The wide circulation which the EUDEBA publications enjoy in Latin America adds importance to this brief general history of Venezuela. It first saw publication in Caracas in 1962 as part of the Fundación Eugenio Mendoza’s Venezuela Independiente, 1810-1960, a volume designed to render homage to the sesquicentennial of that nation’s independence. Augusto Mijares has long played an important role in Venezuelan education and letters and has written an interesting biography of Bolívar, El Libertador (1964).
La evolutión política de Venezuela is divided into nine chapters. The first of these deals with the genesis of Venezuela as an independent entity (1810-1812); the second, with the caudillismo that characterized the years 1813-1819; the third, with Venezuela as a part of Gran Colombia down to 1826; and the fourth concludes with her separation from that multi-national experiment in statehood in 1830. These four chapters fill 91 pages and comprise nearly half of the work. The remaining five chapters treat the Age of Páez (1830-1846), that of Monagas (1846-1858), the Federal Wars (1858-1870), the predominance of Guzmán Blanco and his followers (1870-1899); at the end, chapter nine purports to examine the present century down to 1960. The post-1830 period receives 108 pages and the years since 1900 only 18.
As its title indicates, this is a political treatment of the Venezuelan past. Socio-economic factors are but rarely mentioned to explain political causation or motivation. The author’s contention that Venezuela from 1810 on has had a democratic thrust emerges from time to time in his often episodic narrative, but it seems questionable indeed from the roster of authoritarians who have guided most of her national destiny.
In the first four chapters, covering Independence, Mijares does present a balanced and on occasion incisive view of men and events, drawn from his own deep knowledge of the period. This is not the case with the last five. Like many Venezuelans of his generation, the author displays what might be termed an innate inability to view the National Period as anything but an aberrant offshoot of the heroic age which ended in 1830. In his treatment of the seven decades which followed that year, Mijares is strongly, though by no means uncritically, indebted to the works of Francisco González Guinán and José Gil Fortoul. The weakest portion of the work, dealing with the twentieth century, does little more than deplore the regimes of Cipriano Castro and Juan Vicente Gómez and comment superficially on the dramatic changes that have taken place in Venezuela since the latter’s death in 1935.
These criticisms aside, nonspecialists will find the work a convenient, if uneven, summary.