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Lina Britto

Associate Professor

Ph.D., New York University, 2013
Curriculum Vitae


Geographic Field(s):  Latin American and Caribbean History

Thematic Field(s):  Gender and Sexuality History; Legal and Criminal History; Political and Policy History; War and Empire in History

Principal Research Interest(s):  Modern Latin America and the Caribbean; Drug History; 20th Century Colombia; U.S-Latin American Relations


Lina Britto (Ph.D., New York University, 2013) is a journalist and historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work situates the emergence and consolidation of illegal drug smuggling networks in Colombia in the context of a growing articulation between the South American country and the United States during the Cold War. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University, and her dissertation won a Martin Diskin Dissertation Award honorable mention from the Latin American Studies Association in 2014. She has been awarded research fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation, and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, among others. She has published her academic and journalistic work in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American HistoryNACLA: Report of the Americas, and El Espectador (Colombia), among others. Her book, Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia's First Drug Paradise (University of California Press, 2020), received an honorable mention in the category of Social Science and Humanities from the Fundación Alejandro Ángel Escobar National Book Awards (Colombia, 2021). The book was also translated to Spanish and published under the title of El boom de la marihuana: Auge y caída del primer paraíso de las drogas en Colombia (Planeta/Crítica and Editorial Uniandes, 2022). She has co-edited two forthcoming volumes on Colombia for Routledge Studies in the History of the Americas. She is currently working on a countercultural history of the white Americans that flooded the United States with Colombian drugs in the seventies and eighties. Her courses at Northwestern focus on the hemispheric history of the drug trade and the war on drugs, popular culture and nation-state formation, Cold War history and state terror, and contemporary Latin America in historical perspective.

Affiliated Programs 


  • Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia's First Drug Paradise (Oakland: University of California Press, 2020).
  • “The Drug Wars in Colombia” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History (September 2020).
  • “‘Legalización o Represión’: How a Debate in Colombia Steered the Fate of the ‘War on Drugs’” in The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs 33: 1 (Spring 2019): 88-112.
  • “Hurricane Winds: Vallenato Music and Marijuana Traffic in Colombia’s First Illegal Drugs Boom” in Hispanic American Historical Review 95:1 (February 2015).
  • “El eje guajiro: Nazis, contrabandistas y diplomáticos durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Riohacha, 1940-1943” in Ricardo Oviedo, ed., Pensamiento Poscolonial. Cambio social y relaciones subalternas en América Latina (Pasto, Colombia: Universidad de Nariño, 2014).
  • “A Trafficker’s Paradise: The ‘War On Drugs’ and the New Cold War in Colombia” in Contemporánea 1:1 (2010).


  • “Benjamin Breen, The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019)” in The Americas 78:2 (April 2021).
  • “James D. Henderson, Colombia's Narcotics Nightmare: How the Drug Trade Destroyed Peace (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2015)” in Hispanic American Historical Review 97:3 (August 2017).
  • “Gabriela Polit Dueñas, Narrating Narcos: Culiacán and Medellín (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 2013)” in Hispanic American Historical Review 95:4 (November 2015).
  • “Panama as Crossroads of Empire and Crime. A Review of Illicit Nation: State, Empire, and Illegality on the Isthmus of Panama, by Matthew Scalena” in Dissertation Reviews, posted on March 3, 2014.


Teaching Interests


  • History 102: Contemporary Latin America in Historical Perspective
  • History 292: Watching Narcos: History as Entertainment
  • History 300: Cannabis: Global History
  • History 300: Music and Nation in Latin America
  • History 393/395: Oral History and the Archives of Terror in Latin America


  • History 492: The Caribbean in World History
  • History 492: Modern Latin America General Field Seminar