Keen's Latin American Civilization, Volume 2

A Primary Source Reader, Volume Two: The Modern Era


By Robert M. Buffington

By Lila Caimari

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The tenth edition of Keen's Latin American Civilization inaugurates a new era in the history of this classic anthology by dividing it into two volumes. This second volume retains most of the modern period sources from the ninth edition but with some significant additions including a new set of images and a wide range of new sources that reflect the latest events and trends in contemporary Latin America. The 75 excerpts in volume two provide foundational and often riveting first-hand accounts of life in modern Latin America. Concise introductions for chapters and excerpts provide essential context for understanding the primary sources.



This tenth edition of Keen’s Latin American Civilization responds to numerous requests from teachers and reviewers for a two-volume text that better fits the way most of us teach the undergraduate Latin American history survey: in two semester-length courses, one devoted to the colonial period and another to the modern era. There were also requests that we update some of Benjamin Keen’s introductions to reflect changes in the way historians talk about certain concepts and that some of the cultural overgeneralizations be toned down. We have tried to do this as unobtrusively as possible, so as not to deaden Keen’s lively, accessible style, which we suspect is one reason for the book’s continued success. Again in response to repeated requests, we have amplified information about the origins of sources, and have noted authorial biases wherever possible, especially where those biases were not self-evident. This should make it easier for readers, especially students, to evaluate the reliability and relevance of the various sources.

One benefit of dividing the book into two volumes is that we had more space for new additions to the modern period sources, which made it possible to honor several of the reviewers’ requests, especially in the sections about the most recent periods. One of the main decisions was to divide what was previously Chapter 16 into two new chapters (Chapters 6 and 7 in this edition), allowing for a more careful and focused treatment of the last decades of the twentieth century. As a result, we were able to include selections on subjects as crucial as the Cuban Revolution, the rise of neoliberalism, drug wars in Colombia, human-rights abuses in Central America, and the 1980s expansion of civil society in the Southern Cone.

Reviewers also asked that we include materials representing points of view other than that of progressive voices, especially in the coverage of more recent economic and political issues. In order to address this request, which we consider not only fair but quite useful for pro-con teaching exercises, we paired previous documents criticizing neoliberalism with two others—one written by neoliberal economists justifying their reforms in Pinochet’s Chile, and another from the Inter-American Development Bank describing the course of such reforms in the whole region the 1990s. In a similar spirit, as a counterbalance to previous selections reflecting the empowerment of Indian voices in Andean countries of the last decade, we added a text by Mario Vargas Llosa criticizing pro-Indian “racism.”

Addressing the need for a more diverse thematic range, we added readings on private life and popular culture to the more homogeneous economic and political chapters. Thus, for example, this edition includes an exchange of love letters between Simón Bolívar and Manuela Saenz (Chapter 1), a letter on “family values” by liberal ideologue Melchor Ocampo and Flora Tristán’s reflections on nineteenth-century Peruvian women (Chapter 3), and two readings on mid-twentieth-century popular culture in Chapter 5: Gilberto Freyre’s analysis of “mulatto football” in Brazil, and Salvador Novo’s description of popular entertainment on a Sunday afternoon in Mexico City in the 1940s.

In order to remain faithful to the primary source nature of the selections, we replaced Pedro Calmon’s after-the-fact account of post-abolition and urban modernization in Brazil with firsthand documents on the same issues: a newspaper manifesto by abolitionist Jose do Patrocínio, Prefect Pereira Passos’s blueprint for urban reform in Rio, and a chronicle of those same reforms by an American traveler.

Finally, the last chapters have been updated to reflect recent directions in Latin American politics and society. New selections include an analysis of the Latin American Left, a human-rights report on the Mexican drug war, a document reflecting legislation on sexual rights in Brazil, a speech by Hugo Chávez against US imperialism, and an International Court of Justice ruling on US intervention in Nicaragua.

As always, we had lots of help with this book. A special thank you to our Westview editor, Kelli Fillingim. Without her enthusiasm, encouragement, and patience, this book might never have seen the light of day. Thanks as well to our production editor, Cisca Schreefel, and copyeditor, Karl Yambert, who saw us through the final stages with meticulous work and good cheer. Thanks also to Richard Shindell for his help in translating and editing several of the new selections. And last but never least, the editors would like to express their deep appreciation to the eight anonymous readers provided by Westview Press. Their excellent suggestions have been invaluable as we strive to make this latest edition of Keen’s Latin American Civilization even better than its predecessors!

