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Book Review Essays

Literature about Latin America during the Era of World War I

Author:

Thomas M. Leonard

University of North Florida, US
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Abstract

This essay reviews the following works:

The Intelligence War in Latin America, 1914–1922. By Jamie Bisher. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2016. Pp. viii + 414. $75.00 paperback. ISBN: 9780786433506.

 

Beyond Geopolitics: New Histories of Latin America at the League of Nations. Edited by Alan McPherson and Yannick Wehrli. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015. Pp. viii + 269. $55.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780826351654.

 

Treacherous Passage: Germany’s Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I. By Bill Mills. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Pp xii + 256. $29.95 hardcover. ISBN: 9781612348544.

 

Colombia and World War I: The Experience of a Neutral Latin American Nation during the Great War and Its Aftermath, 1914–1921. By Jane M. Rausch. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014. Pp. vii + 137. $91.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780739187739.

 

Latin America and the First World War. By Stefan Rinke. Translated by Christopher W. Reid. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. viii + 297. $29.99 paperback. ISBN: 9781107566064.

How to Cite: Leonard, T. M. (2019). Literature about Latin America during the Era of World War I. Latin American Research Review, 54(3), 756–762. DOI: http://doi.org/10.25222/larr.1039
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  Published on 17 Sep 2019
 Accepted on 28 Feb 2018            Submitted on 12 Feb 2018

In 1917 and 1918, following the outbreak of World War I, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama declared war on Germany; four others severed diplomatic relations with Berlin: Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Ecuador. Only Brazil actively participated in the conflict, most importantly in the antisubmarine campaign. It also sent support personnel to the European theater.

Nine Latin American nations became charter members of the League of Nations: Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. Costa Rica joined the organization at its first session held in Geneva in late 1919. Because European issues dominated the assembly’s agenda during the 1920s and 1930s, Latin American governments lost interest in the association, except for its work in technical, scientific, and social committees. Latin America’s limited participation in the war and the league supports the conventional interpretation that Latin America was a sideshow to the European conflict and the decade after.

The five volumes reviewed for this essay challenge the conventional viewpoint. Each work examines topics that significantly add to the understanding of the varied Latin American experiences during The Great War and that, for those countries, the war was not a sideshow.

Stefan Rinke, a German historian, currently teaches at the Institute of Latin American Studies and Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut at Freie Universität Berlin. He is a widely published scholar in the European community of Latin American academics. In Latin America and the First World War Rinke discusses the war’s reporting in Argentina, Brazil Chile; Colombia, Mexico, and Peru and to a much lesser extent Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Rinke uses a wide variety of sources to tell the story—public documents, memoirs, biographies, journals, and newspapers and magazines.

At the war’s start in August 1914 through the spring of 1917, when the United States entered the conflict, the Latin American nations pursued neutrality policies. By 1917, many factors drew it closer to or, for some, into the conflict. In Latin America, the economic impact, the nationalism of expatriates and their recruitment by the warring European factions, propaganda, and pressure from all sides influenced several of the Latin American nations to declare war on the Allied side.

Owing largely to the loss of European markets between 1914 and 1917, the adverse economic impact of the war played out in varying degrees in all the countries Rinke examined. During that period, whether by the governments’ commandeering of privately owned merchant ships, the British blockade of the European ports, or the German use of submarine warfare, shipping and Latin America’s access to European markets drastically declined and as Rinke notes, the public literature clearly reported the local consequences: unemployment, shortage of goods, and concomitant inflation. At the war’s start, many of the resident foreign nationals of all European combatants and their descendants rushed to return home to fight the enemy. As these issues played out, the Argentine and Chilean and to a lesser extent the Bolivian and Paraguayan governments, for example, had to deal respectively with Italian and German communities.

During the same time period, the local media printed articles and illustrations portraying the horrors of war. Both Allied and Central Powers propaganda made its way to Latin America until the cutting of the trans-Atlantic cable. Thereafter, Rinke asserts that Central Power propaganda made its way surreptitiously to Latin America, while US and British communications operated freely. As could be expected, each side justified its own position.

