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Between 1944 and 1954, Guatemala had a radical democratic experience that significantly impacted its closest neighbors. During that time, two revolutionary governments, one led by Juan José Arévalo and the other by Jacobo Árbenz, promoted a set of political, economic, and social reforms unprecedented in Central America. These reforms did not follow a linear process but were made possible within a framework of broad freedoms. Surrounded by dictatorships and authoritarian rulers, Guatemala was gradually becoming a kind of democratic refuge for many exiled and persecuted people from different locations, though most came from Central American and Caribbean countries. The reform cycle accelerated remarkably after the approval of agrarian reforms in mid-1952, which radicalized the conservative stance of Guatemala’s neighbors and angered the United Fruit Company, the country’s major agriculture company. After numerous attempts to overthrow both leaders, local forces, in convergence with their regional counterparts, managed to convince the new US administration, headed by Dwight Eisenhower, of the danger of Guatemala’s role. The success of the covert coup in Iran (1953) also acted as a catalyst and facilitated the execution of a similar, secret plan to finally cause the collapse of the Árbenz government. The coup, which ultimately achieved its objective in June 1954, constitutes one of the most explored and emblematic themes of international relations in Latin America during the Cold War. Its consequences have endured into the 21st century.

Article

Between 1808 and 1825, political movements and warfare resulted in independence for the colonies of Spain and Portugal in the Americas, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The bicentennials of those events accelerated the availability of digital resources about Latin American independence. Libraries, archives, museums, and other educational institutions have created websites and mounted digital exhibits that provide overviews of the history for the general public, students, and researchers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Many of the same institutions are in the process of digitizing collections of primary sources from the period. Particularly abundant are open-access digital editions of newspapers and periodicals as well as other printed material from the early 19th century such as proclamations, edicts, speeches, broadsides, and constitutions. Some digitized archival manuscripts relevant to research on the independence period are also accessible online, especially from archives in Spain, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. Although the vast majority of primary sources have not been converted to digital formats, many archives and libraries do have digital finding aids and catalogs that can be consulted prior to research trips. Transcriptions of primary sources are also available online, some created specifically for web portals and others as digitized editions of earlier published document collections. The availability of digital resources on the history of independence varies by country, with more material for Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina while Central America, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay are underrepresented.

Article

Eugenia Allier-Montaño

At the end of July 1968, a skirmish between students from rival schools in central Mexico City led to police intervention. The repression of young people was so energetic that students organized to demonstrate against government violence. They were once again repressed: from the afternoon of July 26 to the early morning of July 30, the city center was the scene of multiple battles between students and police. In the following days, an unprecedented movement formed in the country and had strong support from the rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Javier Barros Sierra, who, with his call to march on August 1, gave legitimacy to the movement. On August 7, the National Strike Council (CNH) was formed, which included representatives of all higher education institutions (public and private) participating in the movement. For more than two months, the students toured the city, obtained the support of different social sectors (housewives, workers, neighborhood groups, and young professionals), and used ingenious methods (brigades, lightning rallies, flyers) to face the intense government campaign (always supported by businessmen, the media, the anticommunist right, and the high clergy) against them. The students’ demands were specified in six points in the CNH petition: freedom for political prisoners, dismissal of the military considered responsible for the repression, disbanding of the Corps of Grenadiers, repeal of the crime of social dissolution, compensation to the families of the dead and wounded, as well as the delineation of responsibilities for acts of repression. However, the main point for the students was to demand that negotiations with the government take place within the framework of a “public dialogue.” The movement continued until December 6, 1968, when the CNH was dissolved, but its splendor occurred between August and September. It was in those months that the movement showed great strength, particularly in the impressive demonstrations that swept through the capital. But by September 18, the UNAM’s University City was militarily occupied, and on September 24, the army took Zacatenco and Santo Tomás, two educational precincts of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). On October 2, 1968, the students held a rally in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco. The government of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz implemented a massacre against them: hundreds of wounded, thousands of detainees, and around 40 dead were the results of the operation, whose main objectives were to scare the population with unleashed violence and to detain the members of the CNH. Ten days after October 2, President Díaz Ordaz inaugurated the XIX Olympics. However, state violence did not stop. At least until February 1969, the government sought out and arrested political and social activists linked to the mobilization. As a result, some 200 men and four women were kept in prison and sentenced to long sentences. With the new government of Luis Echeverría in 1970, the students were released. However, for a group of sixteen students and teachers, the only option for release was political exile.

