Although Hernando Siles, president of Bolivia from 1926-1930, was overthrown by a popular revolution in June of 1930, he quickly emerged in the postChaco War years as a popular figure both in mythology and historiography. This re-evaluation of Siles was based on his prevention of war in the 1928 Paraguayan attack on Fort Vanguardia and on his role as creator of the Nationalist Party, a precursor of the modern revolutionary parties of Bolivia. While the writings of Alcides Argüedas reflected the earlier hostility towards him, such recent Bolivian historians as Enrique Finot, Porfirio Díaz Machicao, and Augusto Céspedes have sympathetically re-examined his character and government.
This initial volume of a proposed two volume study is the first full-scale biography of Siles. Written by a long-time friend, Benigno Carrasco, it covers the period to 1925. Lamenting the complete lack of personal archives of his subject, Carrasco has been forced to rely heavily on published sources and interviews. This has probably been the chief cause for the very poor coverage of the earlier years, and Carrasco has compensated for it by providing a wealth of material on the activities of Siles from 1920-1925. He has carefully documented the role of Siles in the 1920 revolution and his crucial leadership of the Saavedra forces in the subsequent splintering of the Republican Party and in the election of Saavedra to the presidency. Siles’ activities as parliamentary leader, party head, and cabinet minister during the years 1920-1923 are well covered, and the tangled political battles which led to Siles’ ultimate appointment to the presidency as Saavedra’s supposedly docile successor are carefully elucidated.
Although this biography is rich in political materials for the early career of Hernando Siles, it lacks organization and synthesis. Too often the documents and quotes are amassed without discrimination, while questionable actions of Siles are either ignored or loosely justified by the times. There is also an inability of the author to account for the qualities which enabled Siles to generate such intense loyalties among the younger intellectuals, politicians, and officers of his day. However, despite these deficiencies, this remains an important study of the political career of Hernando Siles and of the political history of Bolivia in the 1920’s.