June Erlick’s Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean: Coping with Calamity

A much needed book for these troubled times . . . by my friend June Erlick.

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

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

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