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Volume 64 / Humanities

HISTORY: 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES


Chile

WILLIAM F. SATER, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, Long Beach

THE EXPANSION OF GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN HISTORY in Chilean universities and the increase in the number of historians possessing PhD degrees earned at local as well as foreign universities has produced rich results: the number of dissertations, monographs, and scholarly articles has increased dramatically, profiting the historical profession. The appearance of new editorial houses, moreover, has provided new venues for publication.

Military history, particularly studies on the War of the Pacific, seems to be enjoying a revival. William Sater has written a global study of that conflict that, unlike other works, covers the Peruvian and Bolivian sides (item #bi2007003376#). Father Ruperto Marchant presents the focused view of a military chaplain serving with Chilean troops (item #bi2007001383#). Col. Carlos Méndez's research describing the attempts of the veterans of that conflict to obtain some financial relief from the Moneda gives the reader an understanding of the caustic phrase, "pago de Chile" (item #bi2008002792#). Alejandro San Francisco's first volume of a proposed two-volume work studying the 1891 Revolution is an extremely well documented work that brilliantly traced the events that led to the army's involvement in the anti-Balmaceda rebellion (item #bi2008002796#). Those interested in the military's role in the 1924–25 coups will profit enormously from the publication of the memoirs of Gen. Mariano Navarrete (item #bi2007001370#), who commanded the army at that time, and whose insights prove crucial to understanding what transpired.

As usual, more material dealing with the Unidad Popular has appeared. MIR, the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (item #bi2007001369#), published a short hagiographical biography of Miguel Enríquez, one of that organization's founders, as well as a collection of his speeches and various documents. This volume provides useful insights into the thinking of Enríquez and the MIR as a whole. At the same time, Franck Gaudichaud (item #bi2007001384#) argues that MIR prized the cordones industriales because they functioned outside of the Moneda's ambit of authority and thus ultimately undermined the Allende government. As Victor Farías (item #bi2007001388#) indicates, however, President Allende was not always a radical. On the contrary, his medical degree dissertation charged that the UP leader harbored racist ideas, advocating that Chile purge its population of misfits like Jews and Gypsies. In an interesting aside, Mateo Gallardo's volume (item #bi2007001368#) demonstrates that the more affluent legal profession, as well as the lower class, also suffered from the post-1973 repression.

To our benefit, various historians have concentrated on diplomatic history. Joaquín Fermandois' (item #bi2007001389#) magisterial study shows how domestic forces, as well as foreign nations, shaped the Moneda's diplomatic policy through the year 2000. This essential work will remain unchallenged for years. Both Javier Illanes and the dean of Chilean historians, Sergio Villalobos, contribute more focused works: Illanes (item #bi2007001355#) dissects the Argentine-Chilean dispute over ownership of the Laguna del Desierto, an isolated Andine lake, while Villalobos (item #bi2007001390#) studies Chile's invariably acrid relations with Peru. Diego Chou (item #bi2007001374#) has taken the less traveled path: his excellent study describes Chile's relations with China, analyzing patterns of Chinese migration to the South American country and their participation in Chilean life. Similarly, María Eugenia Coloma (item #bi2005002387#) studies the Moneda's policy vis-à-vis Easter Island. While Chile attempted to undo the damage inflicted on the Rapanui by slavers, the Moneda's encouragement of tourism and the stationing of bureaucrats on the island threaten to undermine the indigenous culture.

Political history remains a favorite topic amongst historians. Felipe Portales (item #bi2007001372#) details what he sees as the underlying pathology undermining Chilean democracy. His thesis, while not always convincing, is nonetheless interesting. As Ivan Jaksic posits, the argument over democracy began when Andrés Bello and Simon Bolívar debated the foundation of the new republic: Bello advocated the rule of law; Bolívar trusted the personal virtues of the Great Man (item #bi2005007972#). Alternatively, Jorge Rojas Flores claims that the nation's educational system did not begin to address inculcating civic virtues until after the War of the Pacific (item #bi2007001358#).

