Augusto C. Sandino (1895–1934) led a peasant rebellion against the armed forces of the United States which occupied Nicaragua between 1926 and 1932. While much has been written about Sandino’s military prowess in this 20th-century guerrilla warfare, less is known about the development of his political thought and intellectual formation. That issue necessarily takes historians to the Mexican Revolution, and specifically to the period between 1923 and 1926 when Sandino was an immigrant worker in the oil fields of the larger Tampico area. Radical labor unionism and anarcho-syndicalism were the principal currents that Sandino encountered, and that helped shape his outlook and subsequent political manifestos. Because Sandino did not directly refer in any detail to this period of his life in subsequent interviews and statements, an examination is made of the cultural and social roots of working-class formations in which he immersed himself. Fortunately, historians have explored the social aspect, labor union activity, economics, and politics of the oil fields in depth (Adleson, Alafita-Mendez, Alcayaga Sasso); Dospital and Hodges were among the first to point to Sandino’s early experience in Mexico including his encounters with the metaphysical schools and mentors who shaped the idealism underpinning his anti-imperialism economic, political, military, and cultural thinking. During a military campaign and at the peak of his fame, Sandino returned to Mexico (1929–1930) expecting that the “revolutionary” government, on the one side, and the Communist Party of Mexico, on the other side, as representative of the international communist movement (Comintern) would lend political, financial, and military support for the war in Nicaragua. Cerdas Cruz told that story well, although without the benefit of primary sources. But Sandino was mistaken and eventually felt betrayed by both sides that laid claim to the revolution. He returned to Nicaragua where he fought successfully until the US Marines’ withdrawal at the end of 1932. Months after signing a peace treaty, Sandino was assassinated (February 1934) in Managua by the leaders of the proxy military constabulary or Guardia Nacional left behind by the United States in Nicaragua. At that time, he was establishing communes in northern Nicaragua according to the teachings of his first intellectual and spiritual mentors.
The 1959 Cuban Revolution, the revolution’s subsequent strengthening, and the radical change that the process underwent beginning in 1961 marked a turning point in the history of Latin America. It implied the largest and most consistent regional challenge faced by the United States in an area where its influence had often been decisive. From then on, the Latin American Cold War intensified at every level. It was no longer about the “reactive” actions that took place among the conservative Latin American elite via the communism inspired by distant Moscow. In Cuba, the culture of the “revolution” was established, and the consequences were far from mere symbolism: Cubans also launched actions of “alternative diplomacy” to lend institutional support to the Latin American guerrilla movements. However, there is no documented study on Cuba’s role in Latin America. This is explicable in large part by the secrecy with which the Caribbean isle has made archival research in the country impossible. Although this secrecy is understandable in view of its nature as a heavily beleaguered revolution from abroad, this culture of secrecy contributed to expanding a production of journalistic and essay-based denunciation that habitually lacked rigor and interpretive frameworks. Since 2010, a certain spirit of openness has existed in the matter, an example of which is purported to be linked to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose historical repository has slowly begun to receive researchers, principally from abroad. Drawing upon the anxiety and curiosity of the international historiographic community about the images originating from Havana, an initial approach and investigation was carried out in the aforementioned tradition, with the aim of shedding light on several of the actions deployed by the Cuban Embassy in Uruguay during the initial and intense years of the Caribbean revolution.
Spain entered the Age of Atlantic Revolutions (1775–1825) motivated by a desire to re-establish its traditional status as a major European power, a position that its Habsburg monarchs gradually had relinquished over the course of the 17th century and that was lost in dramatic fashion during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1713). Over the first six decades of the 18th century, the newly installed Bourbon dynasty launched a series of administrative, military, clerical, and economic reforms designed to spark and then protect an imperial revival. As a regular participant in the colonial wars of the period, the Spanish crown relied heavily on military strength to signify its renewed standing vis-à-vis its international adversaries. Any gains won by force of arms also needed to be confirmed by treaty and reinforced by positive peacetime relationships with these same rivals. As a result, an assertive diplomacy played an important role in promoting Spanish interests during a tumultuous era that began with great hopes for the restoration of Spain’s historic preeminence in the Atlantic World but ended with the collapse of its American empire.
Thomas C. Field Jr.
The Cold War in Latin America had marked consequences for the region’s political and economic evolution. From the origins of US fears of Latin American Communism in the early 20th century to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, regional actors played central roles in the drama. Seeking to maximize economic benefit while maintaining independence with regard to foreign policy, Latin Americans employed an eclectic combination of liberal and anti-imperialist discourses, balancing frequent calls for anti-Communist hemispheric unity with periodic diplomatic entreaties to the Soviet bloc and the nonaligned Third World. Meanwhile, US Cold War policies toward the region ranged from progressive developmentalism to outright military invasions, and from psychological warfare to covert paramilitary action. Above all, the United States sought to shore up its allies and maintain the Western Hemisphere as a united front against extra-hemispheric ideologies and influence. The Cold War was a bloody, violent period for Latin America, but it was also one marked by heady idealism, courageous political action, and fresh narratives about Latin America’s role in the world, all of which continue to inform regional politics to this day.