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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

3. David BUSHNELL. The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. 334 p., notes, maps, tables, illustrations, bibliography, index. Cloth: $42.00.

Despite the widespread negative publicity about Colombia, very few scholarly written papers and articles on this country have been published in journals, and a limited number of books in the English language dealing with its modern history have been printed. One of the reasons cited for this omission is the fact that Colombia does not fit the stereotypes and “models” conventionally used to discuss Latin America: almost no military dictatorships, a weak political left, and the lack of a serious “populist” movement.

Professor Bushnell, who has been doing research on Colombia since his visit in 1948 as a Ph.D. candidate, undertakes the task of presenting Colombian history from pre-Columbian times to the 1980s to the English-speaking world. The Making of Modern Colombia is divided into eleven chapters, out of which six focus on the 16th- to 19th-century period. He discusses the relationship between Indians and Spaniards, The Gran Colombia Experiment, the 19th century Liberal Revolution, and the Conservative reaction. Chapters seven to eleven deal with the 20th century: the internal political and economical stability due to the expansion of coffee production and exporting, the Liberal Republic (1930-1946), the Violencia (1946-1957), the bipartisan coalition regime, known as the National Front (1958-1978), and finally, what Bushnell calls the Latest Era (1978-present).

Bushnell points out the contradictions of the Colombian patterns of development during the period of the National Front which continue during the subsequent years; underlines the remarkable ability of Colombians to adapt to the disconcerting levels of violence (guerrilla, drug traffickers, paramilitars, etc.); discusses Colombia’s economic growth from 1975 to 1990; and finally, briefly analyzes the political scenario of the 1990s.

The Making of Modern Colombia offers an “objective” presentation of the main historical, social, political and economical facts of Colombia. Professor Bushnell’s matter-of-fact presentation of the eleven chapters, and the tables on population and presidential elections included in the last section of the Appendix, constitute a useful overview of this Latin American nation to the English-speaking reader.

Isabel Rodríguez Vergara