- Recent Works on U.S.–Latin American Relations
There have, of course, been countless books on different aspects of U.S.– Latin American relations, especially after the Cuban Revolution increased U.S. governmental and scholarly attention to the region. Long gone are the days when the subject was dominated by U.S.-centric diplomatic historians like Samuel Flagg Bemis, whose influential text The Latin American Policy of the United States (excerpted in LaRosa and Mora) is almost painful to read for its paternalistic bent, particularly in its positive view of U.S. imperialism.1 Instead, the books under review here demonstrate how the study of U.S.–Latin American relations in the post–Cold War era has grown very diverse. It is, therefore, no easy task to tie together all the many threads of the topic, given the number of disciplinary and historical perspectives, the various audiences, and the aspirations of different analyses.
Nevertheless, some things do not change much. In a book review essay published in Latin American Research Review in 1992, immediately after the end of the Cold War, Alyson Brysk wrote that the books that she examined "do not address each other directly and to a certain extent are aimed at different audiences."2 This is also the case with the publications now under review. We can, however, identify four distinct but intertwined goals set out in these books. First, there is the effort to characterize and summarize U.S. policy and its impact on, and response from, Latin America. Second, the authors seek to judge U.S. policy, especially in relation to its stated goals. Third, most of the authors analyze Latin America's reaction to U.S. policy. Fourth, a number of the books have an explicit pedagogical angle, while others could also easily be incorporated as class readings. For this, I will conclude by discussing how these publications could contribute collectively to theory building.
The topic of U.S.–Latin American relations as a whole is unique because it has a wider undergraduate audience than many others; many universities and colleges teach it along with a general course on Latin American politics. Therefore, in addition to (or in conjunction with) theoretical and conceptual treatments, there is a steady stream of books aimed at the non-expert. Given the national debate in the United States on immigration, the rhetoric aimed at the Cuban and Venezuelan governments (including whether to talk to them at all), the continued flow of drugs and the associated [End Page 248] violence, and the discourse on free-trade agreements, just to name a few of the most prominent issues, there is a need for books intended for students at both the graduate level and the undergraduate level. One encouraging point is that the quality of writing in many of these...