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Vision of history, notably Latin American.



     A famous cartoon is a map showing the New Yorker's view of the United States. Similar distortions would appear in a map of Americans' vision of the world. Latin America would be distorted, with no mention of Paraguay and Uruguay. A similar map of the Mexicans' vision of the world would show a colossal Colossus of the North. Whether Paraguay and Uruguay would appear on it is uncertain. That is a difference between powerful and weak states.
     Two European diplomats were sitting in a cafe discussing Latin American affairs. At first the discussion made sense, but, many drinks later, the argument was reduced to two words: "Uruguay!" "No! Paraguay!" "Uruguay!" "No! Paraguay!" Da capo, repeatedly. Which brings us to C-Span's splendid series on the Presidents of the United States, hosted by that remarkable man Brian Lamb. He brings in to discuss each president the leading academic specialists. They field questions most of which are very good.
     The significant weakness of the series is that there is practically no discussion of the viewpoint of other countries. The American Revolution was the culmination of a long argument in England going back at least as far as Cromwell. but that was passed over, with little reference to the Loyalists and Canada. The Mexican war was discussed with no reference to the Mexican viewpoint. There is no account of the foreign policies of American presidents toward Latin America generally.
     The weakness was evident in today's discussion of Rutherford B. Hayes. A listener mentioned that there is a place near Asuncion called Villa Hayes, named after him, and he asked the two excellent historians on the program to discuss the War of the Triple Alliance. This was the war (1865-1870), described as the bloodiest in Latin American history, which dictator Francisco Solano López waged against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
     The two historians looked blank, clearly not knowing what the questioner was talking about. One thought that he was talking about European history. Oh,well. The series will soon come to 1898. I wonder if the experts will show any knowledge of the Spanish and Cuban side of the conflict.

Ronald Hilton - 07/19/99


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