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Volume 58 / Humanities

HISTORY: CENTRAL AMERICA


STEPHEN WEBRE, Professor of History, Louisiana Tech University
DAVID MCCREERY, Professor of History, Georgia State University


INCREASINGLY SOLID RESEARCH and greater awareness by scholars of theoretical and methodological trends outside the region continue to characterize Central American historiography. In the largely untapped area of cultural history, a major event is Whisnant's study of Nicaragua from the preconquest era to the struggle to appropriate Sandino's memory (item #bi 97004797#). Notable also in this field is the substantial body of work on Costa Rica produced both individually and collectively by Molina Jiménez and Palmer (items #bi 98010770#, #bi 99005157#, and #bi 97012857#, among others). The question of gender, both in its broadest sense and conceived more narrowly as "women's" history, is receiving greater attention. In quite diverse ways, Rodríguez (item #bi 96005795#) and Lobo (item #bi 97004796#) both examine sexual deviance and marriage in Costa Rica, while new works by Macpherson (item #bi 97000691#) and Aubry (item #bi 95020808#) address the condition of women in Belize and urban Chiapas respectively.

For the colonial period, the perennial theme of Spanish-indigenous relations is well represented by Dakin and Lutz's unusual collection of Nahuatl-language petitions from 16th-century Guatemala (item #bi 98010873#), and in MacLeod's sensitive reconstruction of a 1693 native uprising in Tuxtla, Chiapas (item #bi 95016458#). Missionary activities on the colonial frontier are the subject of important new studies by Black on Honduras (item #bi 97004275#) and Castillero Calvo on Panama (item #bi 97009490#). Miscegenation as both a biological and a cultural process is addressed for Guatemala by Luján Muñoz (item #bi 97012200#) and Rodas (item #bi 97012215#), and for Costa Rica by Acuña León and Chavarría López (item #bi 96025003#) and Meléndez Chaverri (item #bi 96025003#). Finally, two important personages of the Bourbon era are the subjects of major new biographies: merchant Juan Fermín de Aycinena by Brown (item #bi 97012093#) and Guatemalan Archbishop Pedro Cortés y Larraz by Martín Blasco and García Añoveros (item #bi 97004281#).

Scholars of the national period continue to devote much attention to familiar political topics, but recent works reflect newer concerns, such as inquiries into state-labor relations by Miller (item #bi 95015027#) and Trujillo Bolio (item #bi 97004839#); cross-class alliances by Gould (item #bi 96005794#) and Vargas (item #bi 97004837#); democracy by Gudmundson (item #bi 96007692#) and Merino del Río (item #bi 97004869#); and state violence by Alvarenga (item #bi 97012856#) and Holden (item #bi 96022847#). A particularly new direction, at least for Central America, appears in Rocío Tábora's study of masculinity and political violence in 19th-century Honduras (item #bi 97004850#).

The study of social history remains largely concerned with issues of race and ethnicity. Palmer looks at how Central American intellectuals used social Darwinism and eugenics to explain national development and nationhood (item #bi 96024982#), and Taracena Arriola and Piel have edited a first-rate collection of essays on ethnicity and the state in the various republics (item #bi 97004882#). Related country studies include Gudmundson's comparison of Guatemala and Costa Rica (item #bi 96024974#), Taracena Arriola's well-documented study of separatism in Guatemala's western highlands (item #bi 98010778#), Gould's examination of official mestizo-centered ideology in Nicaragua (item #bi 96022563#), and Howe's discussion of Kuna resistance in early-20th-century Panama (item #bi 96008477#). Afro-Central American experience is the subject of new works by Martínez Montiel (item #bi 97004840#), Chomsky (item #bi 96000442#), and Murillo Chaverri (item #bi 97004836#).

There has been a revival of interest in the history of communications. Studies of radio, such as those by Almorza (item #bi 97004804#) and Castillo (item #bi 97004816#), are in their infancy, but Vega Jiménez's study of early Costa Rican newspapers is impressive (item #bi 97004819#). Also, the Spanish government recently funded a number of railroad histories in the region (items #bi 96018472#, #bi 97012847#, and #bi 96004192#).

In addition to these specific areas, the past few years have witnessed many welcome additions to the essential national bibliographies of the isthmian republics. In Guatemala, for example, classic works on the revolutionary period (1944-54) are reappearing, including those by Cardoza y Aragón (item #bi 97004801#), Galich (item #bi 97004848#), and León Aragón (item #bi 97004853#). Also, some participants have offered their personal memories for the first time, notably Bauer Paiz (item #bi 97012840#) and Ruiz Franco (item #bi 97004805#). El Salvador's long nightmare of the 1980s has found capable historians in Byrne (item #bi 97004849#) and Lungo (item #bi 97004792#), whose general accounts are complemented by more narrowly focused works by Danner (item #bi 97004787#), Keune (item #bi 97004874#), Quezada and H.R. Martínez (item #bi 97012855#), and Moroni Bracamonte (item #bi 97004829#). For Honduras, higher standards of documentary research—evident elsewhere, too—are reflected in Euraque's major study of the role of the northern coast in shaping the country's political evolution (item #bi 97012095#), as well as in new accounts of the 1954 banana strike by Argueta (item #bi 97004862#) and Barahona (item #bi 97004833#).

Political changes in Nicaragua in the 1990s have not diminished historians' interest in Augusto C. Sandino, who is the subject of an important new biography by Wünderich (item #bi 99005344#), as well as of shorter studies by Dospital (item #bi 96000542#) and Schroeder (item #bi 96022845#). Students of more recent history will appreciate the interesting, if predictable, memoirs of Violeta Chamorro (item #bi 97012858#), as well as Sobel's careful calculation of Contra aid (item #bi 95018940#). Finally, Costa Rica continues to offer innovative work of good quality, including a flourishing of the cultural histories referred to in the introductory paragraph, and a number of recent works on urban history, such as those of Quezada Avendaño (item #bi 96025016#), Cerdas Albertazzi (item #bi 96006552#), Palmer (item #bi 96025012#), and Fernández Esquivel (item #bi 97012864#).


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