Skip to main content

New Light on Latin America

ISSUE:  Winter 1943

Latin America. By William Lytle Schurz. E. P. Dutton and Company. $3.75. The Pageant of South American History. By Anne Merriman Peck. Longmans, Green and Company. $3.00. The Nazi Underground in South America. By Hugo Fernandez Artucio. Farrar and Rin,ehart. $3.00. Inter-American Solidarity. Edited by Walter H, C. Laves. University of Chicago Press. $1.50. Latin America and the Bnlightcnment. Edited by Arthur P. Whitaker. D. Appleton-Century Company. $1.25. Brazil: Land of the Puture. By Stefan Zwcig. The Viking Press. $3.00.

The superabundance of instructive volumes of gen-eral information on Latin America by journalists of varying capacities and backgrounds seems to be giving way gradually to more specialized studies by more experienced students. At the same time the few general treatments of the entire field that are now appearing are on the whole written more carefully and with considerably more assured scholarship. Hubert Herring and Duncan Aikman led the way in this direction with their very excellent studies, and William Lytle Schurz in his encyclopedic survey, “Latin America,” has made a scholarly contribution in a somewhat similar vein.

Contrary to the procedure of his predecessors Mr. Schurz, attempts the very difficult task of surveying the entire field from a half dozen successive points of view. The problems of the land and of the people—their history, their economy, their international relations, and their way of life—are outlined and sketched in with vigorous strokes on a vast background of first hand information. Having spent more than half of his adult life in various Latin American countries as a newspaper man, commercial representative, or governmental official, the author has effectively utilized the opportunity for accurate reporting.

The longest and perhaps best part of the volume is devoted to the economy of the Latin American republics. Agriculture, forest products and the mining industry are methodically and extensively surveyed. Considerable attention is given to communication by rail, auto, and air. The figures on automobiles indicate that Argentina and Brazil have over fifty per cent of all automobiles in Latin America, but their combined registration is only a little over one per cent of the number in the United States. On the other hand, the second oldest commercial aviation company in the world was established in Colombia, and air transport has developed remarkably throughout Latin America.

The weakest section of the book is that concerned with the international relations of these countries. Less than one page is devoted to relations with Germany, which the author declares to be “essentially economic.” We recommend to his attention Dr. Artucio’s volume, “The Nazi Underground in South America,” reviewed below. His treatment of the relations between Latin America and the United States in sorru respects is inadequate and in places inaccurate. For instance, he gives Grant instead of Polk credit for the “no transfer” extension of the Monroe Doctrine. He notes Hayes’ policy regarding an American interoceanic canal without mentioning the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. To speak of Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican Republic as protectorates of the United States is an exceedingly loose use of the term. He declares (p. 279) that Bryan’s canal treaty “was not ratified by the United States Senate,” whereas it was ratified February 18, 1916. In the interest of accuracy it might be noted that the Senate only approves ratification of a treaty, and that the exchange of ratification is an executive act. The Huerta regime in Mexico is characterized as “ignominious” in spite of the fact that our ambassador to Mexico urged its recognition, considered Huerta to be a man of “iron mould and courage” and his cabinet to contain men of “exceptional ability and high character.” In fact, it was the United States that was “ignominiously” treated until we blockaded the Mexican coasts. Finally, the very vital Conferences of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics held in Panama in 1939 and in Havana in 1940 are dismissed with the barest mention as “special conferences held during the second half of 1940.” In spite of these minor defects, Mr. Schurz has given us one of the most complete and adequate surveys of Latin America that has yet appeared.

Anne Merriman Peck’s “The Pageant of South American History” is a breezy, well illustrated travelogue presentation of the development of the South American nations with emphasis on the prehistoric and colonial periods. Mrs. Peck has traveled widely in South America and has studied and observed carefully. As an unpretentious, well-written narrative of the picturesque history of our South American neighbors, with an adequate appreciation of their culture and institutions this volume has very definite value.

The Western hemisphere, protected by its vast ocean frontiers and by the effective though vague commitments of the Monroe Doctrine, has suddenly awakened to a sinister danger threatening from within. One of the first states to investigate this menace was Uruguay, and the originator of the counter-attack was Dr. Hugo Fernandez Artucio, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montevideo, who, aroused by the seriousness of the menace, began a veritable crusade against the Fascist organization in Uruguay. Successful in obtaining a Congressional investigation which uncovered a well laid plot to seize the state, he did not cease until the Nazi organization was driven completely to cover. Dr. Artucio then proceeded to make a thorough investigation of the Nazi program and organization throughout the continent and his findings are graphically presented in “The Nazi Underground in South America.”

The focal points of Nazi activities he found to be the German embassies and legations whose officers, abusing their diplomatic privileges, acted as agents for Goebbels’ Ministry for Propaganda and Information and for Himmler’s even more dangerous Gestapo. Every instrumentality— radio programs, schools, social clubs, relief organizations —were effectively employed to draw the Latin American republics into the orbit of the Swastika. No better means of arousing Americans to the serious danger of the Fifth Column in the Western hemisphere can be recommended than a careful perusal of Dr. Artucio’s findings, exhaustively set down in this volume. The insistence of the United States at the Rio Conference on a severance of diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers as a sine qua non of safety for the Western hemisphere is overwhelmingly justified by the proofs of subversive activities emanating from the German embassies, as established by Dr. Artucio.

Among the various useful agencies working towards better inter-American understanding are institutes which present both lectures and round table discussions by leaders in the field. The Harris Foundation at the University of Chicago chose in 1941 as the subject of its discussions Inter-American Solidarity, and subsequently had the lectures edited by Walter H. C. Laves and published under the same title. However, the real value which accrues from the presentation and the discussion which follows in the conference rarely carries over into the publication months later. Furthermore, to be effective addresses the material must be presented in a manner that is not so satisfactory when read. This volume, containing seven addresses on cultural relations by recognized authorities, suffers from this handicap. Its chief value would be for those who attended the institute.

The series of essays edited by Arthur P. Whitaker and entitled “Latin America and the Enlightenment,” in the words of the introduction by Frederico de Onis, outline “in clear precise fashion the period which after the Conquest is without question the most important in the historical development of Spanish and Portuguese America.” The reviewer would say rather that for the layman the essays present in recondite phraseology the erudite findings of learned specialists in an esoteric field of philosophic concepts. The essay by John Tate Lanning on “The Reception of the Enlightenment in Latin America” is so cleverly written that the reader is charmed by its brilliance even though tending to support the “volcan de la incredidulidad” decrying the enlightenment.

Stefan Zweig’s “Brazil: Land of the Future” is a superb example of impressionistic writing. He makes no pretense of complete or even cursory knowledge of the entire country; in fact, as he points out, very few Brazilians have the former. But in his first visit to Brazil he was so enraptured with the country that he determined to return, and this book is the result of the second and much longer visit. There is not a footnote, no statistics, no illustrations, yet the reader will see the vast magnificent panorama of Brazil so vividly set before him that he will immediately plan to visit it among the first of tomorrow’s holidays. Zweig finds among the greatest attractions of the country its humanitarian behavior, its hatred of war, its appreciation of tolerance. Although he accepts de Souza’s statement that “Everything here is of a beauty that can hardly be described,” Zweig does a magnificent job of descriptive writing. Whether writing of its history, its economy, its culture, or of a visit to Rio or Sao Paulo, he communicates his buoyant enthusiasm to the reader. To former visitors comes the desire to return, to others the anticipation of an early visit.


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading