Book Reviews -- Stereotypes of Latin American Images, and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1920-1933 by Sarah E. Sharbach

Article excerpt

Sharbach, Sarah E. Stereotypes of Latin American Images, and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1920-1933. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993. 233 pp. $63.

The history of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America has been amply analyzed by U.S. academics, mostly by political scientists. It is not a pretty history. Since the initiation of FDR's "good neighbor philosophy," which temporarily halted U.S. armed intervention in Latin America, there has been a swell of works on the topic. Not surprisingly, most are critical of the United States, and none that I know studied the role of the U.S. press on this topic. Sarah Sharbach, an assistant professor of history at Salisbury State University, redresses this oversight.

In seven well-documented and insightful chapters which include illustrations and anecdotes of the times, Sharbach reviews the role of the U.S. press during the Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover presidential administrations and their policies toward Latin America. She does an excellent job at linking U.S. foreign policy with perceived notions of foreign cultures as represented in the press. Reviewing U.S. commentaries on Latin America in U.S. newspapers and magazines during the 1920s, she identifies three "prevailing" (and, I add, enduring) stereotypes of peoples and governments south of the border. These are Latin America as a political child; the backward nation that yearns deliverance from its impoverished condition; and the exotic Latin temperament that is "alien to Anglo sensibilities."

The first two chapters set the stage for the analysis. The first reviews "racial determinism" and white supremacy theories championed by racist "scientists," such as Madison Grant. Military interventions, invasions, and occupations of Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama; the infamous Platt amendment, the Hawley-Smoot tariff, the Jones-Costigan Act, and the like, she argues, can be explained to some extent by U. …