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Volume 64 / Humanities

HISTORY: CENTRAL AMERICA


DARÍO A. EURAQUE, Director, Instituto Hondureño de Antropologia e Historia
STEPHEN WEBRE, Professor of History, Louisiana Tech University

HISTORICAL WRITING IN AND ABOUT CENTRAL AMERICA continues to flourish to a degree that would have been difficult to imagine thirty years ago. The benchmark for measuring the historical profession's vitality on the isthmus continues to be the series of biennial historical congresses inaugurated in 1992. The most recent event, held in San José, Costa Rica, in July 2008, featured some 380 paper presentations in a wide variety of thematic areas. Much of this work will surely appear in published form in the next few years, mostly in traditional print format, although it is increasingly common to find good studies in online outlets. At the regional level, the most ambitious electronic project to date is the Boletín de la Asociación para el Fomento de Estudios Históricos en Centroamérica, currently publishing six thematic numbers a year. The Boletín and a number of other information services provided by AFEHC can be accessed without charge at http://afehc-historia- centroamericana.org.

Recent books and journal articles on Central American history reflect an increased output on Honduras. Carías (item #bi2008003488#), Guevara-Escudero (item #bi2008003698#), and Barahona (item #bi2006003661#) have all produced important synthetic accounts. Also welcome are studies of 20th-century political leaders by Argueta (item #bi2008003696#) and Thomas J. Dodd, Jr. (item #bi2006002253#). Payne Iglesias's study of the port of Trujillo in the 18th and 19th centuries (item #bi2008003796#) won the 2008 Silvio Zavala Prize for colonial history, given by the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History.

Certain well-established topics retain their appeal for specialists, including regional and urban history. The 3rd edition of José A. Sarmiento's book on Olancho is most welcome (item #bi2008003786#), as is the new study of Comayagua by Navarrete Cálix (item #bi2008003420#). Other useful examples of regional context employed to address broader issues are Chinchilla Aguilar for Guatemala (item #bi2007000861#); Wolfe for Nicaragua when focusing on Masaya, Granada, and Carazo (item #bi2007002347#); and Dore for Diriomo in the same country (item #bi2005001443#). On Panama City, see Alfredo Castillero Calvo (item #bi2008003886#).

Another classic topic addressed in the recent literature is the prevalence of violence in isthmian culture, which receives sophisticated treatment in a new book by Holden (item #bi2006002163#) and in the essays collected by Sajid Alfredo Herrera Mena and the late Ana Margarita Gómez (item #bi2008003791#). Interest continues also in ethnic identities, their genesis and transformation, and their role in nation building and state formation. For Guatemala, these themes occupy the attention of Rodas (item #bi2008003787#), Gudmundson (item #bi2005002190#), and Esquit Choy (item #bi2007000851#), while Wolfe explores similar questions for Nicaragua (item #bi2007002347#). The story of coffee receives attention in innovative recent works by Reeves for Guatemala (item #bi2008003687#), Dore for Nicaragua (item #bi2005001443#), and Fallas Santana for Costa Rica (item #bi2006003665#). Also, there has been a notable burst of interest and creativity regarding the banana industry, exemplified in studies by Soluri (item #bi2006000401#) and Coleman (item #bi2006000659#), as well as in the essays collected by Striffler and Moberg (item #bi2006001020#). Finally, the perennial issue of US intervention is addressed with customary passion by Melville (item #bi2008003694#), and with greater analytical subtlety by Holden (referenced above), Gobat (item #bi2006000455#), and Leonard (item #bi2007003055#).

Among newer subspecialty areas, gender and women's history continues to grow in importance, embracing a wide range of feminine experience and concerns. For Guatemala, Few calls attention to the importance of women in the colonial economy (item #bi2008003798#), while David Carey, Jr., does the same for indigenous communities in the 20th century (item #bi2008003691#). Women's political activism is the subject of new works by Macpherson on Belize (item #bi2007002909#) and Serra on Panama (item #bi2008003693#). Covering a wider variety of issues and subfields is Marín Hernández's important study of prostitution in Costa Rica (item #bi2008003699#). Similar vitality is evident in the emerging field of print culture, represented here not only by an informative study of the colonial book trade by Rueda Ramírez (item #bi2008003788#), but also by creative explorations of the relationship between publishing and society by Miguel Ayerdis (item #bi2008003434#), Molina Jiménez (item #bi2008003689#), and Vega Jiménez (item #bi2005003179#). The possibilities for historical analysis offered by photographic images are explored for Panama by Garzón Díaz (item #bi2005001436#) and for Guatemala by Grandin (item #bi2005002350#).

The boom in commemorative literature anticipated to accompany the bicentennial of Latin American independence has yet to hit Central America with much force. Even so, there are some fine recent studies on the independence era broadly understood. Notable among these are works by Richmond F. Brown (item #bi2005004670#), Díaz Arias (item #bi2008003692#), Dym (item #bi2008003795#), and the essays on the Bourbon reforms edited by Dym and Christophe Belaubre (item #bi2007002264#).


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