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Volume 62 / Humanities

HISTORY: 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES


Venezuela

PETER S. LINDER, Associate Professor of History, New Mexico Highlands University

MODERN VENEZUELAN HISTORIOGRAPHY has continued to mature in the last two years, reflecting the professionalization of the discipline and the development of increasingly strong graduate programs in certain of Venezuela's major universities. Orthodox political histories and hagiographic studies of Bolívar and other independence icons have been supplanted by studies informed by a variety of topical, theoretical, and methodological concerns. At the 2006 Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, a number of panels focused on Venezuelan history. One example was a panel entitled "How to Become a Modern, Progressive, Civilized Nation: The Venezuelan Long Nineteenth Century." The panel brought together Venezuelanists focusing on the intersection between politics, society, and culture. It is to be hoped that papers from this panel are soon published in some form.

Several recent works illustrate a growing preoccupation with training students to do historical research. A collection of essays compiled by José Angel Rodríguez introduces students to the theory and practice of history from a variety of perspectives (item #bi2004001973#). A collection of lectures and essays by Germán Carrera Damas challenges historians of Venezuela to identify new directions for research (item #bi2004001984#).

One of the most exciting recent developments has been the appearance of studies exploring the history of culture and mentality. A number of works reviewed deal with the history of gender and gender roles in Venezuela. Arlene Díaz's work on the women of Caracas in the 19th century uses legal records to examine the impact of liberal ideology on the roles and status of women (item #bi2004003870#). Another promising area is the study of public rituals and observances. Alberta Zucchi's interdisciplinary study analyzes evolving views of death and funerary practices in Venezuela from the colonial era to the mid-20th century (item #bi2003000494#). Jorge Bracho argues that the emergence of centennial observances—particularly those celebrating the Spanish "discovery" and conquest—were a means of promoting patriotism and national identity (item #bi2002002917#). Several works of intellectual history deserve mention. Elías Pino Iturrieta explores the ideological foundations of Venezuelan governments in the decades after independence, and challenges the idea that a "national plan" directed from Caracas was in place (item #bi2004001964#). Lucía Raynero analyzes the concept of liberty as developed by ideologues and political leaders in the era before the Federal War (item #bi2004001970#).

Works devoted to regional and local history continue to improve. Some traditional regional histories are still being produced. Cronista Argenis Méndez Echenique has written a study of the impact of the Federal War on the social structure of Apure (item #bi2002002977#). Community and local studies provide new perspectives on the changes taking place in Venezuelan society after independence. Yara Altez's historical and genealogical study of the Afro-Venezuelan community of Todasana links modernization and the breakdown of isolation with social and cultural change (item #bi2004001971#). Diógenes Molina Castro notes the impact of urbanization and population growth in Caracas on the Valles del Tuy (item #bi2004001978#). The state of Zulia remains an important center for the study of local and regional history, and ongoing cooperation between the Universidad del Zulia, the Acervo Histórico del Estado Zulia, government agencies, and businesses continues to produce valuable works. One example is Nilda Bermúdez's discussion of daily life and popular culture in Maracaibo in the last decades of the 19th century (item #bi2006003078#). Also of interest is the publication in Spanish translation of Eugene H. Plumacher's memoir of his tenure as US consul in Maracaibo in the late 19th century (item #bi2006003081#).

Political history continues as a key subject of research, and has come to reflect a growing variety of viewpoints and emphases. The impending bicentennial of the struggle for independence has resulted in the publication of a number of biographical studies of leading figures of the era. A compiled volume of essays organized by Manuel Caballero explores various facets of the career of Francisco de Miranda; the essays were produced by some of Venezuela's leading historians, including Caracciolo Parra Pérez, Manuel Caballero, Germán Carrera Damas, Elías Pino Iturrieta, and María Elena González Deluca (item #bi2004001950#). Of interest also is Luis Bocaz's analysis of Andrés Bello's works, emphasizing his promotion of Spanish American solidarity (item #bi2004001987#).

The political and social conflicts of the mid-19th century have received considerable attention as well. A number of historians have investigated various aspects of the Federal War, reflecting perhaps President Chávez's frequent rhetorical invocations of Ezequiel Zamora and the Battle of Santa Inés. Luis García Müller examines the Federal War in Barinas, noting its extreme violence in that region (item #bi2004001954#). Gen. Gustavo Machado Guzmán's multivolume work outlines the military campaigns and engagements of the Federal War and other 19th century conflicts (item #bi2004001963#). A collection of essays published under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic presents a positive view of Zamora, a key figure of the Federal War (item #bi2004001969#).

Historians continue to subject 20th-century politics to increasingly critical scrutiny. Twentieth-century political regimes studied include those of Cipriano Castro and Juan Vicente Gómez. Napoleón Franceschi González examines the process by which Gómez centralized and concentrated political power in the early years of his tenure (item #bi2004001977#). Among essays focused on more recent periods, Luis José Silva Luongo investigates the political and policy failures of various 20th-century regimes (item #bi2004001983#). Hollis Micheal Tarver Denova relies on oral history to investigate the rise of Carlos Andres Pérez to national prominence in the 1970s (item #bi2004001979#). Two studies profile important figures of the Venezuelan left, Carrillo Batalla's analysis of communist leader Juan Bautista Fuenmayor (item #bi2003000506#) and Domingo Alberto Rangel's biography of Gustavo Machado (item #bi2004001982#). A fascinating—and timely—exploration of the evolution of state power is Dora Dávila's analysis of the impact of the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918–19 on the nascent public health infrastructure in Venezuela (item #bi2004001948#).

Foreign policy and diplomatic history have attracted the interest of historians. A recent issue of the Boletín de la Academia Nacional de la Historia (Bol. Acad. Nac. Hist./Caracas, Vol. 84, No. 333, enero/marzo 2001) outlines Venezuela's long-running diplomatic dispute with Great Britain and with Guyana over the Esequibo territory. Representative articles in this issue include Elías R. Daniels H.'s narrative of the course of the dispute (item #bi2003000455#) and Rafael Armando Rojas' essay outlining unsuccessful Venezuelan efforts in the late 19th century to enlist US support in the dispute (item #bi2003000401#). Key works of 20th-century diplomatic history include Brian S. McBeth's exploration of the foreign relations problems of Cipriano Castro and Juan Vicente Gómez, a study challenging recent portrayals of Castro as a nationalist (item #bi2002003341#). Another useful work is Jorge Valero's examination of British and American diplomatic recognition of the Acción Democrática government in the wake of the 1945 coup that brought it to power (item #bi2004001958#).

A final area meriting mention is economic history. Jorge Salazar-Carrillo and Bernadette West examine the impact of the oil industry and oil policy on Venezuelan economic development in the 20th century (item #bi2006003082#). Manuel Exequiel Delgado discusses the evolution of the banking industry in Venezuela (item #bi2004001981#). Finally, Zulay Rojo analyzes the administration of the port of La Guaira, and the relationship between the Venezuelan government and the British concern holding the contract during much of the 20th century (item #bi2004001972#).


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