The Land of Frustrated Revolutions

Latin America conjures up images of constant political turmoil, powered by endless revolutions. But this is misleading.

Salvador Allende, Senator of Chile’s Socialist Party, at a solidarity rally for the  Cuban revolution, 1962 © Getty Images

‘A frustrated revolution’ is how Eric Hobsbawm described the anarchic conflict in the Colombian countryside in the 1940s and 1950s, known simply as la Violencia. But this appraisal also describes the history of left-wing insurrections across all of Latin America.

Latin America produced Pancho Villa, inspired Che Guevara and gave asylum to Leon Trotsky. At first glance, revolutions seem to spring from its soil. Yet Latin America has produced remarkably few of them. The cases of Mexico in 1910, Cuba in 1959 and Nicaragua in 1979 are not the rule but the exceptions.

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