Like other historians of Latin America, Rinke explains that in the late nineteenth century the nations south of the Rio Grande entered the global arena as a result of the “liberal” economic philosophy implemented by their political leadership. Accordingly, the nations opened their doors to foreign economic investment as a means to advance their countries into economic modernity. British, German, and French commercial elites were the primary foreign investors, with the United States a late arrival near the century’s end, investing primarily in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In reality the implementation of liberalism cemented the elite’s place at the apex of the national political and economic landscapes. The foreign investors and local elites joined in an unwritten alliance that resulted in keeping the urban and rural working poor from gaining their “fair share” of the economic progress. Any improvement in the status of the lower classes would come at the expense of foreign profits and the local elites’ socioeconomic and political status. Between these two groups was a small middle class (or middle sector) that included professionals, small entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and students, which while economically secure primarily sought to enter and make more fair the political system, but without including the lower classes.

This scenario first played out in Mexico following the ouster of longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz and the election of Francisco Madero to the presidency in 1911. Although Madero came from an elite family his initial goal aimed at establishing a more democratic political system that did not include the lower classes. This opened the door to Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, among others, who appealed to the lower socioeconomic classes and ignited the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), which resulted in the socialist-leaning 1917 constitution and laid the legal groundwork for nationalizing foreign-owned businesses and placing limits on future external investments in Mexico. Rinke uses media descriptions and remarks by the political elites and intellectuals to illustrate that the peoples of South America were aware of the human and material costs of the revolution, but not the conflicting policy goals of the United States to maintain political and economic order, and Berlin’s espionage and its extensive influence in the Mexican government.

Again using the same sources, Rinke explains that Latin American publics learned of their governments’ initial enthusiasm for and then loss of interest in the League of Nations. The governing elites initially viewed the league as a means to check foreign influence and interference, particularly by the United States, in their internal affairs. This became most evident in the inter-American conferences of the 1920s.

In sum, Rinke uses multiple source materials to illustrate the availability to the public of the wartime experiences abroad and the war’s economic impact at home; in so doing, he makes an important contribution to the literature covering Latin America during the World War I era. Rinke’s work also raises several questions for future scholars to explore. Initially, who read these materials? What were the circulation numbers, usually found on the front page banner or in the inside page listing the staff and departments of each newspaper? Also, published literacy rates for the time period indicate that Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica had relatively high rates, while the other countries used in this study were low to very low. These two points raise the question: Were the elites and middle sector writing and speaking only to each other? What policy making influence did each have? The same question applies to immigrant and lower socioeconomic groups. For example, did the large Italian communities in Argentina and Costa Rica and the economically influential German community in Chile and Guatemala have political influence? For sure, the mostly illiterate lower socioeconomic groups were outside Mexico’s and Paraguay’s political arenas.

Complementing Rinke’s presentation on the publics’ potential awareness of World War I events is Jamie Bisher’s examination of the secret world of intelligence during the war in Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela, The Intelligence War in Latin America, 1914–1922. Biographic information is sketchy about this graduate of the United States Air Force Academy currently working in the private sector, but his membership in the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers helps not only to explain Bisher’s passion for the field but also adds to the credibility of his fine work. Because of the paucity of primary source materials in Latin America on the subject, Bisher explains that he needed to rely on documentation found in the United States Naval Academy, which he blends with a plethora of secondary sources to present us with a well-written addition to the historical literature. Bisher provides excellent historical context and with biographic information of the major players in Latin America’s intelligence world. Intelligence usually means the gathering of information for use against one’s opponent: political, military, economic. Bisher goes beyond the commonly used definition to include propaganda, counterpropaganda, infrastructure, and sabotage, all of which contributes to the book’s importance.

Germany had a long established and centralized system to gather intelligence throughout Latin America. Germany utilized its diplomats, special agents, military advisors, businessmen, and expatriates to gather information that could be used to curtail British and US influence in the region. This scenario played out well in Mexico, where the Germans found a kindred spirit in Mexican revolutionary leader and eventual president Venustiano Carranza, whose antipathy towards the United States contributed to his acceptance of German arms and money and his unabashed tolerance of German intelligence operations in Mexico. The large German community in Argentina and a much smaller one in Brazil were expected to augment German military advisors and special agents in gathering information about shipping for use by German war boats in the south Atlantic. German warships also patrolled the west coast of Latin America, assisted with information provided by the German communities in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru in their tracking and attacking regional commercial shipping. The British also asserted that the port cities in these three countries supplied the German flotilla with the coal necessary to ply the Pacific waters.

