Alberto Herrarte González, distinguished lawyer and foreign minister of Guatemala, logically and persuasively pleads the cause of Central American union in this well-written exposition. The first half of the work is political history; the latter part deals with economic, social, and foreign influences. The writing is lucid and to the point. Herrarte has little to say by way of praise or condemnation of individuals. His “devils,” even Frederick Chatfield, are not very devilish.
The point of view of the author is made clear in the preface: Because sociology is the science of social crisis, he feels that the problem of Central America should be studied from the standpoint of the sociologist, particularly Karl Mannheim. Herrarte asserts that narrative history is decadent, but he justifies publishing another example by the need to find the antecedents and consequences of actions since Independence. Not only does he find these antecedents and consequences, but he also suggests desirable socio-economic patterns to follow in developing the nation.
The author is convinced that the movement of the colonial capital in 1773 from present day Antigua to what is now Guatemala City was a major factor in the fractionalization of Central America. In less than fifty years the new capital did not have time to acquire the dignity and prestige necessary to command the loyalty of the population. As a city it was younger than most of the regional centers. Yet Herrarte suggests that today the establishment of a new capital on the order of Brasília would be a binding force in the reunited republics.
Overall this is an excellent study. The chapters analyzing the political agreements since 1824 are sufficiently detailed so as to give the reader a notion of ideas current at the time the proposals were made. His chapter on ODECA reflects his own considerable contribution to its development. Since no work is perfect, it is necessary to point out one minor error (p. 68), a reference to “the pirate, Juan Morgan” [surely Henry] who attacked Porto Belo and Panama in 1670. The student will wish to bring his information up-to-date by noting the rapid economic progress made since 1955 under plans similar to those outlined by Herrarte.