My delight at learning that Gregorio Selser’s book on Augusto C. Sandino was being translated has, upon reviewing the work, been tempered with some disappointment. The book was first written in 1955 and revised in 1978; this 1981 English version fails to incorporate important material on Sandino from a plethora of books, including those by Abelardo Cuadra, Sergio Ramírez, Richard Millett, and Neill Macaulay, and it would have benefitted immensely from the incorporation of all the mentioned works to round out Sandino’s portrait.

Chapters 1-4 sketch the history of Nicaraguan-United States relations from 1820 until 1927 and set the stage for Sandino’s struggle. Chapters 5-8 follow Sandino from his joining the 1926 Liberal revolt through his rejection of the 1927 truce and the faltering start of his seemingly quixotic struggle against the United States. Chapters 9-11 trace the guerrilla struggle from 1928 through the withdrawal of the marines in 1933, quoting extensively from Sandino’s massive correspondence with supporters, enemies, politicians, and journalists. Chapter 12 describes the end of Sandino’s struggle, upon North American withdrawal, and his betrayal and assassination by the National Guard in 1934. Chapter 13 depicts Nicaragua under the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza García. The final chapter and afterword explore the meaning of Sandino’s struggle for Latin America and for the 1977-79 insurrection and the ongoing revolution.

Sandino suffers some weaknesses, including oversimplification of the Liberal-Conservative struggle, an inaccurate picture of William Walker, a poorly sketched section on United States imperialism and Caribbean-Central American intervention, inadequate attention to Sandino’s youth, and the serious overstatement of Anastasio Somoza García’s early power within the National Guard. Economic data on Nicaragua often come from Argentine newspaper sources of the 1930s rather than from better Central American sources and from books published before the 1978 revision. Cedric Belfrage’s translation is serviceable, but occasionally awkward; “fusilamiento,” for example, becomes “put him up against a wall” (p. 20).

Sandino, however, is better than the sum of its faults. Ample quotation from letters and documents conveys considerable detail about the issues at stake, the participants, and the flavor of the era. The volume reads well and is evocative (its anti-American flavor may offend some undergraduates). Selser has not written the definitive work on Sandino, but his book is full of passion, politics, and ideology (those of both the subject and the author) that help the North American reader understand how the humble Sandino could become the General of Free Men,” a heroic symbol of the aspirations of Latin Americans for self-determination.