Venezuelan dictator General Juan Vicente Gómez proclaimed the neutrality of his country that enabled the shipment of oil to the belligerents while enduring the risks of enemy attacks on the high seas. In practice, however, Gómez was decidedly pro-German, even holding secret talks with German officials to plot strategies in the event of the war spilling over to the southern continent. The city of Maracaibo housed a large German community that offered information about the nearby oil industry and served as a communications center for the distribution of printed and radio German propaganda and disinformation for Central and South America. According to Bisher, German influence in Central America was minimal owing to local conditions in individual countries, but Germans were linked to a supposed plot to unite the region against the perverse, real or imagined, US influence. Although Bisher concludes that German intelligence in Latin America constituted a “sideshow” to the European battlefront, to the Latin American countries covered in this volume, it was of significant concern.

The United States arrived late on the intelligence and counterintelligence scene. During the first two years of the conflict, the US government relied on the army’s Military Intelligence Division (MID) and Office of Naval Operations (ONI) officers to augment the political reports of its embassies across Latin America and those by the British Intelligence Service. But each of these sources faced the problem of its own and local staff members serving as German spies. In addition, several British agents did not readily share information with MID and ONI. To correct this problem, the US State Department appointed Leland Harrison head of its newly created Counselor Department, an innocuous title that covered the coordination of all intelligence and counterintelligence information that came its way. In addition, Harrison sent his own consuls and special agents to Latin America to conduct its own intelligence and counterintelligence operations and to distribute propaganda. By 1918, the United States had established a sophisticated intelligence program of its own.

Bisher’s book is filled with examples of the intelligence world at work throughout Latin America. A January 1917 coup d’état that resulted in the Costa Rican dictatorship of Federico Tinoco, bolstered by his brother and minister of war, Roberto. When US Special Agent Charles Waite arrived in San José in March 1918, rumors abounded regarding plots from within the country and organized invasions by ticos temporarily residing in Nicaragua and Panama to oust the Tinoco brothers. While most analysts attributed the Tinocos’ rise to power as a result of internal politics, MID and Waite understood that any US intervention would further exacerbate US–Costa Rican relations and open the door to possible German interference on behalf of the Tinoco regime. Waite understood that the rebels potentially and, the Germans for sure, would be a threat to the security of the recently opened Panama Canal. To thwart both the various rebel groups and Berlin’s potential involvement, Waite hosted an extravagant dinner in one of San José’s plush facilities for forty-four successful US businessmen and convinced them to become propagandists for the Allied cause. The first of many successes, Waite went on to new triumphs in Latin America, and according to Bisher, proved to be one of the premier US special agents on the southern continent. What impact Waite’s forty-four converts had on the Tinocos’ overthrow and on subsequent government policy is unknown, but Costa Rica declared war on Germany following Tinoco’s ouster in August 1919.

Germany also had its own cast of characters traipsing through Latin America, including Fritz Duquesne, who traveled with a US passport to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama under assumed names and various occupations, including self-proclaimed service in the US military. In reality, Duquesne surveyed and took note of buildings, coastal areas, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure facilities. Investigation of Duquesne’s background by the US military attaché assigned to the five Central American republics, Army Captain William F. Martin, revealed that he actually was a German spy. When Duquesne learned of the revelation, he and his wife departed Colón, Panama, for Trinidad on June 14, 1915.

Six months later, in December 1915, Duquesne arrived in Bahía, Brazil, again using a false name and this time claiming to be a botanist. The German use of wireless telegraphy made undetectable Duquesne’s transmission of merchant shipping information from land to gunboats roaming the waters off the Argentine and Brazilian Atlantic coasts searching for Allied commercial ships. Duquesne used his base at Bahía to visit Brazilian ports. There he paid unsuspecting crew members to take packages aboard their ships. Rather than plant and soil matter, the packages were filled with incendiary devices that later exploded. Eventually, Duquesne claimed that he was responsible for sabotaging twenty-two ships, setting another hundred afire, and firebombing two ports. For sure, Duquesne sabotaged the British merchant ship Tennyson on February 21, 1916. This time he stayed just ahead of British agents, who chased Duquesne into Argentina, where he remained until May 1916 when he entered, undetected into the United States.

Unfortunately, we do not know the fate of the intelligence that Duquesne gathered in Central America, or whether his boastful sabotage claims were credible. Duquesne subsequently became an American citizen and later an active spy for Hitler’s government on the eve of World War II.