                        Robert M. Buffington

                        University of Colorado Boulder

                        Lila Caimari

                        CONICET/Universidad de San

                        Andrés, Buenos Aires

Part One



The Struggle for Independence

Many factors combined to cause the Latin American wars of independence. The discontent of the Creole class with Spanish restrictions on its economic and political activity, the influence of French and English liberal doctrines of political liberty and social equality, the powerful example of the American and French revolutions, and foreign interest in the liquidation of the Spanish Empire in the Americas—all played a part in producing the great upheaval.

The immediate cause of the Spanish American revolutions was the occupation of Spain by French troops in 1808. Napoleon’s intervention provoked an uprising of the Spanish people, headed by juntas—local governing committees. Creole leaders in the colonies soon took advantage of Spain’s distress. Professing loyalty to “the beloved Ferdinand VII,” a prisoner in France, they forced the removal of allegedly unreliable Spanish officials and formed governing juntas to rule in the name of the captive king. Their claims of loyalty did not convince the Spanish authorities, and fighting soon broke out between rebellious patriots and loyalists to Spain.

Simón Bolívar led the struggle for independence in northern South America, and José de San Martín directed the military efforts of the patriots to the south. In 1822, the enigmatic San Martín resigned command of his army, leaving to Bolívar the task of completing the conquest of Peru, the last Spanish stronghold in the New World. The 1824 battle of Ayacucho virtually ended the war. Brazil achieved a relatively peaceful separation from Portugal in 1822, under the leadership of Prince Pedro and his adviser José Bonifacio de Andrada.

The Mexican Revolution, initiated in 1810 by the Creole priest Miguel Hidalgo, was continued after his death by another liberal curate, José María Morelos. These men attempted to combine the Creole ideal of independence with a program of social reform to benefit the Indian and mixed-blood masses. The radicalism of Hidalgo and Morelos alienated many Creole conservatives, who joined the royalist forces to suppress the revolt. Later, fearing the loss of their privileges as a result of the liberal revolution of 1820 in Spain, the same conservative coalition schemed to bring about a separation from Spain. They found an agent in the ambitious Creole officer Agustín de Iturbide. His Plan of Iguala offered a compromise solution temporarily acceptable to liberals and conservatives, to Creoles and many Spaniards. Slight loyalist opposition was swiftly overcome, and in September 1822, a national congress proclaimed the independence of the Mexican Empire.


In his brief but valuable autobiography, Manuel Belgrano (1770–1820), one of the fathers of Argentine independence, describes the influences and events that transformed a young Creole of wealth and high social position into an ardent revolutionary. The French Revolution, disillusionment with Bourbon liberalism, the English invasions, and finally the events of 1808 in Spain all played their part in this process. Although not published until after his death, Belgrano’s autobiography was written in 1814 while he waited to hear the outcome of his trial for military failures suffered by the insurgent army while under his command. He was subsequently exonerated of all charges and sent to Europe as an emissary of the independent Argentine government.

The place of my birth was Buenos Aires; my parents were Don Domingo Belgrano y Peri, known as Pérez, a native of Onella in Spain, and Doña María Josefa González Casero, a native of Buenos Aires. My father was a merchant, and since he lived in the days of monopoly he acquired sufficient wealth to live comfortably and to give his children the best education to be had in those days.

I studied my first letters, Latin grammar, philosophy, and a smattering of theology in Buenos Aires. My father then sent me to Spain to study law, and I began my preparation at Salamanca; I was graduated at Valladolid, continued my training at Madrid, and was admitted to the bar at Valladolid. . . .

Since I was in Spain in 1789, and the French Revolution was then causing a change in ideas, especially among the men of letters with whom I associated, the ideals of liberty, equality, security, and property took a firm hold on me, and I saw only tyrants in those who would restrain a man, wherever he might be, from enjoying the rights with which God and Nature had endowed him. . . .

