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.
Since the beginning of the colonial period, slavery was an important factor in the constitution of international relations between the Portuguese Empire and the other empires and states in the Atlantic world. In the 15th century, Portuguese merchants sold enslaved Africans from West Africa, initially to Europe and afterwards to the Americas, opening commercial and diplomatic relations that lasted for centuries and would be responsible for the establishment of the largest commercial venture in the Atlantic world in the early modern period. With the independence of Brazil, slavery—and the debate about the prohibition of the Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans—came to be the central element in negotiations of diplomatic relations between the country and other nations, notably Great Britain and the republics of the La Plata River region. Indeed, slavery remained a core issue at least until the end of the Paraguayan War in 1870, when growing international isolation, resulting from the ongoing presence of slavery in Brazil, opened the final crisis of the empire.
When news broke of the war in Europe, there was talk of a catastrophe that, as a result of the close-knit global entanglements, would embroil the world in an unprecedented crisis. The world dimensions of the events were in evidence to contemporary Latin American observers from early on. Despite the region’s considerable distance from the battlefields, the First World War was felt more than any other previous event outside Latin America in Brazil, and it was clear that its repercussions would affect the lives of average citizens. The relative isolation from which people in the region had witnessed other conflicts in Europe prior to 1914 came to an end. Many Brazilians took an active interest in the war. They participated in the debates about the end of Western hegemony and the downfall of Europe, which took place around the world and would become emblematic of the 20th century. The perception of the war followed a global logic, as Brazil was entangled in the events because of the new type of economic and propaganda war. Modern historiography largely ignored the impact of the war in Brazil, although a number of treatises appeared immediately after the conflict. It was not until the advent of dependence theory that interest was rekindled in the significance of the First World War. The picture changed in 2014 when several important studies integrated new perspectives of cultural and global history. While the First World War may have long been a marginal concern of Brazilian historiography, it was even more common to find “general” histories of the conflagration devoid of any perspective other than the European and that of the United States. But in the total wars of the 20th century, even a neutral country could not remain passive. As a result of its natural resources and strategic position, Brazil was to become an actor in this conflagration.