By 1917 Mexico produced approximately fifty-five thousand barrels of refined oil daily, most by US companies operating in the Caribbean coastal area around Tampico. There a few Mexican firms that served as fronts for German organizations continued their operations with the acquiescence of the Mexican government. President Carranza permitted the sale of oil to both adversaries, Britain and Germany, under the guise of his World War I neutrality. By 1917, approximately 75 percent of the British fleet’s fuel came from Tampico. As the European War progressed, diplomats, special agents, and businessmen all in the employ of the adversaries resulted in rumors regarding the destruction of the oil fields to serve their own purposes. After the United States learned of the Zimmermann telegram in March 1917, Carranza contemplated the destruction of the oil fields should the United States invade Mexico. Although the crisis abated following the US recognition of the Carranza government on August 31, 1917, it illustrated the war’s international context.

While most historians have focused on events along Mexico’s border with the United States, the oil industry on its east coast and the 1917 Zimmermann telegram, espionage writer and historian Bill Mills turns to the country’s west coast, where the Germans planned to disrupt Allied and particularly US commercial shipping, in Treacherous Passage: Germany’s Secret Plot against the United States during World War I. Mills presents the readers with a lively and compelling story about lesser known events on Mexico’s southwestern Pacific coast. In so doing Mills alerts his audience to the significance of these events in the larger context of German and US intelligence operations in Mexico.

Mills relies on previously unused documents located in the US National Archives, interspersed with a variety of secondary materials. While many readers will find the volume an intriguing work, those geared toward research will be puzzled by Mills’s brief bibliography and particularly his footnoting technique.

According to Mills, a harbinger of future German subterfuge in Mexico began in New York City in early August 1914, shortly after the European war began. There Berlin’s naval attaché, Captain Karl Boy-Ed, administered a secret operation to supply surface raiders in the Atlantic Ocean. Initially, the Deutsche Bank cabled Boy-Ed $2 million ostensibly for use by large German shipping firms such as the Hamburg-Amerika Line, which in turn contracted with smaller shippers that left the New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk ports with falsified documents that permitted them to sail freely into the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the high seas the supplies were transferred to the German commerce raiders. The US government finally learned of Boy-Ed’s clandestine activity in August 2015 and ended it with his recall to Berlin.

Using the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) as a backdrop Mills explains how the Morales, a former Mexican Navy gunboat, became involved in the web of German plots. During the first week of May 2015, the Morales ran aground on rocky shoals as it entered Mazatlán harbor on Mexico’s Pacific coast, approximately 250 miles southeast of Baja California’s southern tip. There it endured three days of rifle fire from the rebel Constitutionalist Army of Venustiano Carranza and cannon fire from the Federalist gunboat Guerrero before its captain and crew set the ship afire and abandoned it. With its bow pointed skyward the Morales rested there for nearly three years before it became the subject of German intrigue. In the summer of 1917, Carranza’s cash-strapped government decided to auction off the Morales as scrap. That August a group of potential buyers, all but one associated with the shipping industry, gathered at Mazatlán. The unknown quantity was Cornelius Heintz, a US citizen, engineer, and US draft-dodger who served as a front man to bid on the ship for Friedrich “Fritz” Unger and Gustav Bergmeister. In addition to being officers at the German consulate office in Mazatlán, they worked as chief administrators of Melchers Sucesores, a German-owned company whose origins can be traced to the 1840s. As the leading exporters/importers for this southwestern portion of Mexico, Melchers was once the richest commercial house and banker for the region. With the war, Melchers lost its easy access to US and European markets, a condition compounded when it was blacklisted by the US government. The company needed a cash infusion. Thus, it fronted the $8,000 bond required to bid on the Morales and viewed Heintz as a necessary assistant to help keep the bidding price low. That changed when Heintz offered the final bid of $18,500. Now Unger and Bergmeister needed a financial partner. They persuaded Luis Arzak, chief managing partner of Cerveza Pacifico Clara, which had a beer monopoly in the region, to join them.

While Heintz received his $2,000 and the $8,000 bond was returned to the Melchers company, Arzak stood to gain the most. Before the Morales was raised, divers inspected the ship and to everyone’s surprise found that the ship had not been damaged. The divers also discovered $40,000 in gold coins that Arzak claimed for himself.