When I completed my studies in 1793 political economy enjoyed great popularity in Spain; I believe this was why I was appointed secretary of the consulado of Buenos Aires, established when Gardoqui was minister. The official of the department in charge of these matters even asked me to suggest some other well-informed persons who could be appointed to similar bodies to be established in the principal American ports.

When I learned that these consulados were to be so many Economic Societies that would discuss the state of agriculture, industry, and commerce in their sessions, my imagination pictured a vast field of activity, for I was ignorant of Spanish colonial policy. I had heard some muffled murmuring among the Americans, but I attributed this to their failure to gain their ends, never to evil designs of the Spaniards that had been systematically pursued since the conquest.

On receiving my appointment I was infatuated with the brilliant prospects for America. I had visions of myself writing memorials concerning the provinces so that the authorities might be informed and provide for their well-being. It may be that an enlightened minister like Gardoqui, who had resided in the United States, had the best of intentions in all this. . . .

I finally departed from Spain for Buenos Aires; I cannot sufficiently express the surprise I felt when I met the men named by the king to the council that was to deal with agriculture, industry, and commerce and work for the happiness of the provinces composing the viceroyalty of Buenos Aires. All were Spanish merchants. With the exception of one or two they knew nothing but their monopolistic business, namely, to buy at four dollars and sell for eight. . . .

My spirits fell, and I began to understand that the colonies could expect nothing from men who placed their private interests above those of the community. But since my position gave me an opportunity to write and speak about some useful topics, I decided at least to plant a few seeds that someday might bear fruit. . . .

I wrote various memorials about the establishment of schools. The scarcity of pilots and the direct interest of the merchants in the project presented favorable circumstances for the establishment of a school of mathematics, which I obtained on condition of getting the approval of the Court. This, however, was never secured; in fact, the government was not satisfied until the school had been abolished, because although the peninsulars [European-born Spaniards] recognized the justice and utility of such establishments, they were opposed to them because of a mistaken view of how the colonies might best be retained.

The same happened to a drawing school, which I managed to establish without spending even half a real for the teacher. The fact is that neither these nor other proposals to the government for the development of agriculture, industry, and commerce, the three important concerns of the consulado, won its official approval; the sole concern of the Court was with the revenue that it derived from each of these branches. They said that all the proposed establishments were luxuries, and that Buenos Aires was not yet in a condition to support them.

I promoted various other useful and necessary projects, which had more or less the same fate, but it will be the business of the future historian of the consulado to give an account of them; I shall simply say that from the beginning of 1794 to July 1806, I passed my time in futile efforts to serve my country. They all foundered on the rock of the opposition of the government of Buenos Aires, or that of Madrid, or that of the merchants who composed the consulado, for whom there was no other reason, justice, utility, or necessity than their commercial interest. Anything that came into conflict with that interest encountered a veto, and there was nothing to be done about it.

It is well known how [British] General [William] Beresford entered Buenos Aires with about four hundred men in 1806. At that time I had been a captain in the militia for ten years, more from whim than from any attachment to the military art. My first experience of war came at that time. The Marqués de Sobremonte, then viceroy of the provinces of La Plata, sent for me several days before Beresford’s disastrous entrance and requested me to form a company of cavalry from among the young men engaged in commerce. He said that he would give me veteran officers to train them; I sought them but could not find any, because of the great hostility felt for the militia in Buenos Aires. . . .

The general alarm was sounded. Moved by honor, I flew to the fortress, the point of assembly; I found there neither order nor harmony in anything, as must happen with groups of men who know nothing of discipline and are completely insubordinate. The companies were formed there, and I was attached to one of them. I was ashamed that I had not the slightest notion of military science and had to rely entirely on the orders of a veteran officer—who also joined voluntarily, for he was given no assignment.

This was the first company, which marched to occupy the Casa de las Filipinas. Meanwhile the others argued with the viceroy himself that they were obliged only to defend the city and not to go out into the country; consequently they would agree only to defend the heights. The result was that the enemy, meeting with no opposition from veteran troops or disciplined militia, forced all the passes with the greatest ease. There was some stupid firing on the part of my company and some others in an effort to stop the invaders, but all in vain, and when the order came to retreat and we were falling back I heard someone say: “They did well to order us to retreat, for we were not made for this sort of thing.”

