Monday, December 21, 2015

Melillo's Strangers on Familiar Soil

I read Edward Dallam Melillo's book Strangers on Familiar Soil: Rediscovering the Chile-California Connection (2015) to review for Journal of Interdisciplinary History. It's a history of bilateral relations, and he paints a really interesting picture of how much California and Chile have influenced each other, but also how much of that influence doesn't get acknowledged. So, for example, the building of San Francisco during the Gold Rush had a lot to do with Chilean labor and agriculture, but few are aware of that.

That relationship is not always positive. A snippet from the review:

Chileans (like other foreigners, especially Mexicans) were also harassed, attacked, hanged, and lynched, all in the name of civilization. Indeed, the tone of the book tends toward the negative, where Chile gets the short end of the transnational stick. Californians brought wine knowledge and Monterey pines to Chile, for example, but that had all sorts of negative social and environmental repercussions. Californian academics in the 1960s celebrated scientific exchanges that took more than they gave (though, to be fair, they called for their termination after the 1973 coup). As Melillo notes, “Chile’s landscapes underwent profound transformations to supply the ingredients for California’s increasingly ravenous metabolic cycles” (200). 

It would be interested to do an analysis of the post-dictatorship era. How much is that ravenous appetite still going?


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