However, that was not the story’s end. While the Morales underwent repairs in Mazatlán harbor in October 1917, the gunboat’s future ownership came into question. Luis Arzak proffered an asking price of $250,000, but feared that the Mexican government might claim the gunboat and expected the US government would prevent it from falling into German hands. The Germans already had plans for the Morales that US counterintelligence agent Paul Allendorf quietly learned about in a private meeting with Unger: the Germans intended to use it as a tender for submarines operating off southern California’s Pacific Coast. Until the US government became involved in 1918, Allendorf sought to find buyers for the ship. Finally, in 1919 the Morales was taken from the Mazatlán harbor to California, where it was again sold for scrap.

In Colombia and World War I, Jane M. Rausch, professor emerita from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a nationally recognized scholar of Colombian history, presents a compact history of the nation’s internal and external experiences during World War I. The volume is richly resourced with primary and secondary sources, both Colombian and North American. Similar to the volumes above, the author follows the war’s chronological order, which includes the Conservative presidencies of José Vicente Concha and Marco Fidel Suárez. In addition to domestic politics, Rausch also explores the war’s impact on the national economy.

As the author explains, when the Great War erupted in August 1914 Colombia remained mired in its political past, where the government’s main props were the landed elites, the Roman Catholic Church, and the military. The Conservative and Liberal elites remained internally divided and the military weak, leaving the Church to exert significant influence over national, regional, and local politics. Although the press was significantly free of government censorship, it represented the views of each political group but it emphasized defending its own political point of view and criticizing the other. While a growing middle class (or middle sector) existed in Bogotá and other urban centers, there existed little, if any, space for their participation in the political arena. The disenfranchised urban and rural poor usually followed the dictates of their political bosses. Rausch explains that Concha’s primary objective during the war was to continue the system, which he did with the transference of power to Suárez in August 1918. The author concludes that neither the Allies’ lofty ideals nor its supporting propaganda contributed to political change in Colombia.

Rausch indicates that on the eve of World War I, Colombia stood poised for significant economic growth given the status of the coffee, banana, and textile industries and the mining of oil and platinum. Similar to other Latin American economies of the time period, Colombia had an export-orientated economy. And with the exception of coffee growing, the other economic endeavors were dominated by foreigners: British, German, French, and North American. With the outbreak of war, Colombia lost its European market, forcing the nation to increase its reliance on the United States. Domestically, in addition to rising unemployment and the loss of foreign trade, the war also meant the contraction of government income. Rather than contract foreign loans to weather the storm, Concha, true to his conservative economic policies, cut government spending for goods and services. Rausch asserts that as the war moved toward its conclusion, Colombia again stood on the precipice of economic expansion, and that President Marco Fidel Suárez, who served as foreign minister in Concha’s administration, understood that the United States stood as the new focal point in the global economy, a fact not acceptable to most Colombians.

Colombia’s vehement anti-Americanism began with the loss of its Panama province to the United States in 1903 for construction of an interoceanic canal and the US Senate’s failure to ratify the proposed 1904 Thomson-Urrutia Treaty (Colombia ratified the treaty in 1904 and the United States did so in 1921), which provided $25 million in return for Colombia’s recognition of Panama. Colombian vessels also received the right to free passage through the canal. As the war progressed and US businessmen filled the void created by the withdrawal of European interests, Colombian anti-American sentiment increased. Like other Latin American nations, Colombia joined the League of Nations in hope that membership would elevate Colombia’s international status and that the league would be used as a countervailing influence to US hemispheric hegemony. However, Colombia joined the league with the proviso that it would not recognize Panama’s independence. For the same reason—to limit US hemispheric influence—Colombia, like many of its neighbors lost interest in the league and during the 1920s and 1930s instead supported the Pan-American movement as the more realistic vehicle to limit US hemispheric presence.

For the same reasons that Colombia joined the league, nine other Latin American nations did the same and, like Colombia, lost interest in the organization during the 1920s. Alan McPherson and Yannick Wehrli, coeditors of Beyond Geopolitics: New Histories of Latin America at the League of Nations, break new ground with a discussion of Latin America’s participation in the organization’s technical and social committees. McPherson, a widely published scholar, is a professor of history and director of the Center of the Americas at the University of Oklahoma. Wehrli, a lecturer in modern Latin American history at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), has authored numerous articles and book chapters on the league in English, French, and Spanish. In addition, the editors drew on the expertise of fourteen other contributors from Brazil, France, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Spain, and the United States.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, as the league became increasingly Eurocentric in its political emphasis, the conventional interpretation asserts that Latin America’s participation in the league waned. Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua sporadically attended the annual meetings of the assembly, followed by the subsequent withdrawal of Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Peru. In the mid-1930s El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras joined and Costa Rica also departed, a move that Wehrli attributes to the US Good Neighbor Policy, an interpretation that this reviewer does not share. Yes, the Central American republics consistently fretted about possible US intervention, but their signing of reciprocal trade treaties with the United States, which brought them very little economic benefit, gave legitimacy to the dictatorships and concomitantly forestalled future US interventions.

