The assertion that history is written by the winners is well known, but it is still a generalization that snubs nuances. History is written and described by those who look at it with Carthusian patience, those who pick up the version of the winner but also that of the vanquished, and know that in no case will either of them retain their roles for all eternity.
The study of history supposes the recognition of these manifestations that are produced with each time cycle. The observation could not be given from a single perspective. This analysis, thus, will be fruitful to find truths beyond the actors themselves, truths whose origin can be verified in different times and spaces.
In this sense, the history of the independence process of the Latin American continent is a vein of universal topics, whose proximity facilitates the understanding of its events to the men and women of the present. Yes, 200 years are nothing on the evolutionary curve of humanity, and yet an investigation like the one carried out by Sergio Guerra Vilaboy, in this recent publication by Monte Ávila Editores, supposes an arduous and meticulous journey.
We are talking about a scenario, its object of study, that if it did not develop as a compact entity, it became during the process of conquest and colonization, when a “civilizing” corset was girded on us that averaged us into disgrace. What we know today as America is part of a great blur made in bits and pieces, a shameful circumstance about whose assessment two centuries ago those born here began to agree.
"Playing with fire" unravels, from the perspective offered by the comparative perspective, the complexities of this awakening - rather stretching - which, asserting itself with great dynamism, in less than three decades would reach the threshold of integrationist utopia. A story in which the events, determined by the progressive vision of certain individuals, made the head downcast peoples of America look towards the horizon.
From the proclamation of Haiti as a sovereign state, in 1804, to the threats that ruined the Amphictyonic Congress of Panama, in 1826, a dizzying chronicle mediates, amalgamated of events, documenting the magnanimous epic of Louverture, Bolívar, San Martín and many other libertarian heroes.
The label that Guerra Vilaboy gives to the different chapters of the book ("Dawn", "Fissures", "The dilemma", "Play with fire", "End", "Frustration" and "Utopia") gives an account of its narrative intention . The good historian should not aspire to any other purpose than to compile a fascinating cross-story of historical data, as the author does in this exceptional document, the first edition of which, in 2010, won the Casa de las Américas Prize for the Bicentennial of Hispano-American Emancipation.
Given that we have become accustomed to looking at what happens - not only the historical - as the effect of an intention that, when manifesting itself, spreads in an expansive wave, like a dart thrown into a vacuum, the mention, in a work like this, of that that denies the fable, that is, of that doubt that at times lowers the determination of our heroes, of that distraction that breaks the purity of their ideals, of that inflection that forces the circumstantial change of their objectives.
These nuances have been recorded in Guerra Vilaboy's review of a process whose line is permanently interrupted by contradiction. The independence movement has a diversity of motivations, and its merit lies in the final achievement of the objective and not in the way to achieve it. Bolívar ¬ –it is evident in some passage of the book– doubts even in 1814 about the freedom of the slaves, Sucre seat to the interested pressure of the citizens of Upper Peru, San Martín advocates the establishment of a monarchy in Buenos Aires ...
The inconsistencies, however, do not detract from the realization of a task that is still difficult to explain today. The liberation of a continent of 18 million square kilometers on horseback and against the largest empire on the planet, an anticipated conquest on the curve of time.
"Playing with fire" closes in a perhaps regretful tone. Given that the greatest prize of those warriors, the integrationist ideology, could not be achieved, much of what was obtained would eventually be lost. By not closing the circle when the universe conspired to do so, we have had to wait for a new turn, which for now consumes two centuries.
The book in pdf format can be downloaded here, on the Monte Ávila Editores website.