Authoritarian El Salvador offers a monumental historical account of the early years of modern El Salvador leading up to the martinato, the military regime dominated by Maximiliano Hernández Martínez from 1931 to 1944. Erik Ching marshals a massive collection of archival evidence to make his compelling case for a local- and national-level interpretation of Salvadoran politics. Namely, he draws from the Archivo General de la Nación, local municipal records, and Comintern archives housed in Moscow. Indeed, Ching spent decades painstakingly organizing and interpreting these precious materials. The impressive result is a new model for understanding the mechanisms and evolution of political power in Latin America's smallest nation.

While historians of Latin America have undertaken extensive studies of clientelism and patronage networks in the larger countries of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, less is known about these dynamics in Central America, and...

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