Book Review: Wars of Latin America, 1899-1941

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by René De La Pedraja

Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2006. Pp. xii, 496. Illus., maps., notes, biblio., index. $55.00 paper. ISBN: 0786425792

A Handbook of Latin American Wars in the First Decades of the Twentieth Century.  

This is the first of three volumes by Prof. de la Pedraja (Canisius) cataloging the wars in Latin American during the twentieth century. The author of several books on Latin American and economic history, he covers both internal and international conflicts, few of which are particularly well known outside of the countries involved.

After a prologue covering conflicts of the late nineteenth century that spilled over into the twentieth, such as Colombia’s “War of a Thousand Days” and Venezuela’s Liberal Revolt, de la Pedraja breaks the wars down into three groups.

  • “Border Conflicts” covers territorial disputes between Bolivia and Chile, Peru and Ecuador, and Panama and Costa Rica.
  • “Domestic Insurrections,” by far the largest section, has a chapter on internal conflicts in Cuba, six on the various revolutions and civil wars in Mexico, and one on the Sandinista war in Nicaragua, in each case involving some measure of U.S. intervention.
  • “The Great Depression,” during which there occurred the only notable international conflicts in Latin America in the twentieth century, the Bolivian-Paraguayan “Chaco War”,  the Peruvian-Colombian “Leticia War,” and the Peruvian-Ecuadorian Border War. 

For each war, de la Pedraja gives us a general idea of the origins of the struggle, reviews the personalities and forces at work, covers the events in a readable narrative, and then discusses the results. 

De la Pedraja has made a very useful contribution to the literature on the history of Latin America in the twentieth century, and particularly of U.S. relations with the region. His book is not only of value to those interested in Latin American history and U.S. foreign policy toward the region, but also will be of some value for students of guerrilla warfare and insurgency and, in his third section, the nature of “modern” warfare at mid-century, and also for students of leadership, as it covers several little known but excellent commanders, most notably Paraguay's Jose Felix Estigarribia.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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