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Volume 62 / Humanities


Colombia and Ecuador

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

THE ARRIVAL OF THE 21ST CENTURY has prompted Colombian historians to reconsider previous assessments of national events that have occurred over the past 200 years. Oxford University's publication of the long awaited survey authored by Frank Safford and Marco Palacios is perhaps the most detailed review of Colombian history from colonial times to the present now available in English (item #bi2002002324#). A second truly outstanding contribution is Vega Cantor's four-volume study employing subaltern theory to examine early 20th century protests by marginal groups in Colombian society that have been systematically ignored (item #bi2004000146#). While other historians were also experimenting with postmodernist paradigms in the 1990s, Jorge Orlando Melo's pessimistic assessment of the merits of these efforts (item #bi2002000045#) suggests that the most valuable works remain those produced by mature scholars with long academic careers.

Notable among books dealing with the Independence Era are two new biographies of Bolívar by Bushnell. The first, written in Spanish, stresses his role as military leader, politician, and legislator (item #bi2003001998#); while the second, written in English (item #bi2005004650#), is no less authoritative, but as befits a contribution to the Pearson-Longman Library of World Biography, it is highly accessible to undergraduates and the general public. In addition, Muñera's critique of José María Restrepo's classic account of the period (see HLAS 60:2523), and Murray's essay on Manuela Sáenz (item #bi2002001570#) are both revisionist works that deserve close attention.

The development of strong postgraduate MA programs at Colombian universities outside of Bogotá are bearing fruit with the emergence of fine regional studies. In terms of numbers of contributions, Antioquia retains first place with published articles and books on subjects ranging from Londoño-Vega's analysis of religion and society in the 19th century (item #bi2003000082#) to Appelbaum's history of Riosucio (item #bi2004000167#). Close behind, however, are studies dealing with the Atlantic coast—most of them high quality investigations as reflected in the papers presented at the II and III Simposios sobre la Historia de Cartagena held in October 1999 and 2001 (items #bi2003001982# and #bi2002002304#). Similarly, Historia de Barranquilla is a collection of essays written by scholars determined to refute the perception that "Barranquilla is a city without a history" (item #bi2002002301#). Mosquera Torres and Aprile-Gniset provide a helpful introduction to Chocó (item #bi2003000110#), while scholars of the Amazon will be intrigued by the definitive publication of Roger Casement's Amazon Journal (item #bi2004001028#). There are even two well-written histories of Villavicencio, the "Gateway to the Llanos" (items #bi2003000076# and #bi2003002551#).

Social history has retained its appeal. Notable in this category is an essay collection delving into prostitution (item #bi2004000143#), and two fascinating studies, one concerning the history of Jews in Colombia (item #bi2004000145#), and the other examining the fate of Germans seeking refuge from Nazi persecution (item #bi2003002550#). Among the new biographies, El negro Robles y su época by Pérez Escobar is a welcome contribution to Afro-Colombian history (item #bi2003000106#), while much information about the 20th century can be garnered from both Mayor Mora's biography of Alejandro López (item #bi2002002287#), and Carlos Lleras de la Fuente's memoir of his father, former president Carlos Lleras Restrepo, concerning the years from 1937–61 (item #bi2004000136#). Political history seems to be enjoying a renaissance. Among other fine publications, there is Green's innovative study of Gaitán and "left Liberalism" (item #bi2004000166#). Finally, regarding books dealing with the ever-popular theme of 20th-century violence, Vásquez Perdomo's prize-winning autobiographical account of her experiences as a member of the M-19 offers a unique and moving testament of female involvement in the ongoing militant struggle against the status quo (item #bi2004001919#).

The 18 selections concerning Ecuador cover a range of topics from Guayaquil during the Independence Era (item #bi2003002511#) to a laudatory biography of the "most influential Ecuadorian of the 20th century," Galo Plaza Lasso (item #bi2004001925#). From among these entries, scholars will find two works extremely helpful although they differ in subject and method. The first, Núñez Sánchez's Antología de historia (item #bi2004000131#), includes the editor's insightful evaluation of the state of Ecuadorian historiography at the beginning of the 21st century, in addition to 14 well-written essays encompassing such topics as women in 18th-century Quito and church-state relations in the 19th century. The second is Migrantes (item #bi2004001920#), Carpio Amoroso's comprehensive analysis of the recent exodus from Latin America of millions of people seeking a better life in the US, Mexico, Spain and other nations. Copiously illustrated, the book analyzes all aspects of the migrant experience and offers concrete solutions to a situation that has ramifications for Europe and the entire Western Hemisphere.

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