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New Left Review 24, November-December 2003


Tony Wood on David Craven, Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910–1990. Painters, writers and political upheavals in Mexico, Cuba and Nicaragua.

TONY WOOD

TROPICAL VANGUARDS

The formative events of Latin America’s twentieth century were the revolutions in Mexico and Cuba—the former marking the first stage in the unravelling of the continent’s liberal oligarchies, the latter opening a phase of renewed resistance to us imperialism. Though the Mexican Revolution was gradually domesticated, as the social conflicts unleashed in 1910 were absorbed into what would be a remarkably durable corporative structure, the debates it sparked had a tremendous impact in the Western Hemisphere and beyond; over the course of the next few decades Mexico City became a cultural centre to rival Buenos Aires or São Paulo. The overthrow of Batista in 1959 had a comparable galvanizing effect, with Havana now the focal point for urgent discussions on questions of national identity and international solidarity. The success of the Cuban revolution also provided oppositional forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua with a template for insurrection that met with resounding success in 1979, with the toppling of Somoza.

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