A perusal of the bios of the contributors provides the first indication that Tropical Silk Road is not a typical collection of academic papers. In addition to the professors and researchers one might expect, the list also includes Sabrina Felipe, an independent investigative reporter; Paúl Ghaitai Males, “born in the Indigenous community of Compañía-Otavalo and is currently an anthropology student at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Rina Pakari Marcillo, “a Kichwa-Otavalo student of cultural anthropology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Alessandra Korap Silva Munduruku, “one of the most respected Indigenous leaders in Brazil and a law student at the Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (Ufopa)”; Jefferson Pullaguari, “vice president of the Indigenous Shuar Federation of Zamora Chinchipe” as well as Zhou Zhiwei, deputy director of the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.
Chifa. The word may not immediately register with visitors, but once said out loud, the origins of the term for the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants in Peru are obvious to anyone with even a smattering of Cantonese. Arroz chaufa soon becomes recognizable (if somewhat redundant) as fried rice. Once the surprise wears off, it is of course entirely natural. There is a large Chinese diaspora in Latin America for much same reason as there is in the US, UK and Australia.
The Peruvian-Mexican Mario Bellatin is one of the most acclaimed of the current generation of writers in Spanish. Mrs Murakami’s Garden, recently released in English, is at first glance a novella set in Japan about a widow who sets about dismantling her garden in reaction to her husband’s death.
Back in the day, whenever one was in a waiting room or vestibule, one would likely come across a copy of “Reader’s Digest”, which would include a diverse selection of pieces, often abridged, often extracts from elsewhere: easy reading, something to interest anyone and everyone, thought-provoking but not enough to require too much mental exertion.
The only surprise in the growing Chinese presence in Latin America is that it still seems to continue to catch some people (at least Americans) unawares. China is now the largest trade and investment partner for several Latin American countries and the second largest for several more.
The changing balance between Asia and the West is a function not just of the relative rise of the Asian economies but also of the apparent withdrawal of the United States from a multi-decade commitment to global leadership, a development which if anything seems to be accelerating under the only recently-installed Trump administration. One place where these two factors coincide dramatically is Latin America, a region that the United States has long considered—somewhat patronizingly, perhaps—as its backyard.