Article

The process that led to the independence of the Oriental State of Uruguay (now the Oriental Republic of Uruguay) began with the 1810 revolution and lasted until the 1828 Preliminary Peace Convention and the enactment of the first constitution in July 1830. In these twenty years, the territory of the River Plate was marked by war and various experiments of social and political organization. In the 1810s, some of the elites of the territory located on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River joined the uprising that had begun in Buenos Aires. This support for the Buenos Aires junta—the outcome of demands for the expansion of jurisdiction and greater autonomy—divided the territory between the administration of Montevideo (until 1814 in the hands of Españolistas) and a revolutionary group. In this context, a radical popular revolutionary project was produced under the leadership of José Artigas (1764–1850). This sought a federal union with other provinces along the Uruguay River and became known as the System of Free Peoples. It encountered fierce resistance from the authorities in Buenos Aires. The radicalization of certain postures among the “Orientales” (as the people in what is now Uruguay were called) was rejected by the Creole elites, who abandoned the Artiguista group and imposed restraints on the social revolution. Added to this were the occupation of the territory by Luso-Brazilian forces (who had strong local support) and the transformation of the Oriental Province into the Cisplatin Province, since 1821 part of the Portuguese Empire. In 1825, a second stage began in the fight for independence from the king of Portugal and the emperor of Brazil, and the union with the United Provinces based in Buenos Aires. Support from the latter was due to a war with Brazil, which ended with the Preliminary Convention of Peace. Signed and ratified in 1828, this allowed the creation of an independent state—with not very precise boundaries—whose first constitution was enacted in 1830. From the second half of the 19th century to the present, the independence of Uruguay has been a permanent theme of historiographic and political debate, fundamental for the definition of national identity. This discussion became intertwined with the foundation of a national account of the country and the formation of a pantheon of patriotic heroes (headed by Artigas). Views of the past, which merged with the ideological debate of each present, traveled along distant paths, ranging from the initial desire of the Orientales to construct an independent state at the beginning of the revolution, to interpretations that resignified political projects as possible alternatives as events unfolded.

Article

During the 1860s, widespread warfare beset the Americas and Europe. Fighting resulted from challenges to existing political accommodations, and evolved into civil wars or interstate violence. Concurrently, economic and technological transformations through the 1860s aided long-distance communications, such as the coming of the telegraph and a much faster spread of steam power that helped to disseminate news and share experiences. All over the Atlantic, the triumph of national unification was the most visible result of the bloodbath, expanding state capacities and reinforcing the role of national symbols as common elements of a shared identity. Political and administrative centralization affected the exercise of local power in different ways, mainly in its capacity to recruit members of communities for war; appealing to national values and identities gradually became central in the demands for cooperation and sacrifice. After the end of combat, national authorities established regimes founded either on new constitutions or on amendments added to existing documents, the goal of which was reordering society according to rules capable of regulating and institutionalizing regional conflicts, simultaneously incorporating demands for representation and liberalization. These same groups demonstrated less efficiency when dealing with ethnic and social conflicts, sources of deeper divisions in societies that pretended to be consistent, progressive, and unified.

Article

Stretching from modern-day southern Venezuela to northern Bolivia, Spanish-controlled Amazonia represented the ultimate frontier to colonial officials. Home to hundreds of native cultures, Crown authorities consistently struggled to extend hegemony to most of the region. Barriers to entry were both physical and motivational. In the shadow of the Andes, the thick vegetation, constant rains, and lack of navigable rivers from Spanish-controlled regions meant that only the most motivated could reach its most valuable natural resources. As a result, only the most intrepid, and perhaps delusional, adventurers tried. For the most part, it was religious devotion that brought Spanish subjects to the region. Therefore, Spanish colonization in Amazonia was represented largely by the mission church than any other organ of the empire. These religious enterprises fluoresced in some places, but in most others they floundered. While the difficulties of colonization meant fewer colonizers than in other parts of the Americas, the native population suffered under colonial impositions that forced changes in their traditional lifestyle, imposed coercive labor regimes, and brought disease. The native population did not accept this passively, resulting in some of the most successful uprisings in the colonial period, including the Juan Santos Atahualpa rebellion.

