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Volume 52 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Bolivia and Chile

WILLIAM F. SATER, Professor of History, California State University, Long Beach


THE LATEST SCHOLARSHIP ON BOLIVIA has produced some interesting works. Abecia's three-volume diplomatic history, for example, is a comprehensive synthesis of this often neglected topic (item bi 89005283). Tristan Platt studies the reaction of Bolivia's Indian population to the white/mestizo society's attempt to control them (item bi 89005555). Erick Langer explains how Indians resisted, sometimes violently, the efforts of rapacious hacendados to reduce their already limited rights or to alter traditional landlord-tenant relations (item bi 89001878). Works by Albó, Jackson, and Dandler and Torrico analyze more modern aspects of the agrarian problem (items bi 89005557, bi 89013968, and bi 89005556).

Since Bolivia's politics have often confounded scholars, Malloy and Gamarra's study of the 1964-85 period is especially welcome (item bi 89005277). Their joint efforts not only provide information on that turbulent epoch, but also explain why the military found it easier to depose the MNR than to govern.

Che Guevara's abortive campaign to topple the La Paz government is described from two opposing points of view: a combination memoir/analysis written by Gen. Gary Prado, a participant in the campaign against Che Guevara (item bi 89005322); and the diary of Harry Villegas (item bi 89005237), one of Guevara's compatriots. Military historians will also profit from Lechín's painstaking study (item bi 91022053) of one phase of Bolivia's participation in the Chaco War.

Various general works have appeared, most of which are so ideological or superficial that they do not enhance our knowledge of Bolivia. Although lacking innovation, Pacheco Loma's work (item bi 89005298) provides a fleshed out chronology of the most recent events. A more worthy effort is Crespo's biography (item bi 89005272) of the ill-fated President Hernando Siles, who ruled in the late 1920s. A compilation of speeches by the equally star-crossed Gen. Juan José Torres furnishes a new perspective on a particularly controversial period in Bolivia's history (item bi 89005319).


The Catholic Church has attracted scholarly attention. Aliaga (item bi 89005301) chronicles the Church's impact on Chilean society from the colonial period to the present; Moreno (item bi 89005294) shows how the clergy influenced the union movement. Pinochet de la Barra's biography of Cardinal Silva Henríquez (item bi 89005300) is useful for understanding the attitude of the hierarchy during the Frei-Allende-Pinochet periods.

Rodríguez's work on the creation and functioning of the army's service corps during the War of the Pacific is excellent (item bi 89005281); it addresses a very important but often neglected aspect of military history. The Estado Mayor's latest volume (item bi 89005268), with its lavish pictures of the various uniforms, insignia, and medals, provides a splendid supplement to the existing multi-volume history of the Chilean army.

Chile's diplomatic history, particularly relations with the US, also has emerged as a topic of interest. Marambio's volume (item bi 91022135) is an exhaustive study of the Macedonian claims, one of Chile's more contentious, if not long lived, diplomatic disputes. Jensen's densely written and extremely biased two-volume exposition (item bi 91022133) on US interaction with the Allende regime tends to plough already tilled ground. Clearly the most innovative diplomatic study is Meneses' work (item bi 91022136) which shows how Chile's naval and maritime needs influenced Santiago's relations with Washington.

Material on the activities of specific immigrant groups proves quite interesting. Böhm (item bi 89008948) and Sater (item bi 92019135) show that Chile neither welcomed nor accepted Jewish immigrants socially. Waldmann (item bi 89008947) demonstrates that decades passed before German settlers, sure of their cultural superiority, blended into local Chilean society. Scholars interested in ethnic history must consult Corvalán's impressive study of the impact of the Yugoslav community on Chile's north (item bi 89005273); Mayo's description of the activities of the first English residents (item bi 89001092); and Blancpain's entertaining analysis of the impact of French culture and institutions on Chile's culture and elites (item bi 89004278).

Economic history will benefit from Sergio Villalobos' book which, much to the dependistas' dismay, shows that protectionism, not Free Trade, influenced the Moneda's policies (item bi 89005324). In a similar vein, José del Pozo argues that the Radical presidents used the State to stimulate Chile's economic development (item bi 90003530). As Marcos Mamalakis ably indicates, however, government economic intervention sometimes aggravated rather than relieved economic problems (item bi 89001091). Thomas O'Brien's splendid article on the Guggenheims' ill-fated salitre venture amply demonstrates that private businessmen also failed to achieve their goals (item bi 90009778).

The study tracing the activities of organizations dedicated to enfranchising Chilean women will also interest historians (item bi 89005289). Méndez and Ramón study how the Chilean cities changed in response to foreign influence and to accommodate increasing population (items bi 89001093 and bi 89004706).

The collaborative effort of Iván Jaksíc and Sol Serrano provides valuable material on the formation and growth of the Univ. de Chile (item bi 90003963). Ibáñez's historiographical article on the influences of Catholicism and Hispanism on Mario Góngora, will interest intellectual historians (item bi 89001083).

Two works merit special attention: Blakemore's bibliographical study constitutes a splendid addition to our knowledge of Chile (item bi 92002126); and the latest volume of Vial's interesting, as well as entertaining, multi-volume history (item bi 89005266) provides a needed overview of a critical period in Chile's historical development.

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