A tale of two Argentinas

Facundo: Or, Civilization and BarbarismFacundo: Or, Civilization and Barbarism by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this influential portrait of 19th-century Argentina from a man who was very much a part of it all: a fugitive from Juan Manuel Rosas’ authoritarianism, an expatriate critic of Rosas, and eventual president of the country. He contrasts the civilization of the cities with the barbarism of the hinterlands, especially of the gauchos. As an Argentine liberal (19th-century style), he hoped to follow the pattern of Britain, France, and the United States, and lamented the Spanish, African, and Indian influence on Argentina.

Needless to say, his prejudice was not enjoyable, but the book was an interesting encounter with an important author of the time and his ideas.

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Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for IndependenceAmericanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence by John Charles Chasteen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Chasteen took on quite a challenge with this book: trying to weave together the stories of many different independence movements throughout Latin America. He tried to keep the reader in touch with the different stories by constantly switching narratives, following Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, events in Brazil, etc. Chasteen is a good writer and there is a lot of good information in the book, but I found it very difficult to follow.

It’s possible that I tried to read it too fast, and I may go back to it if I teach Latin American history in the future.

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