How does a country in the process of becoming a world power prepare its citizens for the responsibilities of global leadership? In Improvised Continent, Richard Cándida Smith answers this question by illuminating the forgotten story of how, over the course of the twentieth century, cultural exchange programs, some run by the government and others by philanthropies and major cultural institutions, brought many of the most important artists and writers of Latin America to live and work in the United States.
Improvised Continent is the first book to focus on cultural exchange inside the United States and how Americans responded to Latin American writers and artists. Moving masterfully between the history of ideas, biography, institutional history and politics, and international relations, and engaging works in French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, Cándida Smith synthesizes over seventy years of Pan-American cultural activity in the United States.
The stories behind Diego Rivera’s murals, the movies of Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, the photography of Genevieve Naylor, and the novels of Carlos Fuentes—these works and artists, along with many others, challenged U.S. citizens about their place in the world and about the kind of global relations the country’s interests could allow. Improvised Continent provides a profoundly compassionate portrayal of the Latin American artists and writers who believed their practices might create a more humane world.