Spain, Latin America, and the Transatlantic Cold War

AHA Session 75
Conference on Latin American History 12
Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Ernesto Semán, University of Richmond
Christy Thornton, Harvard University

Session Abstract

This panel—the second in a series dedicated to the subject—argues that the trans-Atlantic relationship between Spain and Latin America was critical in how both regions experienced the Cold War. It does so by examining the crossing of peoples, ideas, conflicts, and social movements, thus addressing what has been a critically-neglected field of study. For Latin Americanists, the key concern has traditionally been the region’s relationship with the “colossus of the north,” the United States. For Hispanists, the insertion of a country frequently dismissed as “peripheral” in European historiography—and its significance for the continent as a whole—has occupied a great deal of attention. Yet as these papers illustrate, the Cold War bound the hopes, fears, and futures of the two regions in ways that were deeply consequential. Indeed, their authors make a compelling case that what occurred in one area had great significance across the Atlantic Ocean. Ariel Mae Lambe’s Paper, “Defining Cuban Antifascism, 1925–1941,” examines the role that the Spanish Civil War played in the development and evolution of leftwing opposition to authoritarian rule on the island. She argues that as antifascist politics became a domestic force in the mid to late thirties, Cuban leftists increasingly saw their struggle in a context of international struggle against all dictatorships. Ultimately, she concludes, Fulgencio Batista co-opted antifascism as the official policy of the state as a means to undermine opposition by the advent of the Second World War. Susy Sanchez’s paper, “The Trans-Atlantic Making of Rubén Darío as the Embodiment of Franco’s Hispanidad: Commemorating October 12th in Spain and Nicaragua (1939-1955),” examines how the Franco and Somoza dictatorships used notions of shared Iberian roots to legitimize their regimes and promote a regional anti-communist agenda based upon a colonial past, with a particular embrace of Rubén Dario as a trans-Atlantic figure. She argues that in doing so, both regimes promoted visions of harmonious societies that effectively erased ethnic and racial diversity in Latin America. Finally, Daniel Kressel’s paper, “Francoist Spain's Spiritual Quest and Latin America’s Southern Cone during the Cold War,” explores the diplomacy of the Franco regime in Argentina during the 1960s and 1970s, during dictatorship sought alliances with similarly-minded far-right movements and governments. He is particularly interested in the role of the religious organization Opus Dei as a vehicle for Francoist soft-power and how the organization influenced the ideology and direction of Argentina’s 1966-1970 dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía. All three papers thus contribute to a greater understanding of the enduring relationship between both regions.
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