Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean : Coping with Calamity book cover
1st Edition

Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean
Coping with Calamity

ISBN 9780367265915
Published February 4, 2021 by Routledge
166 Pages

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Book Description

Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean: Coping with Calamity explores the relationship between natural disasters and civil society, immigration and diaspora communities and the long-term impact on emotional health.

Natural disasters shape history and society and, in turn, their long-range impact is determined by history and society. This is especially true in Latin America and the Caribbean, where climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of these extreme events. Ranging from pre-Columbian flooding in the Andes to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, this book focuses on long-range recovery and recuperation, rather than short-term disaster relief. Written in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, the author shows how lessons learned about civil society, governance, climate change, inequality and trauma from natural disasters have their echoes in the challenges of today’s uncertain world.

This book is well-suited to the classroom and will be an asset to students of Latin American history, environmental history and historical memory.

Table of Contents

1. Writing Natural Disasters: An Overview  2 Civil Tsunamis and Humanitarian Aid: A Test for Governance  3. Trauma and Collective Memory: A Flood of Emotions  4. Immigration and Diaspora: A Torrent of Dreams  5. Preparation and Recovery in Chile and Cuba: Fissures  6. Lessons and More Fissures: Mexico and Haiti

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June Carolyn Erlick is the editor-in-chief of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America and publications director at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. She is the author of five books, including Telenovelas in Pan-Latino Context (Routledge, 2018). She teaches journalism at Harvard Extension School.


Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean shows us that the consequences of natural disasters—from the Baru Volcano in 7th century Panama to recent disasters in Chile, Haiti, and Puerto Rico—extend far beyond bricks and morter. . . . Writing with both tenderness and sharp insight, Erlick reminds us that in unequal societies, natural disasters invariably hit the poor hardest. It is thus imperative that we hear the voices of the most vulnerable. That insight has never been more relevant. Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean isn’t about the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America, but it offers a powerful lens through which to understand it—and lessons for those seeking better ways of responding to it.

Steven Levitsky, David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government, Harvard University


Consummate journalist, erudite social scientist, intrepid explorer and Latin American expert, June Carolyn Erlick has the perfect skill set to write a profound and highly engaging book about the complex legacy of natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. With admirable clarity and impressive, interdisciplinary expertise, she weaves a gripping story about the intertwined impact of climate change and social governance on affected populations, laying bare with cogent analysis, how 'natural' disasters are anything but 'natural', and how social inequities not chance determine the impact of calamities. This book deserves a wide readership: with urgency and intelligence, it speaks to constituencies interested in social justice, environmental harm, Latin American history and politics, and the deep interconnections that underpin our common humanity.

Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, USA


Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean is an impressive examination of how communities and individuals struggle with surviving natural disasters, adapt to the aftermath and live lives that are transformed by pain, loss, and suffering. Erlick brings a powerful yet deeply human analytic lens to examine the variety of experiences of undergoing volcanic eruptions, floods, mudslides, earthquakes and hurricanes and having to deal with the always humanly constructed outcomes: social and deeply personal. The stories are so telling that they burn into your memory and the analysis is so ineluctably human that the reader can literally feel the texture of wisdom concerning care and transformations. Not unimportantly the writing is appropriate for our Covid times which Erlick uses as a backdrop for illuminating her subject. Very much worth reading.

Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Professor of Medical Anthropology in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University, USA, and author of The Soul of Care.