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Volume 50 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Colombia and Ecuador

JANE M. RAUSCH, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

HIGH QUALITY BOOKS by Colombian and foreign scholars continue to expand the historical literature on the 19th and 20th centuries - a trend undergirded by a boom in Colombian publishing. New monographs, document collections, Spanish translations of North American dissertations and traveler accounts fill the shelves of bookstores in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. These attractive publications attest to the professionalization of history as a discipline in Colombia and reflect a desire on the part of the public to find in the past the roots of the prolonged civil strife that has plagued the country throughout the 1980s.

For the 19th century, historians have focused upon the role of regions in national formation. In a seminal essay published in Revista Andina (item bi 89006547), Germán Colmenares urges his colleagues to adopt social science concepts and methodologies to assess regional differences within the Andean republics. The potential value of such an interdisciplinary approach is well-demonstrated in an extended article by sociologist María Teresa Uribe de H. and economist Jesús María Alvarez, who analyze regionalism to ascertain the origins of Colombia's economic dependence (item bi 89006721). Three fine monographs deal with regional themes. In his revised dissertation, James Park argues that Rafael Núñez reacted against the debilitating forces of regionalism he had earlier represented to lay the institutional basis of Regeneration between 1880-84 (item bi 89006707); Marco Palacios in the second Spanish edition of El café en Colombia has, among other changes, amended the introductory chapter on the state and problems of regionalism (item bi 89006705), and Cathy LeGrand traces the expansion of agriculture into frontier regions between 1830-1936, characterizing the process as a struggle between peasant settlers and entrepreneurs (item bi 89006694). The Spanish translation of David Johnson's solid dissertation on Santander during the Federation Era makes accessible a work previously unpublished in English (item bi 89006557). Short essays on the Quindío by Ortiz and Casanare by Rausch (items bi 89006704 and bi 89006713) highlight long-neglected peripheral territories, and there are studies of three municipios - Corrales in Boyacá (item bi 89006708), Bucaramanga in Santander (item bi 89006695), and Silvania in Cundinamarca (item bi 89006722). The Banco de la República's magnificent translation of New Granada: twenty months in the Andes (item bi 89006554) by Isaac Holton, the Yankee botanist who traveled through most of the country in 1852-53 and left detailed observations about customs and manners, will aid scholars who are trying to identify regional distinctions in the 19th century.

Regeneration and the War of 1000 Days have also commanded considerable attention. Besides the book by Park previously mentioned, Gonzalo España concludes in La Guerra civil de 1885 (item bi 89006548) that it was the Radicals' intransigence that made their defeat by Núñez inevitable, while political scientist Gullén Martínez pinpoints Regeneration as the first example of an alliance between the traditional political parties (item bi 89006550) - a tendency traced through the 20th century by former president Pastrana Borrero in his address to the Academia Colombiana de Historia (item bi 89006709). Concerning the conflict that abruptly ended Regeneration, retired colonel Guillermo Plazas Olarte provides a military analysis of the battles of the War of 1000 Days (item bi 89006710), París Lozano has written a popular biography of Tulio Varón, a key Liberal guerrilla leader in Tolima (item bi 89006706), and the memoirs of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega fill in the events of the Panama campaign of 1900-02 (item bi 89006702).

