Scholars persist in framing the Cold War as a battle between left and right, one in which the Global South is cast as either witting or unwitting proxies of Washington and Moscow. What if the era is told from the perspective of the many who preferred reform to revolution? Scholars have routinely neglected, dismissed, or caricatured moderate politicians. In this book, Allen Wells argues that until the Cuban Revolution, the struggle was not between capitalism and communism—that was Washington’s abiding preoccupation—but between democracy and dictatorship.
Beginning in the 1920s, the fight against authoritarianism was contested on multiple fronts—political, ideological, and cultural—taking on the dimensions of a political crusade. Convinced that despots represented an existential threat, reformers declared that no civilian government was safe until the cancer of dictatorship was excised from the hemisphere. Dictators retaliated, often with deadly results, exporting strategies that had been honed at home to guarantee their political survival. Grafted onto this war without borders was a belated Cold War, with all its political convulsions, the aftershocks of which are still felt today.
“A masterpiece of historical description and analysis, filled with vivid characters and contextualized in transnational ways that invite American foreign policymakers to re-examine and practice the democratic principles we preach in Latin America.”—William B. Taylor, author of Fugitive Freedom: The Improbable Lives of Two Impostors in Late Colonial Mexico
“Meticulously researched, Latin America’s Democratic Crusade provides a comprehensive reinterpretation of twentieth-century Latin American politics. It is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the complex processes of political and social change in contemporary Latin America.”—Miguel Tinker Salas, author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela
“With engaging prose and fine-grained archival research, Wells compels us to rethink how Latin Americans—from poets and booksellers to revolutionaries and reformers—experienced and understood the Cold War. By framing the era as one marked by struggles between democracy and dictators rather than between capitalism and communism, Wells analyzes the Cold War in Latin America in new and original ways.”—David Carey Jr., author of I Ask for Justice: Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898–1944