At the first confrontation between Gabriel and Lucifer, the first man and woman were ostracized from Paradise and became the first losers. Henceforth Paradise was no more. In real life, when Politics and Religion are married, and there is an attempt to divorce them, as has been the case in paradisiacal Colombia, a truly titanic clash ensues, and the loser is always the common man. This appears to be the message in La subversión en Colombia, by Orlando Fais Borda, published by the Institute of Latin American Studies of Columbia University. This book represents a most praiseworthy effort to explain the turbulent political and social history of Colombia. Unfortunately, as in other works by Latin Americans in recent times, it still has a few shortcomings.
Because of his numerous references, Fais Borda cannot be accused of a rush to judgment. If it can be said, however, that he rushed to print, his mistakes are those of form rather than of style, depth, or historical perspective. Perhaps to save time in footnoting he inserted frequent references within the framework of his narrative by parenthetically quoting the last name of the writer and on rare occasions the pages of his work. At other times only the date of publication is given. The reader is at a loss in tracing the correct source. For example: “(Castillo, 1957)” p. 23; “(Furtado, 1961)” p. 41; “(Cooley, 1902; Redeparfield, 1957)” p. 35; “(Spenden, 1930)” p. 55; “(Hande, 1935)” p. 63; “(Hoffner, 1957)” p. 64; and so on pp. 185, 188, 191, 213, 264, etc. etc.
In this book there are new terms and new words which leave even the knowledgeable reader at a loss as to their real meaning, such as retar profundamente, “to challenge with profundity” (p. 166). Challenges can be labeled profound, but the very act of a person’s challenging another’s view or of challenging another physically is far from being “profound.” The same can be said of “captación” and “frenación” (p. 159), “fruición” (p. 160), “impreparado” (p. 161); also pp. 156, 159, 162.
The pages dealing with the action and reaction of elites and anti-elites in Colombia constitute a brilliant study of an old universal phenomenon, ever present in Latin American societies. In Colombia it has institutionalized the policy of panic, but seldom if ever that of gradualism or reason. The chapter analyzing the role of the Church in the Conquest of America (pp. 75-79) is superb. Fais Borda’s description of how “frustration” always attempts to overthrow “the order” should be worthy of a separate treatise (pp. 122-154).
This work perhaps was not intended solely for the erudite, but it cannot be read with ease even in literary Colombia, except by those with a solid knowledge of Colombian history—from the Chibchas (pp. 55-60), through Francisco José de Caldas (p. 100), Antonio Nariño (p. 101), El Cocuy (p. 141), Uribe-Uribe (p. 166); to Camilo Torres and the Frente Nacional (pp. 206-231).