I must confess that I grew angry, and that I never regretted more deeply my ignorance of even the rudiments of military science. My distress grew when I saw the entrance of the enemy troops, and realized how few of them there were for a town of the size of Buenos Aires. I could not get the idea out of my head, and I almost went out of my mind, it was so painful to me to see my country under an alien yoke, and above all in such a degraded state that it could be conquered by the daring enterprise of the brave and honorable Beresford, whose valor I shall always admire. [BK: A resistance movement under the leadership of Santiago Liniers drives the British out of Buenos Aires. A second English invasion, commanded by General John Whitelocke, is defeated, and the entire British force is compelled to surrender.]

General Liniers ordered the quartermaster-general to receive the paroles of the officer prisoners; for this reason Brigadier-General Crawford, together with his aides and other high officers, came to his house. My slight knowledge of French, and perhaps certain civilities that I showed him, caused General Crawford to prefer to converse with me, and we entered upon a discussion that helped to pass the time—although he never lost sight of his aim of gaining knowledge of the country and, in particular, of its opinion of the Spanish Government.

So, having convinced himself that I had no French sympathies or connections, he divulged to me his ideas about our independence, perhaps in the hope of forming new links with this country, since the hope of conquest had failed. I described our condition to him, and made it plain that we wanted our old master or none at all; that we were far from possessing the means required for the achievement of independence; that even if it were won under the protection of England, she would abandon us in return for some advantage in Europe, and then we would fall under the Spanish sword; that every nation sought its own interest and did not care about the misfortunes of others. He agreed with me, and when I had shown how we lacked the means for winning independence, he put off its attainment for a century.

How fallible are the calculations of men! One year passed, and behold, without any effort on our part to become independent, God Himself gave us our opportunity as a result of the events of 1808 in Spain and Bayonne. Then it was that the ideals of liberty and independence came to life in America, and the Americans began to speak frankly of their rights.


The principal military campaigns to liberate South America from Spanish colonial rule were directed by two men, Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. Both were professionally trained Creole military officers and revolutionary freemasons (like their North American counterpart, George Washington). The similarities end there. Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), president and supreme commander of the armies of Gran Colombia, was an ambitious visionary politician bent on uniting all of northern South America under one government. José de San Martín (1778–1850), Protector of Peru and commander of the Argentine Army of the North, was a professional soldier who had served with distinction in Spanish army campaigns in Africa and against the French invaders. The two commanders met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26, 1822, to plan the final campaign to defeat the royalist army in Peru. The meeting was held in secret, and historians can only speculate about what transpired. But in an August 29 letter sent from Lima, Peru, to “the Most Excellent Liberator of Colombia, Señor Simón Bolívar,” San Martín announced his intention to step down, leaving Bolívar in charge of the patriot armies. Evidence suggests that San Martín considered Bolívar incapable of sharing command—or the glory of the final campaign—and the letter supports this interpretation of events. He had other reasons as well. In a letter sent just a few days earlier to his Chilean ally Bernardo O’Higgins (1778–1842), San Martín confessed, “I’m tired of being called a tyrant and of everyone saying that I wish to be king, emperor, or the devil himself. Moreover my health is much deteriorated. Finally, my youth was sacrificed in service to the Spanish, my middle years in service to my country; I think I have the right to dispose of my old age.”

Dear General:

As I told you in my last letter . . . having taken back supreme command of this republic [Peru] . . . the duties that surrounded me at the time did not permit me to write you with the care I would have liked. Now that I have fulfilled those duties, I [write again] not only with my customary frankness but also with the attention that the best interests of America require.

The outcome of our meeting [in Guayaquil] has produced what I was promised for the quick termination of the war. Unfortunately I am firmly convinced either that you did not take seriously my offer to serve under your orders, with the forces at my command, or that my person is somehow troublesome to you.

The reasons you gave me were that your sense of propriety would never permit you to command me and that even in the event that this difficulty could be surmounted you were sure that the Congress of Colombia would not authorize you to leave the territory of the republic. Let me tell you, general, that these reasons don’t seem plausible to me. The first refutes itself. As for the second, I am convinced that Congress would greet your request with unanimous approval if it had to do with finishing the struggle in which we are currently engaged with the help of you and your army, and that the honor of putting an end to war would flow back as much on you as on the republic you preside over.

