Checking In

When I met Steven Chew last October he had, just a few weeks prior, relocated his com­pany, Azul Travel, to Buenos Aires. A posh young Englishman formally schooled in Latin American studies at the University of London and the former Latin expert at Lon­don's Cazenove + Loyd, Chew would be my point man in South Amer­ica. For two weeks he and I would travel from Buenos Aires up to São Paulo and on to Rio de Janeiro. In B.A. we would visit the family Fagliano, who hand-tools the most serious polo boots in the world in their ramshackle "atelier" 45 minutes outside town. But don't get me started on Buenos Aires: Eva Pe­rón's tomb, the Alvear Palace Hotel, the kooky fashions in Palermo Soho, the deep glamour of La Brigada steak house, and the wildly fanciful architecture of the Buenos Aires Zoo.

Along the way we sailed the At­-lan­tic amid the 360-odd islands between São Paulo and Rio that make up that extraordinary jet-set getaway called Angra dos Reis, where the likes of director Walter Salles and world-famous plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy own—and sometimes rent out—exquisite beachfront houses. In a home in the small colonial coastal village of Paraty, we took cooking lessons at the Acade­my of Cooking and Other Pleasures, sharing black beans and rice with the man who would have been king of Brazil…had his great-great-grandfather not abdicated back in 1889, making way for the establishment of a democratic repub­lic. From the beaches, clubs, and music of Rio, we choppered our way to that ever chic resort town of Búzios, flying over ba­nana plantations, emerald mountains, and beaches so white and waters so blue, they had to be unreal. But this was not magical realism, just pure wonderment.

For this year's special issue, we thought about covering a simpler piece of geography than we had with China. Alas, things didn't work out that way. After all, there wasn't a first-rate, up-to-date insiders' handbook to the continent that our read­ers could trust, live with, swear by. Every­where we looked were Baedekers rife with clichés and the same old shops, sites, restaurants, and hotels.

We dispatched journalists, photographers, illustrators, shoppers, and adventurers to Ecua­dor, Chile, Peru, Colom­bia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. The result is an issue that's topical, literary, and su-premely serviceable. For "South America Now," we recruited top writers based there—from Larry Rohter, the New York Times's man in Rio, to Borges translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni—to report on politics, personalities, TV, society, and all matters of taste and style. In "The Intrepid Trav­eler," we compiled a high-end how-to guide replete with the right fixers and operators.

At last count, some 43 writers and artists—among them Robert Risko, who created the joyous and inspired cover image, and the wonderful Brazilian artist Marco Sabino, whose work appears on the previous page—contributed. To all of them and to the DEPARTURES staff, thank you.

Richard David Story
Editor in Chief

The Latin Reader

Besides classics like Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths, Gab­riel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, and Pablo Neruda's Memoirs, our editors recommend these works, all of which illuminate the richness of life, lit­erature, and culture in South America.

The Tango Singer
By Tomás Elroy Martínez (2004)

Voices of Time: A Life in Stories
By Eduardo Galeano (2004)

The Hacienda: A Mem­oir
By Lisa St. Aubin de Terán (1997)

Last Evenings on Earth
By Roberto Bolaño (1997)

Patagonia Revisited
By Bruce Chatwin and Paul The­roux (1985)

My Invented Country
By Isabel Allende (2003)

The Moldavian Pimp
By Edgardo Cozarinsky (2004)

News of a Kidnapping
By Gabriel García Márquez (1996)

By John Updike (1994)

The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto
By Mario Vargas Llosa (1997)