La Patria del Criollo: An Interpretation of Colonial Guatemala


La Patria del Criollo: An Interpretation of Colonial Guatemala
Severo Martínez Peláez, translated by Susan Neve and George Lovell
2009, Duke University Press
329 pages

HATS off to Duke for bringing this classic work of Latin American history into English. First published in the 1970s, La Patria del Criollo was a scathing critique by one of Guatemala’s foremost historians and a revolutionary activist of the country’s colonial legacy. Martínez Peláez argues that Guatemala remains a colonial society because the conditions that arose centuries ago when the Spanish empire held sway have persisted, ensuring prosperity for the few and deprivation for the majority. Independence followed by the liberal reforms of the 19th century had little impact on this model, and the coffee dictatorships that prevailed were the inevitable realisation of the criollo notion of patria. It is a bleak assessment in which portrayals of criollo behaviour towards Indians are shaped by unrelenting cruelty and oppression – and one that inevitably makes one ask to what extent Guatemalan society has in fact changed. – GO’T

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