Don’t be deceived[,] general. The news you have of the royalist forces is wrong: in Upper and Lower Peru they number more than 19,000 veterans [probably a numerical inversion of 10,900], who can be mustered in the space of two months.

The patriot army, decimated by illnesses, can send into battle only 8,500 men, most of them new recruits. General Santa Cruz’s division—whose casualties, he writes me, have not been replaced despite repeated requests—will have experienced considerable losses after his long overland march and can provide no support for the current campaign. The division of 1,400 Colombians that you sent will be needed to maintain the garrison at Callao and order in Lima.

It follows that without the support of the army at your command, the operation underway to establish intermediate ports [not controlled by the Spanish] will not provide the hoped-for advantages. If powerful forces don’t distract the enemy, the struggle will be prolonged indefinitely. I say indefinitely because I’m firmly convinced that whatever the vicissitudes of the present war, the independence of America is irrevocable. But I’m also firmly convinced that its prolongation will destroy its peoples [pueblos], and it is a sacred duty of the men to whom their destiny has been entrusted to avoid the continuation of evils of such magnitude.

In conclusion, general, my mind is made up. I have convoked the first congress of Peru for the twentieth of this coming month, and the day after its installation, I will embark for Chile, convinced that my presence is the only obstacle that blocks you from coming to the aid of Peru with the army at your command.

For me, it would have been the pinnacle of happiness to finish the war of independence under the command of a general to whom America owes its liberty. Destiny took a different turn and it is necessary to accept that fact.

Without doubt, after my departure from Peru, the government you establish will request the active cooperation of Colombia and you will not be able to deny such a just request, I’m sending you a list of all the leaders whose military and private conduct it might be useful for you to know about. . . .

I will say nothing to you about joining Guayaquil to the republic of Colombia. Allow me[,] general, to tell you that I don’t believe it is up to us to decide this important point. Once the war is over, the respective governments should have no problem coming to an agreement that will be in the interests of the new states of South America.

I have spoken frankly to you, general, but the sentiments expressed in this letter will remain buried in the most profound silence. If they should come to light, the enemies of our liberty would take advantage of them to slander [our liberty], and the schemers and self-seekers would use them to sow discord.

With Captain Delgado, the bearer of this letter, I’m sending you a shotgun and a pair of pistols along with the caballo de paso [a Peruvian horse breed renowned for its smooth gait] I offered you in Guayaquil. Please accept, general, these tokens of appreciation from the foremost of your admirers.

With these sentiments and only desiring that you have the glory of ending the war of South American independence, I am again yours truly.


There is no more controversial figure in Latin American history than Simón Bolívar (1783–1830). To his admirers or worshipers he is the Liberator of a continent; to his critics he is the proverbial “man on horseback,” an ambitious schemer who sacrificed San Martín to his passion for power and glory. Louis Perú de Lacroix, a French member of Bolívar’s staff, wrote the following description of the Liberator in a diary that he kept during their stay at Bucaramanga in 1828.


  • Keen's Latin American Civilization: The Modern Era (Volume 2) offers one of the most wide-ranging and up-to-date introductions to the field. All the classic primary sources are still here. But the new edition is also full of wonderful surprises—the love letters of Simón Bolívar and Manuela Saenz, a petition from Peruvian guano speculators, the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada's calavera prints, and the complaints of citizens in contemporary São Paulo, among many others—that broaden our perspective on the region's rich history. The variety of historical genres, time periods, and countries (including the United States) covered in this volume is impressive, and the editors' concise introductions skillfully orient the reader. This book can stand on its own or be used in conjunction with other works to provide students with new tools to understand Latin America's past and present.”
    —Eduardo Elena, University of Miami

    “This edition should be appealing to both teachers and students. It includes a more comprehensive selection of readings representing various ideological positions while maintaining the accessible reading style that characterized the original version.”
    —Donna Guy, Ohio State University

On Sale
Jul 28, 2015
Page Count
400 pages

Robert M. Buffington

About the Author

Robert Buffington is a professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Lila Caimari is a researcher at CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Learn more about this author