The first section of Beyond Geopolitics addresses this issue of regionalism and internationalism, illustrated by Lázaro Cárdenas’s support for the league’s principles of state sovereignty and nonintervention by one state into the internal affairs of another. Fabián Herrera León (Mexico) applauds Cárdenas for supporting the proposed oil embargo against Italy for its 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. Abdiel Oñate (United States) uses the same reasoning for the Mexican president’s support for the Spanish Republicans against Generalissimo Francisco Franco, aided by the Germans and Italians, during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). However, both instances suggest that Cardenas had other motives, foremost to gain the league’s support should the United States again intervene in Mexican affairs and secondly, to sustain elite governments against the threat of internal upheaval. From this perspective Cárdenas used the league’s lofty idealism as a cover for Mexico’s self-interest.

Outside political affairs, Latin American workers benefited from their representatives’ participation in the International Labor Organization (ILO). The contributions by scholars Roberto Osvaldo Ferreras (Brazil), Véronique Plata-Stenger (Switzerland), and Patricio Herrera González (Chile) illustrate that the largely agricultural-based Latin American work force was manipulated by the landowning and political elites and that their needs differed markedly from the urban dominated European workforce. In response, the Marxist leader of the Mexican Labor Confederation, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, spearheaded the effort that resulted in the formation of the Confederation of Latin American Workers (CTAL) in 1938, the first successful effort to unite Latin American labor organizations in their quest for social and economic justice. Although CTAL remained linked to the ILO, the experience provides an instance where regionalism triumphed over internationalism.

The regional-international debate is continued by Juliette Dumont (France) in her analysis of the league’s reactions to the founding of the Pan-American Institute of International Intellectual Cooperation (IIIC). Here, the Eurocentric members, particularly the French, opposed the IIIC as a threat to Paris’s view that French culture was at the center of the cultured world. Regionalism challenged the established order.

Despite these disputes, examples exist of successful cooperation between the league and appropriate Latin American counterparts. For example, Maria Leticia Galluzzi Bizzo (Brazil) argues that exposure to European agricultural models encouraged the Latin Americans to improve their semi-feudal agricultural patterns, which, in turn, improved nutrition standards. Juliana Manzoni Cavalcanti (Brazil) points out that Rudolf Kraus and his colleagues in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile made the industrialized world aware of the need for new medicines to combat diseases peculiar to Latin America.

In the concluding chapter, McPherson presents a balanced assessment of the league’s relationship to Latin America. Importantly, he asserts that Latin America’s experiences in the league increased its international presence and contributed to its increased confidence to criticize the US hemispheric influence as exemplified in the inter-American conferences between 1923 and 1938.

Collectively, the five volumes reviewed in this essay provide Latin Americanists of all venues new insights into the region’s World War I experiences. Rinke’s summation of war news as expressed in newspapers and other public media adds a new dimension to the public’s awareness of European events. Bisher’s story of intrigue and intelligence makes us aware of the adversaries’ varied interests in the internal dynamics of several countries. Mills makes the US and German intelligence adventures into a personal story of the individuals involved. Rausch’s volume clearly reveals the war’s impact on Colombia and, in so doing, opens the door to the need for similar studies of other Latin American nations. Werhli and McPherson’s collection of essays places Latin America squarely into the debate about its participation in international and/or regional organizations, in its quest to curtail US influence in the region. Taken together, these volumes illustrate that while Latin America may have been a sideshow for the belligerents, the war’s impact on Latin America was much more significant than conventional wisdom suggests.

Author Information

Thomas M. Leonard is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of North Florida, where he taught modern Latin American history and inter-American relations. Among his several books are Historical Dictionary of Panama (2015); The History of Honduras (2011); Panama, the Canal and the United States (1993); and Central America and the United States: The Search for Stability (1991). He also directed and edited the Encyclopedia of U.S.–Latin American Relations, 3 volumes (2012). Leonard also served as visiting lecturer in Argentina, Belize, Brazil, China, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Poland.