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Reviewed by:
  • Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War ed. by Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Mark Attwood Lawrence, and Julio E. Moreno
  • Jorge I. Domínguez
Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Mark Atwood Lawrence, and Julio E. Moreno, eds., Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013. 341 pp.

In what ways did the Cold War matter? To those who lived through the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 or Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, or those who experienced the 1962 Cuban missile crisis or the brutal wars in several Central American countries in the 1980s, the question may seem silly. Of course it mattered, but how it mattered has long been contested. This book signals in its title that the Cold War was not just about the talons of the eagle. The eagle remains central to the story, but this splendid book finds nuance and insight lurking beneath its shadows.

The editors frame the book around three questions; namely, how did Latin American governments exercise initiative? how did people experience the Cold War? and how do left-right, Communist-capitalist dichotomies describe the Cold War era? Most but not all authors discuss these questions. Their key substantive findings go a long way toward rectifying errors in prevailing scholarship:

  • • Contrary to common views, during the Cold War Coca-Cola suffered at least as much as it gained from its association with the U.S. government (Julio Moreno, ch. 1). [End Page 148]

  • • Misguided as U.S. policy was toward Guatemala in the 1960s, the Guatemalan military made its own decisions, and the U.S. government was “unable to control the Guatemalan military and its domestic affairs” (p. 68) (Giovanni Batz, ch. 2).

  • • Panicky as the U.S. government became in the face of Fidel Castro’s government, the “first stage of the hemispheric Cold War involved a U.S.-Venezuelan alliance against right-wing extremism and political violence” (p. 98), mainly against Rafael Trujillo’s actions (Aragorn Storm Miller, ch. 3).

  • • Heavy-handed as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was in its support of counterrevolutionary commandos against Castro’s Cuba, the CIA was skillfully selective in its choice of such groups, excluding supporters of the ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista and favoring former revolutionaries (Jonathan Brown, ch. 4).

  • • Brutally repressive as the Brazilian military was in its own Cold War in rural Brazil after the 1964 coup, it also “oversaw widespread rural unionization and the extension of social welfare benefits to the countryside” (p. 169) (Seth Garfield, ch. 6).

  • • Although the Reagan administration aided the Miskitu peoples against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government for Cold War reasons, the Miskitu adopted “a militant pan-Indianism that resembled the Red Power ear of the United States” (p. 194), something the Reaganites otherwise abhorred (James Jenkins, ch. 7).

  • • Eager as Cuba was as part of its Cold War foreign policy to assist Nicaragua by sending health care personnel, “Cuba constrained the lives of its medical workers so strictly to the professional” (pp. 221–222) that it undermined their potential to bolster support for socialism more broadly (K. Cheasty Anderson, ch. 8).

  • • Opposed as the young Roman Catholic workers’ movement was to Communist influence in Arbenz’s government prior to his overthrow, their movement in post-1954 Guatemala came to be “at odds with the same anticommunist elements that supported the overthrow of Arbenz” (p. 273) (Bonar L. Hernández, ch. 10).

  • • “Contrary to the view of Latin Americans as victims of U.S. policy . . . leaders in both Peru and Colombia manipulated the narcotics issue to ensure U.S. funding and support” (p. 284; Michelle Denise Reeves, ch. 11).

Beyond these illuminating findings that bear directly on the Cold War, several chapters present compelling characterizations of the cases they examine. I will highlight three.

Julio Moreno shows that the Coca-Cola company’s long and complex relationship with the U.S. government at times helped the firm, but that the company suffered at other times from U.S. government actions—for example, with Cuba’s expropriation of Coca-Cola’s outlet in Cuba in 1960. Similarly...


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pp. 148-150
Launched on MUSE
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