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Volume 60 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Colombia and Ecuador

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

THE RELENTLESS VIOLENCE that has plagued Colombia over the last decade has not deterred Colombian and foreign scholars from publishing a wealth of innovative books and articles dealing with all aspects of Colombian history. While the output from Ecuador continues to be somewhat spotty, there are, nevertheless, two fine contributions worthy of special note.

The papers presented at the 10th and 11th Congresos de Historia de Colombia held in Tunja (1995) and Medellín (1997) reveal that professional graduate history programs at Colombian universities are producing masters theses that, as well as examining such tried and true topics as "mentalidades," education, and regional and frontier history, are tapping previously ignored notarial archives and other local sources to delve into gender and race-related issues (items #bi 99008904# and #bi 98016101#). In addition, the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá inaugurated its PhD program in March 1997 with a symposium featuring five noted scholars (item #bi 99008911#). Incorporating fresh material, editor Tirado Mejía has expanded the {Nueva Historia de Colombia} with three new volumes covering political history since 1986; economy and regions; and ecology and culture (item #bi 99008894#).

Looking at various subfields, one finds works utilizing innovative approaches in almost every category. For example, among the seven books dealing with the independence era, there is Rodríguez G.'s careful analysis of 320 wills written by Bogotanos between 1800–31 in which she investigates changing attitudes about death at the beginning of the century (item #bi 99007112#). Among economic studies, Ramírez Bacca's doctoral thesis examines administrative organization and labor systems between 1882–1907 on a farm in Líbano, Tolima, to illuminate entrepreneurial strategies that promoted coffee-growing by the end of the 19th century (item #bi 00004851#).

Under the rubric of social history, three works deal with women's issues (items #bi 00006500#, #bi 00003253#, and #bi 98005911#), and Ospina's biography of her mother, Bertha Hernández de Ospina, the wife of President Mariano Ospina, offers unusual insight into the life of an influential 20th-century woman (item #bi 00000834#). An important work on Manuel Quintín Lame shows how his ideals continue to inspire Indians to defend their territories, culture, and autonomy with weapons and the law (item #bi2001001066#). There are four fine books on Medellín that range from histories of the city (items #bi2001001069# and #bi 00001563#) to an investigation of child labor in its factories during the first three decades of the 20th century (item #bi2001001062#). In this category, we may also put six immigration studies that address a topic too-long neglected by Colombian historians. One of these examines the impact of Syrians and especially Lebanese on the Chocó (item #bi 98012492#); another looks at the influence of these same groups on the Atlantic Coast (item #bi 98009212#); while a third by Silva Téllez shows how Italian influence left its mark on Colombian culture despite the fact that in 1985 there were only 13,000 people of Italian heritage living in the country (item #bi2001003844#). Finally, there are four studies of frontier regions including a collection of informative essays that provide a regional history of the Chocó (item #bi2001001060#), Aguilar's study of efforts to evangelize and colonize the Putumayo (item #bi2001001063#), and Franco's well-researched history of Orocué, the first serious monograph about a key town in Casanare (item #bi 99008928#).

For the first time in many years, works on the Violencia do not dominate entries under political history although Alape has published the second volume of his biography of Manuel Marulanda, the principal leader of the FARC (item #bi2001001067#). There are three studies dealing with Rojas Pinilla, including one by his daughter, Rojas de Moreno, who seeks to redeem her father's career and presidency (item #bi2001004007#). More innovative in approach, however, are a prize-winning monograph by Aguilera Peña about the artisan insurgencies of 1893 and 1894 (item #bi 99008910#), and Green's essay that reviews the evolution of "left-Liberal" national identity in the 19th–20th centuries (item #bi 00006557#).

Regretfully, many of the Ecuadorian entries continue to rehash familiar themes by dealing with 19th-century figures Pedro Fermín Cevallos and Eloy Alfaro or the 1922 general strike. However, there are two studies that break new ground. First, complementing similar studies on Colombia, Crawford de Roberts has produced an excellent monograph on the influence of the Lebanese (including Syrians and Palestinians) in Ecuador (item #bi 00000862#). The second truly innovative work is Tales of Two Cities in which Townsend compares the social history of Guayaquil with that of Baltimore in the 1820s–30s. By employing an "economic culture" paradigm, she explains how differing attitudes toward race and class affected local ways of doing business and allowed the North American city to attain greater prosperity (item #bi 00002039#).

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