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In the Land of God and Man: A Latin's Woman's Journey ebook

by Silvana Paternostro

In a pioneering report on AIDS in Latin America, a distinguished Latin journalist reveals that monogamous women have a greater risk of contracting the disease than others due to the secret lives of their male partners who are either gay or bisexual. Reprint.
Bias and stretching some truth or adding unfunded claims to make a point without real knowledge of conditions in different LatinAmerican countries besides her native Colombia. The only thing that helps is plain real facts, any other thing does not help the progress of equality. Besides, you have to be very naive to just "see" some things by coming to the States, a Country that still has more elaborated inequalities towards women, and minorities too.
She wrote other good books, this one is forgettable.
We thought we were getting two different books, but this is the same as In the Land of God and Man: Confronting our Sexual Culture. It is an excellent book though and the good news is that one copy, this one, is paperback (for lending out) and the other is hardback for NOT lending out. But as we said in our review of the other book, this is an insightful and interesting look at Latin culture and experience, through the eyes of a woman who lived it.
I expected this book to be more auto-biographical. But, in fact, only the first chapter is primarily about Paternostro's own transformation from an aristocratic young woman in Colombia to a liberal American feminist. Instead the other chapters are based on her interviews with various people - an impoverished teen mother in Brazil, a wealthy Guatemalan man who transmitted AIDS to his wife and daughter, transvestites in Colombia, etc. But Paternostro's theme remains loud and clear - that Latin American culture is dominated by machismo and a sexual hypocrisy that harms all its people, but especially women.

I read this book because my wife is originally from Ecuador and I am always interested in learning more about the culture she grew up. My wife moved to the United States at age 31 and we didn't get married until she was 38 and I was 36. She is moderate to liberal in her political beliefs and agrees with Paternostro that traditional Latin society is machista (sexist) and difficult for women. She also agrees that they should offer better sex education there, especially as it relates to birth control. But my wife is still intensely proud of her Ecuadorian heritage and would probably feel that Paternostro is too harsh in her attacks while ignoring the many positives aspects of traditional Latin society.

However, I do understand the strident tone of Paternostro's arguments. This is because the negative effects of Latin machismo and sexual hypocrisy are so damaging that a strong, clear voice does need to be raised against them. It was especially interesting for me to read this book when I did because we were visiting my wife's brother and sister in law in California. The brother moved to the United States when he was only age 10 and the sister in law was born here. But they still seemed intensely focused on "training" their daughters in the domestic arts of cooking and cleaning. Meanwhile the son was pretty much allowed to run free as "prince of the castle." Her brother also openly admitted he would be much stricter with the daughters than the son. To him this was just "common sense." But to me it was very troubling.

So, as Paternostro discusses in her final chapter on "Northern Ladies," many Latin immigrants are choosing to continue their traditional "machistic" practices in the United States. But my hope is still that a majority of people, throughout the world, will give up the sexist, hypocritical beliefs of the past and build a new way of life based on gender equality and sexual freedom.
Silvana Paternostro's determination to expose the troubling ways in which the culture of machismo threatens the health and well-being of Latin American women and families is admirable, though at times a little repetitive. An upper-class Colombian who has migrated to New York, Paternostro might well be viewed as more of an outsider than an insider by Latin Americans, a "Western feminist" determined to attack the culture in which she was raised. But although her critiques are strong, they are also largely justified. In the Land of God and Man includes both interviews with health professionals and men and women from all classes of Latin American society. She reveals the troubling phenomenon of men having sex with men to prove how macho they are, and then spreading HIV to their wives--a problem widespread enough that a housewife in Latin America is more likely to get AIDs than a female prostitute. This concern needed to be documented and publicized even more than Paternostro can do.

However, the book is not perfect; given that Paternostro is a journalist by profession, I would have expected her to have collected more interviews from a wider range of countries-there are surprisingly few with women of the lower classes, and none with female prostitutes. Additionally, the book has no references, even when she cites health statistics or quotes Latin American politicians. I can understand protecting the anonymity of the subjects interviewed on sensitive topics, but when writing a non-fiction expose, you should cite whenever possible.

This book is well-worth reading for a better understanding of the effects of machismo on individuals and society, but it is not quite deep enough an analysis to be a classic. Paternostro is not the Friedan or Beauvoir of Latin America.
In the Land of God and Man: A Latin's Woman's Journey ebook
Silvana Paternostro
EPUB size:
1249 kb
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1103 kb
Plume (September 1, 1999)
336 pages
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