivism in the Contemporary American Tropics
Charlotte Rogers

BUY Cloth · 360 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942650 · $79.50 · Jun 2019
BUY Paper · 360 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942667 · $39.50 · Jun 2019
BUY Ebook · 360 pp. · ISBN 9780813942674 · $79.50 · Jun 2019

Best Amazonia Studies Book Prize - Honorable Mention, Latin American Studies Association (2020)

What ever happened to the legend of El Dorado, the tale of the mythical city of gold lost in the Amazon jungle? Charlotte Rogers argues that El Dorado has not been forgotten and still inspires the reckless pursuit of illusory wealth. The search for gold in South America during the colonial period inaugurated the "promise of El Dorado"—the belief that wealth and happiness can be found in the tropical forests of the Americas. That assumption has endured over the course of centuries, still evident in the various modes of natural resource extraction, such as oil drilling and mining, that characterize the region today.

Mourning El Dorado looks at how fiction from the American tropics written since 1950 engages with the promise of El Dorado in the age of the Anthropocene. Just as the golden kingdom was never found, natural resource extraction has not produced wealth and happiness for the peoples of the tropics. While extractivism enriches a few outsiders, it results in environmental degradation and the subjugation, displacement, and forced assimilation of native peoples. This book considers how the fiction of five writers—Alejo Carpentier, Wilson Harris, Mario Vargas Llosa, Álvaro Mutis, and Milton Hatoum—criticizes extractive practices and mourns the lost illusion of the forest as a place of wealth and happiness.


"The five novels discussed in this study shed a brand new light on the legacies of the myth of El Dorado in Latin American literatures. Rogers goes beyond the idea that the legend of El Dorado was debunked by the Enlightenment and demonstrates that there is an obvious link between colonial and contemporary times. This is a strong line of investigation which resonates with the most recent debates in Latin American scholarship."

Fabienne Viala, University of Warwick, author of The Post-Columbus Syndrome: Identities, Cultural Nationalism and Commemorations in the Caribbean, University of Warwick, author of The Post-Columbus Syndrome: Identities, Cultural Nationalism and Commemorations in the Caribbean

Rogers (Spanish, Univ. of Virginia) presents manifestations of the illusionary perception and quest for emotional and monetary riches through the removal of resources in the tropical forest as seen in works by five Latin American writers: Alejo Carpentier's Los pasos perdidos (1953), Wilson Harris's The Secret Ladder (1963), Mario Vargas Llosa's La casa verde (1966), Álvaro Mutis's La nieve del almirante (1986), and Milton Haloum's Órfãos do Eldorado (2008).... Highly recommended.


About the Author(s): 

Charlotte Rogers, Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia, is the author of Jungle Fever: Exploring Madness and Medicine in Twentieth-Century Tropical Narratives.

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