Winner of the 2003 Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society.
The chola and the pishtaco are provocative characters from South American popular culture—the former a sensual mixed-race woman and the latter a horrifying white killer—who show up in everything from horror stories and dirty jokes to romantic novels and travel posters. In this elegantly written book, these two figures become vehicles for an exploration of race, sex, and violence that pulls the reader into the vivid landscapes and lively cities of the Andes. Weismantel's theory of race and sex begins not with individual identity but with three forms of social and economic interaction: estrangement, exchange, and accumulation. She maps the barriers that separate white and Indian, male and female-barriers that exist not in order to prevent exchange, but rather to exacerbate its inequality.
Weismantel weaves together sources ranging from her own fieldwork and the words of potato sellers, hotel maids, and tourists to classic works by photographer Martin Chambi and novelist José María Arguedas. Cholas and Pishtacos is also an enjoyable and informative introduction to a relatively unknown region of the Americas.