The best books on U.S. involvement in Latin America

Russell C. Crandall Author Of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century
By Russell C. Crandall

The Books I Picked & Why

Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954

By Piero Gleijeses

Book cover of Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954

Why this book?

I read historian Shattered Hope while a graduate student at an American university and it forever changed my sense of the complexity and nuance of Cold War-era U.S. interventions in the Americas, in this case, Washington’s overthrow of a democratically-elected leftist head of state: Jacobo Árbenz. Two decades hence, I love the book even more for its boldness and historical rigor but also the author's willingness to break taboos like the widely-held notion that there was little communistic influence in Árbenz’s government. 


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Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990

By Robert Kagan

Book cover of Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990

Why this book?

Penned by a conservative scholar who held a high-level Latin America foreign policy position in the Reagan administration, I don’t always agree with Kagan’s logic or evidence. But he is a fantastic writer and gives readers a riveting, albeit controversial, first-person account of the Reagan team’s adversarial relationship and interventions in Marxist revolutionary Nicaragua. 


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Latin America's Cold War

By Hal Brands

Book cover of Latin America's Cold War

Why this book?

Lucidly written and soberly considered, Latin America’s Cold War is one top-five pick for a host of reasons, not least of which is that it forces us to consider that the usually potent Uncle Sam did mean that Latin American actors did not have influence, for good or ill. Rightist Latin American militaries, for a searing case, had their reasons for combatting leftist guerrillas, not just serving Washington’s bidding. 


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The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations

By Alan McPherson

Book cover of The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations

Why this book?

Professor McPherson’s stellar history paints an incredibly rich portrait of protracted U.S. interventions—the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua, most critically—during the so-called Banana Wars in the first decades of the 20th century. This painstaking researched and lucidly penned tome demands that we take the Latin American side of the story when we study the searing history of Uncle Sam interventionism. 


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Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy Toward Chile

By Morris Morley, Chris McGillion

Book cover of Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy Toward Chile

Why this book?

So much ink has been spent on the Nixon administration’s early 1970s plotting and policies during the regime of democratic socialist president Salvador Allende. This exquisite book is a sharp reminder that, while far less studied, the Reagan administration was deeply involved in a Chile run by the very political actor who ousted Allende: General Augusto Pinochet. Yet, contrary to what we often assumed, the Reagan team eventually embraced a policy aimed to get Washington’s erstwhile ally out of power. 


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