America South. By Carleton Beals, Philadelphia and New York: J. B, Lip-pincott Company. $4.00. Transgressor in the Tropics. By Negley Farson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. $2.50.
The people of the United States are in dire need of an authoritative discussion of contemporary social and political conditions in Latin America. That need is only partially supplied by Carleton Beals’s “America South” and Negley Farson’s “Transgressor in the Tropics.”
Mr. Beals’s large volume is filled with prejudices, superficial thinking, and errors of fact. Although it contains a considerable quantity of useful information, only the well-informed will be able to distinguish between the true and the false. All others will read it at grave risk. The book opens with the unfounded allegation that Simon Bolivar planned a Pan-American league intended to embrace the United States. It closes with the strange suggestion that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Buenos Aires Peace Conference of 1936 was designed to strengthen the “semi-Fascist dictatorships which infest Latin America.” Between the opening allegation and the concluding suggestion is a mixture of fancy, fact, and confusion.
“America South” is divided into five parts. The first part describes the physical environment and native races. The second deals with Spanish colonization, race mixtures in Spanish America, and the struggle for independence. The third discusses generals, landlords, church, home and women, schools, and the causes of Latin America’s backwardness. The fourth, the most valuable section of the book, attempts to analyze the new forces in Hispanic America: reforms, reformers and their ideology, a new crop of dictators, and the desire for self-sufficiency. The fifth deals with the struggle of the great powers for the markets and economic resources of the region, with some attention to the Monroe Doctrine and Pan-Americanism. All that is concrete and reliable in the book could have been set forth in half the space. Its most striking characteristics are its style, its vagueness, and dogmatism. It contains neither footnote citations to authorities nor bibliography.
Mr. Farson’s “Transgressor in the Tropics” is the product of a careful observer of the contemporary scene. Although he is somewhat confused regarding the geography of Colombia, and the lighter portions of his narrative are of little interest to the more serious reader, this journalist has published a source book of real value. Unfortunately his book is confined largely to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. But when the time comes for the biographer to write an account of the rulers of those four countries in the 1930’s, Mr. Farson’s sketches of Enrique Olaya Herrera, Alfonso Lopez, Frederico Paez, Oscar Benavides, and Arturo Alessandri will be found most useful. He has given some attention also to social conditions in the Latin-American lands which he visited.