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What Inspires Me: The Dance of History

Historian Lina Britto, a former journalist, digs deep into her Latin American roots to understand the past and reframe the present.

wim lina britto

Winter 2021

Lina Britto, associate professor of history

“I worked as a journalist for many years in my 20s, because I wanted to tell stories about the social life around me. When I migrated to the U.S., I continued doing print and online journalism in Spanish. I had just lived through the rise of the ‘pink tide’ in Bolivia and was writing stories about what was happening in Latin America, where social movements were producing deep and radical structural changes. I realized that journalism was not enough for the kind of stories that I wanted to write.

“Obviously, my own country, Colombia, is a huge source of inspiration. I grew up in Medellín during the rise and consolidation of the Medellín cartel. That is always in the back of my mind, prompting me to ask questions and to understand that very complex society that I witnessed as a child.

“I’m always in a dialectical conversation between past and present, seeing how the past is reflected in the present, but also how the present reframes and rewrites the past. That dance between past and present is a source of fascination, curiosity and inspiration for me.”

Lina Britto teaches courses that examine Latin American and Caribbean history with a focus on the drug trade and the war on drugs, the impact of music on nation building, and Cold War terror. Her latest book, Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia’s First Drug Paradise (2020), explores how and why the country became one of the world’s premier sources of illegal drugs.

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