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Reviewed by:
  • Wars of Latin America, 1899-1941
  • Richard Grossman
Wars of Latin America, 1899-1941. By René De La Pedraja. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. Pp. xii, 496. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $49.95 paper.

Latin American countries have seen their fair share of wars. De La Pedraja presents a military history of most of these wars for the first four decades of the twentieth century. He states three goals: to survey the wars; to compare them in view of military theory; and most important, to show how decisive these wars "have been in determining the history of Latin America" (p. 2). De La Pedraja starts with the Colombian War of the Thousand Days. He examines the battles in great detail and suggests that the introduction of new military technology—the new bolt-operated Mauser rifle and the machine gun—ended the ninetieth-century style of war. Next he looks at the various border conflicts over the Amazon jungle region. Then he analyzes domestic insurrections such as those in Cuba after the U.S. occupation, the Mexican Revolution, and the Sandino rebellion of Nicaragua. His last section discusses the Great Depression period, with the Chaco War and other South American border disputes.

The strength and weakness of this book is that it is a highly opinionated military history. While De La Pedraja examines military tactics and technology, he also freely gives his impressions of the various leaders—with clear heroes and villains. For example, he dislikes Emiliano Zapata, whom he calls "the most sinister and selfish of the revolutionary leaders" (p. 246) and in his long discussion of the Mexican Revolution he barely looks at the events in Morelos. He also suggests that peasants fought only for monetary gains, such as the followers of Augusto Sandino who wanted only "booty" and "plunder" (p. 312). Wars and insurrections do not take place in a vacuum. While there are a lot of interesting descriptions of battles, the lack of objectivity and of social and political analysis, makes this book ultimately unsatisfactory.

Richard Grossman
Northeastern Illinois University
Chicago, Illinois


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