Less than 20 years after the 1891 Civil War, the nation still celebrated its centenary. According to Soledad Reyes (item #bi2007001377#), Chile's elites, as well as newer groups such as the emerging middle class, used this event as a baseline to measure the nation's progress. Jorge Arrate's two-volume study on the Chilean left (item #bi2007001379#), while familiarizing the reader with this topic—particularly the post-1970 period—unfortunately skims over certain crucial areas. Conversely, Richard Walter (item #bi2005002182#) concentrates on the efforts of newly enfranchised Chilean women to participate in municipal politics in Santiago. René Millar's epic political biography on Julio Philippi (item #bi2007001357#) offers a study of an important political and intellectual figure, and also provides a prism through which to view the generally neglected years of President Jorge Alessandri.

Increasing social conflict eroded the support of the various Parliamentary governments. Juan Yáñez saw the emergence of the "social question" as energizing the nation's political life, allowing new forces to compete for power (item #bi2007001367#). Among some of these new elements, at least according to Valdivieso, were the Catholic Church and Catholic Action, both of which reinforced the call for reform (item #bi2007001396#). The clash at the northern salitrera of San Gregorio, ably chronicled by Floreal Recabarren (item #bi2007001366#), managed to discredit both labor and capital. Similarly Pablo Lacoste's study indicates that attempts to improve living conditions of Chile's urban poor—by lowering tariffs on Argentine beef in exchange for reduced duties on Chilean wine—foundered because private interests on both sides of the Andes sabotaged the agreement (item #bi2005002667#).

Although many praised the passage of the 1925 Constitution, Celina Tuozzo argues that the creation of a highly centralized state destroyed local freedoms and rights (item #bi2007001373#). Marcos Fernández (item #bi2007001387#) explains efforts, led often by private philanthropists, to improve prison conditions. Ironically, at approximately the same time, Rodrigo Hidalgo claims that the government attempted to address the pressing problem of public housing (item #bi2007001395#). Neither movement produced immediate results. Francisco Le Dantec's work on Valparaíso provides an excellent study of Chile's second largest city (item #bi2007001382#).

Economic historians have thrived in recent years. Not surprisingly mining, el sueldo de Chile, has received a great deal of useful attention. Luz María Méndez's (item #bi2007001381#) excellent work traces the growth of mining exports during the first 40 years of the 19th century. Angela Vergara (item #bi2005004929#) demonstrates that the attempts of American copper companies to modernize the mines through mechanization distressed the miners and attracted the unwelcome attention of the Moneda. Eventually both favored nationalization. Former government minister Rolf Lüders and Gert Wagner (item #bi2004003935#) analyze the revenues generated by the salitreras, and establish the cost of production, transportation, and taxes. In a similar vein, Mario Matus (item #bi2005004895#) has provided an excellent series for wholesale consumer prices which historians can use to their great advantage. Research on agrarian reform has languished in past years; for this reason, Martín Correa's description of the issue of Mapuche landholdings, a topic which is gaining increasing importance, particularly as Indians begin to demand some level of economic parity, is so valuable (item #bi2007001371#). Looking at the underlying infrastructure of the economy, Britton and Ahvenainen trace the participation of American capitalism into the rarely studied submarine cable industry (item #bi2007002485#) while Nazar, Couyoumdjian, and Camus provide a superb overview of the growth of the electrical industry, a crucial component in Chile's economic expansion (item #bi2008003101#).

Intellectual historians will profit tremendously from Cristián Gazmuri's first of a two-volume study on Chilean historiography. The initial chapters deal with some of Chile's earlier and most prominent historians; the subsequent sections offer an overview of later historical works. The Chilean press, often a neglected topic, finally received some attention: Angel Soto (item #bi2007001356#) edited a study of the leading 19th-century newspapers operating both in Santiago as well as in the provinces. In an analogous topic, Maximiliano Salinas explains the role of the press, particularly satirical journals, in stirring up both the pro- and anti-Balmaceda forces (item #bi2007001375#). Turning to a less controversial topic, Fernando Aliaga (item #bi2006000373#) studies the attempts of the Catholic Church to provide education to Chile's rural women. While not part of the traditional historical corpus, Pedro Alvarez's handsome work illustrates the development of graphic design in Chile from its inception to the present (item #bi2007001380#). This effort provides an extremely useful tool to study the evolution of Chilean imagery.

In sum, the quantity and quality of historical work on Chile for HLAS 64 is gratifying. Building on the increasing number of materials and dissertations, we can look forward to savoring a rich harvest of the newest generations of Chile's historians.


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