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Volume 52 / Humanities

HISTORY: CENTRAL AMERICA


STEPHEN WEBRE, Professor of History, Louisiana Tech University
RALPH LEE WOODWARD JR., Professor of History, Tulane University

MOST OF THE RESEARCH ON CENTRAL AMERICA continues to be focused on individual states, although two new histories of the entire region by Rodolfo Pastor (item bi 91012851) and James Dunkerley (item bi 91022486) are notable, as are Robert Naylor's two works on the British in Central America (items bi 91012864 and bi 91012873). Thomas Schoonover provides a less comprehensive, but nevertheless useful overview of German economic interest in the isthmus (item bi 89008737). Costa Ricans remain preoccupied with coffee and Nicaraguans with Sandino and Sandinismo, but there was a new vitality evident in Honduras and some notable items were published on Guatemalan history. By contrast, the turmoil in El Salvador appears to have slowed serious historical study in that country.

The approaching Quincentennial of Columbus' first voyage has not yet drawn as much attention to the colonial period in Central America as it seems to have done elsewhere in the Americas, although there are some notable exceptions, such as Antonio Gutiérrez Escudero's popular biography of Pedro de Alvarado (item bi 90005197). The Costa Rican Quincentennial Commission began its celebration early, sponsoring a symposium in 1986 on colonial society in San José. Most of the important papers from this conference have now been published: papers on Costa Rica were published in a single volume of proceedings (item bi 91012886) and those on other topics appeared separately (items bi 91012892, bi 89004288, and bi 89004289). Also appropriate to the commemoration are valuable essays on the long-term legacy of discovery and conquest for the native inhabitants by Richard N. Adams (item bi 90002579) and W. George Lovell (item bi 91012900).

Otherwise, scholarly activity on the colonial period remains slight, although of generally good quality. Several new local and community studies for Guatemala have appeared, including the Sorbonne dissertations of Michel Bertrand on Rabinal (item bi 91015330) and Jean Piel on San Andrés Sajcabajá (item bi 90010088), and new works by Jorge Luján Muñoz (item bi 90000929) and Julio César Pinto Soria (item bi 91012892) on the Central Valley. A number of shorter local studies are gathered together in the collection edited by Stephen Webre (item bi 91014686). Recent significant contributions to colonial economic history are the two studies of food production and consumption by Alfredo Castillero Calvo (items bi 89000908 and bi 90009155) and José Antonio Fernández Molina's pioneering article on iron production (item bi 90009137).

For the national period, in addition to Dunkerley's impressive history of the 20th century noted above, a number of works during the past two years merit special notice. Historians, depending heavily upon oral sources, have been seeking the roots of labor militancy and political radicalism in the previously neglected 1920s and 1930s. Significant results so far include Jeffrey L. Gould's studies of Nicaraguan sugar workers and artisans (items bi 90002581 and bi 90009159), Arturo Taracena Arriola's essays on Guatemalan anarchists and communists (items bi 89000238 and bi 90009313), and Víctor Hugo Acuña Ortega's sensitive evocation of daily life and workplace culture among Costa Rica's radicalized shoemakers (item bi 90009140).

Several notable contributions to Guatemalan history are the work of North American scholars, among them Michael F. Fry (item bi 89000239), Virginia Garrard Burnett (items bi 90002583 and bi 89006203), Jim Handy (items bi 88000158, bi 89004164, bi 89002547, and bi 90002582), and Paul Dosal (item bi 89000922). But the period also saw significant publications by Spaniard Jesús María García Añoveros (item bi 89007200) and Guatemalans Julio Castellanos Cambranes (items bi 89007216 and bi 89007217) and Gisela Gellert and Julio César Pinto Soria (item bi 91014737). O. Nigel Bolland has once again enriched Belizean history, this time with a brief but erudite study on land and labor (item bi 89008127). Little has appeared on El Salvador, although two welcome contributions are Amílcar Figueroa's overview of the modern period (item bi 89007215) and Patricia Parkman's book on the end of the Hernández Martínez era (item bi 91023007).

An important development in Honduran historiography has been the return of Rodolfo Pastor to his native land. In addition to his general interpretative history, Pastor's works on San Pedro Sula (item bi 91015280) and the Honduran Sugar Company (item bi 91015341) are worthy contributions. The publication of Mario Argueta's fine biography of caudillo Tiburcio Carías Andino (item bi 91014741) is also a welcome event. For Nicaragua, the first two volumes of Alejandro Bolaños' long-awaited work on William Walker have appeared (item bi 89007185), standing almost alone amidst the heavy concentration on the 20th century among Nicaraguan studies. Finally, in Costa Rica, national and foreign scholars continue to add socioeconomic dimensions to traditional political accounts. Lowell Gudmundson's fine article on the formation of Costa Rica's smallholder coffee class (item bi 89013966) is a splendid example, as are Mario Samper Kutschbach's study of the social context of electoral politics (item bi 90009138) and Alberto Sáenz' book on Braulio Carrillo (item bi 89007234).


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