Audio resources have become increasingly popular in recent years as alternatives to textbook assignments in college courses. As educators have begun to use such resources, cassette publishers have made some on Latin American subjects available. The usefulness and general quality of these materials, just as of books, varies widely.
Salvador Allende is a recording of an interview between John Wallach, a diplomatic correspondent for the Hearst papers, and the late president of Chile. After a short introduction by another commentator, Wallach himself makes some background comments on Chilean-United States relations. He then starts off his interview with Allende by asking a question in English, which is then translated into Spanish for Allende. Allende responds in Spanish, with pauses for an English translation. These pauses and breaks are a detriment to the flow of the interview itself, but the researcher interested in translating directly from Allende’s answer would find it difficult, since the English translation often interrupts or is superimposed upon his answer. The translation, however, is clear and even in tone.
Wallach is thoroughly familiar with his subject matter, and a previous interview he held with Allende in 1972 allows him to ask questions that relate to changes taking place during the interlude. Allende is politely argumentative with Wallach on several questions, but generally is circumspect on sensitive issues. From time to time he interjects humorous comments which enliven the discussion. Wallach in turn asks pointed questions, especially about United States-Chilean relations in general, and more specifically the ITT-CIA interference in Chilean affairs, Watergate, the Chilean Embassy break-in, copper expropriation and international arbitration. The tape does require some background on the part of the listener, and the editors have suggested some collateral reading. Thus, the cassette would be most appropriate to advanced students.
A complement to this interview is the recording Chile, 1973, by Pacifica Tape Library, a panel discussion among Professors Michael Fleet and Donald Bray, Mark Cooper of the Foreign Press Office, and a Joanne Averill (whom the editors fail to mention in their cassette description). The tape is the fifth session of a five-part series on Chile, but the editors do not identify the sponsor nor the female commentator. All of the panel members were in Chile within two years of the panel session, and they offer many first-hand observations. The general format consists of the commentator asking a question which is then answered by each of the panelists, although the panelists, as they speak, are not identified.
Questions raised during the discussion include: definitions of Chilean socialism and class war, the revolutionary nature of Allende’s government, the character of the reforms in Chile, and middle-class mobilization. For a listener (the reviewer assumes the original session was visual too) the conversation tends to drag in places, and one of the participant’s voice fades consistently. The actual content is interesting, but as with so many cassettes, the editors have made too quick recordings, without considering the original purpose of the interview or the listening audience who might use it.
The other two cassettes under discussion have in common that they are interviews with the two leading men of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Other than that, they have little in common. The Philosophy of Che Guevara is a generous title for a very shallow interview in New York conducted by various members of the American Socialist Journalists and Writers with Che Guevara as Cuban Minister of the Economy. To the chagrin of the listener, the day and month of the interview are mentioned, but the year (probably 1964) is not. The commentator, who is one of the original interviewers, is not identified. He has attempted to edit the interview and include the most important questions, but many of them are not particularly valuable. Che does discuss among other things the applicability of the Cuban revolution for other countries, the mistakes of the Cuban revolution, and United States-Cuban relations.
Unfortunately, the format is similar to that of the Allende interview, with a two-way translation from English to Spanish and Spanish into English, but the listening quality of the tape is improved by Ché’s constant humor, such as his statement that “in order to reach power you have to be a little crazy.” On the other hand, despite a very relaxed atmosphere between Ché and the interviewers, considerable background noise makes listening difficult in places.
Forum Associates, the publishers of the cassette The Press Questions Cuban Revolutionary, have the best source for making a technically sound tape, a “Meet the Press” interview in 1959 (although not identified as such on the tape) with Richard Wilson, May Craig, Herbert Kaplow, and Lawrence Spivak, a program designed both for a viewing and listening audience. Both the original and the rerecording are professionally done, even in tone, and contain no background noise. Castro, unlike Allende and Che, answers the questions in English, and despite his lack of fluency, the tape captures a real sense of his emotions. The timing of the interview—only 3 months after he achieved power in Cuba—makes it historically interesting.
The journalists press Castro on several questions, in particular the date for free elections and the communist influence in his early government. They also deal with the purpose of his visit to the United States, his interpretation of democracy, and his views on the governments of other countries. To most scholars there is nothing new in this well-known interview, but it will be interesting to generations of students who were not even in school at the time it took place, and therefore useful for undergraduate courses, especially since it is technically sound.
The greatest weaknesses of these four cassettes are editorial. It appears that cassette publishers, in an effort to capture a new market, are not taking the care that book publishers usually do to complete their tasks. In part, they have been able to do this because cassettes have not come under scholarly review. However, they do need to identify all participants, cite complete dates and locations, and provide any necessary background on the situation of the original interviews, if the tapes are to be useful to the scholar as well as the teacher. Nevertheless, because of their appeal and their timeliness, despite such weaknesses, these new source materials will prove to be increasingly useful to the Latin Americanist in the classroom.