A Century of Revolution

Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence during Latin America’s Long Cold War

A Century of Revolution

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 17 illustrations, 1 map Published: October 2010

History > World History, Latin American Studies, Politics > Political Science

Latin America experienced an epochal cycle of revolutionary upheavals and insurgencies during the twentieth century, from the Mexican Revolution of 1910 through the mobilizations and terror in Central America, the Southern Cone, and the Andes during the 1970s and 1980s. In his introduction to A Century of Revolution, Greg Grandin argues that the dynamics of political violence and terror in Latin America are so recognizable in their enforcement of domination, their generation and maintenance of social exclusion, and their propulsion of historical change, that historians have tended to take them for granted, leaving unexamined important questions regarding their form and meaning. The essays in this groundbreaking collection take up these questions, providing a sociologically and historically nuanced view of the ideological hardening and accelerated polarization that marked Latin America’s twentieth century. Attentive to the interplay among overlapping local, regional, national, and international fields of power, the contributors focus on the dialectical relations between revolutionary and counterrevolutionary processes and their unfolding in the context of U.S. hemispheric and global hegemony. Through their fine-grained analyses of events in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru, they suggest a framework for interpreting the experiential nature of political violence while also analyzing its historical causes and consequences. In so doing, they set a new agenda for the study of revolutionary change and political violence in twentieth-century Latin America.

Michelle Chase
Jeffrey L. Gould
Greg Grandin
Lillian Guerra
Forrest Hylton
Gilbert M. Joseph
Friedrich Katz
Thomas Miller Klubock
Neil Larsen
Arno J. Mayer
Carlota McAllister
Jocelyn Olcott
Gerardo Rénique
Corey Robin
Peter Winn


“. . . [E]xcellent case studies based on careful archival work that broaden our understanding of Latin America’s experience of the Cold War in the twentieth century.” — Paulo Drinot, Cold War History

“The combined expertise of Greg Grandin and Gilbert M. Joseph makes A Century of Revolution analytically rich, especially in describing of the growing agency of mass organizations. . . . A Century of Revolution offers a nuanced theoretical framework, which can help historians interested in new models of analysis to explain the dynamics of late-twentieth-century Latin America.” — Alejandro Quintana, History: Reviews of New Books

“The narrative of revolutionary violence on a grand scale has been essential to fueling the virulence of counter-revolution, an essential component of the story. This collection is particularly successful in showing how, in case after case, counterrevolutionary violence has played a crucial role in shaping and even adding fuel to revolution. . . . [T]his rich collection is more than the sum of its parts. It helps us to think in fresh ways about one of the most important issues in Latin American history.” — HÉCTOR Lindo-Fuentes,, Journal of Latin American Studies

“It has become commonplace when reviewing edited books to note that the quality of the chapters is uneven. Happily, I will not resort to saying this here, since all the chapters are excellent! This book reexamines twentieth-century Latin American history by focusing on key revolutionary and counterrevolutionary moments and movements across the region and the connections between them. The result is a stimulating discussion of the role that violence played in giving rise to revolutionary attempts to end injustice, how revolutionary movements conceptualized and employed violence to achieve their goals, and how counterrevolutionary forces ruthlessly unleashed violence to subdue and eliminate, literally and figuratively, revolutionaries and the possibility of revolutionary change.” — Margaret Power, The Americas

“Yet few works provide a perspective as wide-ranging as A Century of Revolution. This important collection — with its careful attention to causes, processes, and outcomes — goes a long way toward debunking the widespread view that political violence is ‘natural’ to Latin America.” — Michael Gobat, Hispanic American Historical Review

“A Century of Revolution has much of value to offer. . . . The ten essays by Latin Americanists in A Century of Revolution bear out the considerable historiographical value of the reinterpretive efforts in which Grandin and Joseph have been engaged for over a decade.“ — Arthur Schmidt, A Contracorriente

"A Century of Revolution offers the field a new way to periodize and organize instances of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary violence. . . . [It] provides a powerful corrective, illuminating how world-historical events like the overthrow of Salvador Allende or the bola of the Mexican Revolution were anything but predetermined, reconstructing the cycles of escalation and radicalization that produced them, and chronicling the unstable chemical reactions sparked as the twin Furies of rebellion and reaction met." — Kristen Weld, Latin American Research Review

“The abstract rejection of violence is one of the pillars of today’s hegemonic liberal ideology, and is paradoxically used to legitimize the most brutal forms of actual violence. This is why this outstanding book not only offers an excellent study of the Latin American revolutionary process, but has universal relevance. Its precise analysis of the necessary role of emancipatory violence against the violence of the system itself brings a breath of fresh air into the stale moralism of the liberal Left. A much-needed awakening from our humanitarian dogmatic dream!” — Slavoj Žižek

“Showcasing the work of a remarkable group of scholars, this collection provides a sweeping reinterpretation of Latin America’s twentieth century and a thought-provoking intervention into our understanding of the history and meaning of political violence.” — Laurent Dubois, author of Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Greg Grandin is Professor of History at New York University. He is the author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation, also published by Duke University Press.

Gilbert M. Joseph is the Farnam Professor of History and International Studies at Yale University. He is the author of Revolution from Without: Yucatan, Mexico, and the United States, 1880–1924, and a co-editor of In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War and The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Living in Revolutionary Time: Coming to Terms with the Violence of Latin America's Long Cold War / Greg Grandin 1

Part One: The First Cold War

violence and Terror in the Russian and Mexican Revolutions / Friedrich Katz 45

Mueras y matanza: Spectacles of Terror and Violence in Postrevolutionary Mexico / Jocelyn Olcott 62

On the Road to "El Porvenir": A Revolutionary and Counterrevolutionary Violence in El Salvador and Nicaragua / Jeffrey R. Gould 88

Ránquil: Violence and Peasant Politics on Chile's Southern Frontier / Thomas Miller Klubock 121

Part Two: The Cuban Conjuncture

The Trials: Violence and Justice in the Aftermath of the Cuban Revolution / Michelle Chase 163

Beyond Paradox: Counterrevolution and the Origins of Political Culture in the Cuban Revolution, 1959-2009 / Lillian Guerra 199

Part Three: The Weight of the Night

The Furies of the Andes: Violence and Terror in the Chilean Revolution and Counterrevolution / Peter Winn 239

A Headlong Rush into the Future: Violence and Revolution in a Guatemalan Indigenous Village / Carlota McAllister 276

"People's War," "Dirty War": Cold War Legacy and the End of History in Postwar Peru / Gerardo Rénique 309

The Cold War That Didn't End: Paramilitary Modernization in Medellín Miracle, Colombia / Forrest Hylton 338


You Say You Want a Counterrevolution: Well, You Know, We All Want to Change the World / Corey Robin 371

Thoughts on Violence and Modernity in Latin America / Neil Larsen 381


Latin America's Long Cold War: A Century of Revolutionary Process and U.S. Power / Gilbert M. Joseph 397

History as Containment: An Interview with Arno J. Mayer / Greg Grandin 415

Contributors 423

Index 427
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4737-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4720-0
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