Article

Due to treaties between the British and Portuguese empires, Portugal and its Atlantic islands had served as some of the most important trade destinations of British Americans prior to the American Revolution. After US independence, however, Portugal restricted North American access to Portuguese markets. As a result, North Americans anticipated a day when they could trade with independent, republican Brazilians. For their part, however, Brazilians followed a different trajectory toward independence. The Portuguese monarchy liberalized trade in the 1790s to avoid uncomfortable associations of free trade and republican revolution. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Portuguese court relocated from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro to save the empire, opening Brazil to foreign commerce in the process. As a result of such reforms, Brazilians rarely equated republicanism with free trade. After the court returned to Lisbon in 1821 and Brazilians declared independence in 1822, Brazil adopted a monarchy rather than a republic. Brazil disrupted North Americans’ tidy narrative of the Americas as a hemisphere of republics contrasted with European monarchies.

Article

The documents in General José de San Martín’s collection offer detailed knowledge about the man he was, his thoughts, and his actions. In turn, the collection allows scholars to glimpse the rise of American independence movements through a leading American revolutionary. These documents date from 1723 to 1850; however, the majority of them date from 1814 to 1823. The records mainly cover the Argentine and South American territory although there is some foreign affairs material. In general, the collection mainly comprises correspondence carried out by José de San Martín, but there is also documentation of a military nature—trades, copybooks of military orders, parts of battles, files, and some sketches and drawings of plans—as well as a few personal papers. These documents were published for the first time in 1910 by the National Centennial Commission with the assistance of the Mitre Museum, who has been in charge of the documents since 1907 when the museum was established. In 1953, the Sanmartiniano Institute began to track, photograph, and compile all relevant documents about San Martín that were in private and public collections. Despite the historical relevance of the character for Latin American countries and for studies on Latin American independence, the documents published in volumes are digitized in a very irregular way and are difficult to access. However, other essential resources are also needed online to allow the user to access a comprehensive overview of the life and work of the liberator.

Article

Adriana Michele Campos Johnson

The War of Canudos was fought in the northeastern desert-like backlands (sertão) of Brazil at the end of the 19th century between the community of Belo Monte/Canudos and Brazil’s recently established republican government. The leader of Canudos, a charismatic man known as Antônio Conselheiro, was considered a holy man by his followers and exemplified many of the beliefs and practices of folk Catholicism in the region. While he wandered the backlands for many years, rebuilding churches, pronouncing sermons, and living a deeply ascetic life, he entered into conflict with authorities following the passage from monarchy to republic in 1889, a secular form of government that lacked authority in his eyes. Once Conselheiro settled in a hamlet in 1893, baptizing it Belo Monte, the settlement became a center of attraction and grew quickly, draining labor and threatening the power of neighboring landowners. After two small Bahian expeditions sent to fight with the inhabitants of Belo Monte (called Canudos by outsiders) were routed, news of the community and its leader spread like wildfire in both the Bahian press as well as newspapers in the country’s center of power in the southeast. The failure of a third and larger military expedition sent by the federal government turned Canudos into a media event, leading to songs, caricatures, conspiracy theories, and even carnival costumes. While the community did not arguably pose any real threat to the still nascent republic, it became symbolized as such in the media. A fourth and much larger military expedition finally destroyed the community after months of siege. While the war continued to exert an outsized presence in a variety of media, including poems, memoirs, novelizations, and testimonials, its status as a singular and epic event in Brazilian history was cemented with the publication of Euclides da Cunha’s Os Sertões four years after the end of the conflict, a book based on the author’s experience as a war correspondent for a São Paulo newspaper. The consecration of Os Sertões as one of the foundational texts of Brazilian nationality, however, poses a challenge for understanding the War of Canudos outside the optics and intelligibility established by da Cunha’s text.

Article

The 1910 Mexican Revolution erupted as one of several major revolutions of the 20th century throughout the world. Although the revolution touched every corner of the Mexican Republic, it took on special meaning along Mexico’s northern border with the United States. Some of the first expressions of discontent aimed at the Porfirian regime were manifested in the Mexican north. Some of the battles that marked major turning points among the various revolutionary factions took place in the region. Further, the US–Mexican borderlands played a central role in the revolution because of easy access to arms arsenals and functioned as both safe haven and as a base from which to launch attacks. It also became an entry point for radical ideology. Capturing and controlling key cities along the border provided revolutionary factions the upper hand in the long ten-year war. Revolutionaries including Ricardo Flores Magón and Encarnación Díaz, among others, were apprehended and charged with violation of US neutrality laws by American officials who, in collaboration with the Porfirian regime, worked to intercept and arrest individuals deemed a danger to both US and Mexican peace and security. The revolution left a long legacy in border communities as it served as a watershed moment regarding immigration policy as well as in the way Mexican-origin people in the United States were perceived.