Cardenas, Sonia. Human Rights in Latin America : A Politics of Terror and Hope. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011: 1-17.

[This picture is on the cover of Sonia Cardenas’s book “Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and hope.” The hand placed on the wall looks to be names of deceased or individuals who disappeared during times of conflict]

“Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope” by Sonia Cardenas, provides a look into the evolution of human rights in Latin America. She illustrates the initiatives that took place throughout Latin America’s counterculture movement which proceeded to draw global attention. The rise of socialism due to an influx of radical ideals and social strife, drew young Chileans, Argentinians, and Brazilians to congregate in the masses to dismantle staunch conservative ideologies. Cardenas dissects groups and governments that constructed a pathway to violence, secrecy, and overall chaos. In seven chapters, the author divides the topics into “terror” and “hope” which conceptualizes the heinous acts of violence committed in Latin American regions and the optimistic approach human rights activists provided.

This book critically emphasizes the violence and heartbreak associated with Latin America during military intervention. Cardenas gathers stories from individuals who either had something happen to them or to a loved one. This not only provides a strong narrative that advocates for the reader to empathize for the victims but enables the topic of human rights to prosper. Narratives of victims enables readers to comprehend the chaos; Cardenas inputs these narratives along with questions at the end of the chapter to generate thought provoking answers that critically assess Cardenas’s statements throughout the novel. The questions at a the end are interesting in regards to the format of the book, which are meant to engage the reader and the author. Because of this, the directed audience seems to be tunneled to students or individuals new to the history of human rights in Latin America.

Sonia Cardenas gathers a sufficient amount of information that present an important read for anyone seeking more knowledge on human rights in Latin America. Her engaging questions and empathetic quotes make the case for a strong novel. These questions however, allow me to conceptualize human rights through a variety of lens’ and critically analyze my own perceptions of events in Latin American history. I will use these questions as guides while doing my own research on Latin American political initiatives as well as social dilemmas that continuously plague communities. 

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