Efraím Cardozo’s Breve historia del Paraguay is one of those sparkling gems of modern Latin American history-writing which deserve a place on any Latin Americanist’s bookshelves. Written in clear, concise, and relatively easy Spanish, it might be classified as a thorough and convincing annotated guide to the complex, provocative, and incredible history of one of South America’s most often misunderstood republics.
Breve historia is No. 33 in a series entitled “Libros del Tiempo Nuevo” of the Biblioteca de América, a project of the Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires founded by the University of Buenos Aires. Cardozo, a luminary among Paraguay’s versatile contemporary historians, is a prolific analyst of his inland nation’s colorful history who has achieved wide recognition for his carefully researched works patterned on the “scientific” historiographical approach. His work is therefore dispassionate and objective; it is dedicated to the effort of providing a comprehensive, factual account of Paraguay’s historical evolution, although somewhat lacking in imaginative or creative inferences which could furnish a thesis for the main thrusts in national history.
It traces Paraguay’s remarkable story from the Guarani-speaking indigenous Indian tribes of pre-Columbian times through the eras of Dr. Francia, the two López, and the Chaco War to 1954 and the beginning of the current Age of Alfredo Stroessner. Events, principal actors in Paraguay’s drama, the Great Wars, and social, economic, cultural, and political trends, are competently and succinctly portrayed in a descriptive style which closely follows an organizational outline. This format makes the work both easy to consult and highly useful as an immediate reference for factual data related to Paraguay. A subject index is lacking, and indeed may be unnecessary in view of the chronological outline format. A selective bibliography enhances the work.
For the Latin Americanist either north or south of the Rio Grande the major value of this brief record of Paraguay is its meticulous care in presenting a detailed and largely impartial account. It fills a gap in Paraguayan studies which previously called for exhaustive research. Cardozo is at his best in presenting the story prior to 1946. The delicacy of political trends since that date may have helped to make his review of recent events both sketchy and incomplete. The deficiency, however, detracts but slightly from the overall superiority of this most useful and well-written reference.