Claudio Lomnitz: Nuestra América
Eminent anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz, the founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Mexican Studies, discusses his heart-wrenching new memoir Nuestra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation. Lomnitz traces his family’s extraordinary voyages across Romania, Peru, Colombia, Israel, California, Mexico, Chile, and beyond. Weaving the stories of Jews like them, who fled Europe to South America, with the complex web of Latin American history, Nuestra América adds to the canon of indelible narratives on exile, immigration and family memoir, yet skillfully transcends all genre to reveal the complex and subtle connections between South American radical movements and Jewish emancipation and exile in the early 20th century. Register for this virtual program here.
This program is part of the Jeanne M. and John W. Rowe Program Series, presented in conjunction with the AWM’s special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.
More about Nuestra América:
A riveting study of the intersections between Jewish and Latin American culture, this immigrant family memoir recounts history with psychological insight and the immediacy of a thriller.
In Nuestra América, eminent anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz traces his grandparents’ exile from Eastern Europe to South America. At the same time, the book is a pretext to explain and analyze the worldview, culture, and spirit of countries such as Peru, Colombia, and Chile, from the perspective of educated Jewish emigrants imbued with the hope and determination typical of those who escaped Europe in the 1920s.
Lomnitz’s grandparents, who were both trained to defy ghetto life with the pioneering spirit of the early Zionist movement, became intensely involved in the Peruvian leftist intellectual milieu and its practice of connecting Peru’s indigenous past to an emancipatory internationalism that included Jewish culture and thought. After being thrown into prison supposedly for their socialist leanings, Lomnitz’s grandparents were exiled to Colombia, where they were subject to its scandals, its class system, its political life. Through this lens, Lomnitz explores the almost negligible attention and esteem that South America holds in US public opinion. The story then continues to Chile during World War II, Israel in the 1950s, and finally to Claudio’s youth, living with his parents in Berkeley, California, and Mexico City.
Praise for Nuestra América:
“[Lomnitz] takes his rich family history and builds a narrative of universal significance…There is no end of intriguing anecdotes in these pages…A masterpiece of historical and personal investigation.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An intelligent book about a family’s struggle to find a home they could call ‘our America.’ A timely reminder of the humanity of immigrants.”
“An autobiography in which we Latin Americans all recognize ourselves.”
—Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature
CLAUDIO LOMNITZ is an anthropologist, historian, and critic who works broadly on Latin American culture and politics. He is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Lomnitz’s books include Death and the Idea of Mexico and The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón, among many others. As a regular columnist in the Mexico City paper La Jornada and an award-winning dramaturgist, he is committed to bringing historical and anthropological understanding into public debate.