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American Visa


Bolivia’s #1 novel is finally translated into English. Translated by Adrian Althoff, with an afterword by Ilan Stavans.

$18.95 $14.21

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

American Visa, which won Bolivia’s National Book Prize in 1994 and was made into a movie in 2005, is both dark and quirky, a revealing excursion to a place over which ‘the gringos’ to the north always loom.”
New York Times Book Review

“The narrator of this sweet noir claims to have read Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Dashiell Hammett and Manuel Vazquez Montalban ‘as if they were prophets,’ and their presiding spirits are not far from this winning tale . . . An intriguing window onto a society on the fringes of globalization.”
Publishers Weekly

“A best-seller in its own country, this novel about a man desperate to get into America is one of the few Bolivian novels translated into English, and especially with the present furor about immigration, it is sure to spark interest . . . De Recacoechea celebrates the hybrid in ethnicity and culture, and he does it without reverence or even respect, blending absurdity with harsh realism to tell a surprising story of roots and finding home.”

American Visa, the best-selling novel in Bolivian history, relates the harrowing and hilarious adventures Mario Alvarez endures in his quest to get a visa so he can visit his son in Miami.”
Boston Globe

“Quite possibly Bolivia’s baddest-ass book . . . Ironic that Juan de Recacoechea’s protagonist spends all his time trying to get to America, when it is we who should be getting to Juan de Recacoechea.”
Miami Sun-Post

“The story reads like a great detective novel, filled with nail-biting twists in the plot when you least expect them . . . The characters are well-developed and the settings in Bolivia are painted beautifully, allowing you to immerse yourself in the town that Mario so wants to escape.”

American Visa is beautifully written, atmospheric, and stylish in the manner of Chandler . . . a smart, exotic crime fiction offering.”
George Pelecanos, author of The Night Gardener

American Visa is a stunning literary achievement. It is insightful and poignant, a book every thoughtful American should read, and once read, read again.”
William Heffernan, Edgar Award winning author of The Corsican

“In his search for an American visa, the high school teacher in this novel embodies the dreams and aspirations of many would-be immigrants south of the border. This is a thriller with a social conscience, a contemporary noir with lots of humor and flair. The streets of La Paz have never looked so alive. This is one of the best Latin American novels of the last fifteen years.”
—Edmundo Paz-Soldan, author of Turing’s Delirium

“Mario Alvarez is tremendous, an everyman desperate to escape Bolivia’s despair who can’t elude his own tricks of self-sabotage. At a time when the debate around US immigration reduces many people around the world to caricatures, this singular and provocative portrait of the issue will connect with readers of all political stripes.”
Arthur Nersesian, author of Suicide Casanova


Armed with fake papers, a handful of gold nuggets, and a snazzy custom-made suit, an unemployed schoolteacher with a singular passion for detective fiction sets out from small-town Bolivia on a desperate quest for an American visa, his best hope for escaping his painful past and reuniting with his grown son in Miami.

Mario Alvarez’s dream of emigration takes a tragicomic twist on the rough streets of La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of government. Alvarez embarks on a series of Kafkaesque adventures, crossing paths with a colorful cast of hustlers, social outcasts, and crooked politicians—and initiating a romance with a straight-shooting prostitute named Blanca. Spurred on by his detective fantasies and his own tribulations, he hatches a plan to rob a wealthy gold dealer, a decision that draws him into a web of high-society corruption but also brings him closer than ever to obtaining his ticket to paradise.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Published: 4/1/07
  • IBSN: 9781933354200
  • e-IBSN: 9781617750571


JUAN DE RECACOECHEA was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and worked as a journalist in Europe for almost twenty years. After returning to his native country, he helped found Bolivia’s first state-run television network and dedicated himself to fiction writing. His novel American Visa won Bolivia’s National Book Prize, was adapted into an award-winning film, and was translated into English and published by Akashic Books to great critical acclaim. Andean Express is his latest work.

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