Negotiating Paradise

U.S. Tourism and Empire in Twentieth-Century Latin America

By Dennis Merrill

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5904-9
    Published: September 2009
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-9863-5
    Published: September 2009

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Accounts of U.S. empire building in Latin America typically portray politically and economically powerful North Americans descending on their southerly neighbors to engage in lopsided negotiations. Dennis Merrill's comparative history of U.S. tourism in Latin America in the twentieth century demonstrates that empire is a more textured, variable, and interactive system of inequality and resistance than commonly assumed.

In his examination of interwar Mexico, early Cold War Cuba, and Puerto Rico during the Alliance for Progress, Merrill demonstrates how tourists and the international travel industry facilitated the expansion of U.S. consumer and cultural power in Latin America. He also shows the many ways in which local service workers, labor unions, business interests, and host governments vied to manage the Yankee invasion. While national leaders negotiated treaties and military occupations, visitors and hosts navigated interracial encounters in bars and brothels, confronted clashing notions of gender and sexuality at beachside resorts, and negotiated national identities. Highlighting the everyday realities of U.S. empire in ways often overlooked, Merrill's analysis provides historical context for understanding the contemporary debate over the costs and benefits of globalization.

About the Author

Dennis Merrill is professor of history at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He is author or editor of three previous books, including the two-volume series Major Problems in American Foreign Relations.
For more information about Dennis Merrill, visit the Author Page.


"Offers the reader a nuanced understanding of how tourism, U.S. expansionism, and nationalist projects intertwine."--NACLA Report on the Americas

"A long-awaited and immensely rich addition to the burgeoning literature on travel, tourism, and foreign relations. . . . The text deserves a wide audience among scholars of U.S. foreign relations, Latin American history, and cultural studies."--Laura A. Belmonte, H-Diplo

"Merrill makes another good case for examining tourism through the new diplomatic lens."--Dina Berger, H-Diplo

"[A] first-rate book on U.S. tourism to Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico."--Kristin Hoganson, H-Diplo

"Point[s] the way to new approaches to empire."--Louis Perez, H-Diplo

"Not only refreshing but illuminating. . . . Equally informative and engaging. . . . The quality of the scholarship is high, the co-organisation of the cultural and political material is always thoughtful and insightful, and the structural and ‘agency’ perspectives and insights offered are convincing and powerful."--Journal of Latin American Studies