On the Poverty and Possibility of Human Rights in Latin American History

Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin America
Jessica Stites Mor, ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. x + 264 pp.

We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States
James N. Green Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. xiv + 472 pp.

If the global history of human rights has expanded considerably in the past ten years, much of it still remains unwritten.1 This is especially the case when it comes to Latin America. Indeed, Latin America’s absence from what is admittedly a very young field of human rights history is peculiar if one thinks of its prominence in so many of the twentieth century’s landmark human rights events.2 Scholars in disciplines other than history have stressed the Latin American contribution to the normative codification of human rights ideas in the 1940s, whether in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.3 Yet too often this has taken the form of a celebration of a unified “Latin American tradition” of human rights, as if all countries spoke with one voice, or of a hagiography of standalone nationalist figures—the Chilean Hernán Santa Cruz or Cuban Guy Pérez Cisneros—rather than a meticulous inspection of (geo)political calculations.4 What did the idea of human rights mean for the Latin American statesmen who championed them in the 1940s? How were they reconciled with the region’s historically robust protection of national sovereignty and the doctrine of nonintervention? Can one detect any popular expression of human rights in Latin America that might suggest that the 1940s “Latin American” voice was spoken outside of international diplomatic fora?

This content is restricted to site members. If you are an existing user, please login. New users may click here to subscribe.

Existing Users Log In