Moving on to the 20th century, the publication of the writings of major political actors is bringing these shadowy figures into focus. Vol. 29 of the Colección Pensadores Políticos Colombianos contains speeches and essays of Augusto Ramírez Moreno (item bi 89006712); Gutiérrez Villegas examines the confidential correspondence between Eduardo Santos and Luis López de Mesa (item bi 89006551), and La Nueva Prensa is a two-volume collection of articles chosen from the pages of the influential weekly periodical of the same name published between 1961-65 and introduced by the editor, Alberto Zalamea (item bi 89006724). Editorial Gamma has brought out a second edition of Zuleta Angel's biography of López Pumarejo lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs (item bi 89006725). Other biographies range from uncritical sketches of Archbishop Ismael Perdomo and right-wing Conservative Gilberto Alzate Avendaño (items bi 89006703 and bi 89006717) to Darío Acevedo's competent examination of the life and work of Gerardo Molina (item bi 89006517), and the Spanish translation of Thomas Tirado's provocative doctoral dissertation that presents López Pumarejo as the chief architect of the National Front (item bi 89006720). Clearly, however, the outstanding entry in this category is Herbert Braun's masterful account of the life and death of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (item bi 89006519). Reaching beyond the confines of a standard biography, Braun has merged historical and social science methodology to produce a brilliant analysis of the Colombian political system on its own terms.

Interest in La Violencia remains high. Gonzalo Sánchez's review article summarizes the state of knowledge about this tragic period in 1984 (item bi 89006719), and the publication of the papers presented at the first symposium on La Violencia held in Bogotá in that same year charts the progress being made by 14 scholars on different fronts (item bi 89006716). Anthropologist Alfredo Molano draws upon hundreds of interviews to show the impact of La Violencia on a personal level (item bi 89006699). Medófilo Medina offers an imaginative comparison of urban protests between 1909-77 (item bi 89006696), and Fabiola Calvo has written an informative history of the Ejército Popular de Liberación during 1964-84 (item bi 89006521).

Finally, note should be made of the appearance of three new volumes in the Historia extensa de Colombia (item bi 89006553) that survey natural science, architecture and engineering respectively. Somewhat superficial, they nevertheless underscore aspects of Colombian history usually overlooked and will serve as points of departure for scholars wishing to cultivate these "exotic" fields.

Though still lagging behind Colombia, the quality of Ecuadorian publications has shown a marked improvement during this reporting period. Two comprehensive travel accounts are among newly available primary sources - Imagen del Ecuador written by Joaquín de Avedaño, a Spanish diplomat posted to Ecuador in 1857-58 (item bi 89006742), and a Spanish translation of Albert B. Franklin's Ecuador: portrait of a people originally published in 1943 (item bi 89006754). From the Univ. of Guayaquil comes an edition of the writings of Pedro Carbo, a prominent 19th-century Liberal (item bi 89006748), and the Banco Central has published two intriguing photograph collections of Quito and highland Ecuador at the turn of the century (items bi 89006761 and bi 89006760).

Biography remains a popular form of historical synthesis. There are studies of the 19th-century Liberal José Peralta (item bi 89006745) and two little known 20th-century presidents - Isidro Ayora (item bi 89006741) and Juan de Dios Martínez Mera (item bi 89006758) - and Vásconez Hurtado has completed the second of a projected three-volume biography on Juan José Flores (item bi 89006764). Frank Spindler's survey of Ecuadorian history between 1808-1912 is pedestrian but still serviceable (item bi 89006762). More imaginative are Flor Vásconez's essay on the Constitution of 1830 (item bi 89006752), Ayala Mora's analysis of the 1883 Conservative Party program (item bi 89006743) and Jurado Noboa's stimulating investigation of Quito's notarial archives to explain why money-lending expanded between 1875-1905 (item bi 89006756). Among 20th-century studies, anthropologist Trujillo León's "structuralist" interpretation of the evolution of the highland estate (item bi 89006763), Ibarra's monograph on the origins of labor unions (item bi 89006755), and Ortiz Villacís' highly technical analysis of political contenders and forces between 1966-79 (item bi 89006759) have particular value. Two other books merit attention but defy classification. Historiografía ecuatoriana (item bi 89006738) is an anthology of writings by Ecuadorian historians that editor Rodolfo Agoglia has arranged according to their approach to the past to make a useful reference work. The Enchanted Islands by John Hickman (item bi 89006753) is a sparkling history of the Galápagos Islands that captured this reviewer's award for the most readable book of this reporting period.

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