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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

CENTRAL AMERICA. This region is the consequence of “Colonialism, Dictatorship, and Revolution.” A land of “singular beauty,” its nature “can bring calamity, too, through torrential rains, hurricanes, and violent earthquakes,” and its politics can play “liberal theory and republican dictatorships” which “in time would exert tremendous pressure on the region’s political systems.” Certainly, Panama is just “a Nation and a Zone”; Costa Rica, a “fragile democracy”; Nicaragua, a path from “Dynasty to Revolution”; Honduras, a land “ruled by military”; El Salvador, the same formula with different wording: from “stability to insurgence”; and Guatemala, only “reaction and repression.”

As a whole, Latin America, has “been constantly subjected to external forces” from Spain and Portugal, started to settle “with varying degrees of violence” and to become a “pawn and a prize in European politics.” After independence, some “temporary decline in outside influence” until “the 1880s onward, for the last century or more, the Latin American economies have been deeply integrated into the capitalist world dominated by West Europe, the United States, and later Japan.”

Furthermore, the name Latin America “reflects an imperialistic legacy” taken by some of “The Americans”—we would dare to say, probably from the French writer André Siegfried—and is perpetuated by academia, bureaucrats, and journalists. In fact, we prefer to call ourselves Hispanoamericanos, Iberoamericanos or, simply, Sudamericanos y centroamericanos and norteamericanos y caribeños.

At the end of the book comes a daring revelation: the “Spanish and Portuguese American possessions might have continued well into the nineteenth century as colonies if it had not been for Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian mainland that provoked the crisis of loyalty (our italics) in the New World. The crisis deepened, the monarchies were impotent, and creoles took charge of their own affairs.” Well, well!

The last 50 pages are a “melting pot” of Pan Americanism: the rise, consolidation and zenith of United States influence; the outbreak of economic nationalism in Chile and Argentina, but not in the Paraguay of Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia; the Alliance for Progress or the increase of other international options (Castro, Ortega, Shining Path?) and, in the end, some failed democratic reformers (Frei, Quadros, Frondizi, Belaunde Terry, Lleras Camargo); the failing of the Alliance for Progress and the return of dictators (Ongania) or marxists (Allende) and then the “wide publicity about the U.S. covert activities” to prevent his dissemination.

Although enough is enough, the authors regale us with some understanding of “Latin America in the World of the 1980s”: there is some Latin American country “taking the initiative outside the Continent, representing the cause of the Third World.” Which country? Cuba! Of course, they added that Latin America is receiving recognition on the world stage through Argentina’s soccer World Cup (1978) (Sorry, it was not the first time); Brazil beating the U.S. in basketball (1987); Argentine tennis champions Vilas and Clerc (what happened to Gabriela Sabattini?); Peruvian Perez de Cuellar in the U.N.; writers such as Fuentes, García Marquez, Amado and Julio Cortázar; poets such as Gabriela Mistral and Borges; and musicians such as Chavez, Ginastera y Villalobos. Fine, but where are all the others? Sarmiento, Bello, Lugones, Darío, Guiraldes, Mallea, Zorrilla de San Martín, Da Cunha, Gallegos, to mention only a few? Also, where are the Nobel Prize winners Saavedra Lamas, Houssay, Leloir, Gabriela Mistral, Esquivel and Octavio Paz?

In “What Future for Latin America,” the authors foresee communist parties in “full disarray”; the labor movement in Argentina fighting to protect or restore material gains; and “none of the major political shifts in Latin America directly brought about primarily by workers.” Furthermore, in the ideological competition between the former USSR and the United States, this country reacted “with its own offensive promoting both reform-oriented economic growth and counter-insurgency” and creating a “transition to capitalism [that] has dominated Latin America in our century.”

Regarding Latin America’s contribution to the world, the authors are very, very moderate. Besides the literary boom, Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music “have penetrated North American popular music, giving an unmistakable style and rhythm.” There are some “Theology and church organization...impressive innovation in Latin America.” Not much, really!

And finally, “notwithstanding persistent cruelty to non-Europeans, Latin America has produced societies in which mixed-bloods have enjoyed great mobility.” Persistent cruelty? No. Sporadic in time and limited in scope, perhaps. Great mobility? That’s something, I believe, but not enough.

Although well written, the authors give the impression that they have patched-up several articles, notes and research works into just one volume, with a great many contradictions and debatable, if not insufficient, information.