Marcel Niedergang, "Introduction," The Twenty Latin Americas/Translated by Rosemary Sheed, vol. I., 7-24. Harmonsworth: Penguin Books, 1971.
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In this introductory essay, French journalist Marcel Niedergang provides an overview of twentieth-century Latin American economic history. The author begins by situating Latin America within its geographic location, briefly touching on the cultures that existed prior to 1492 and the immigration of Europeans to Latin America. Brief comments are also made about education and religion before delving into the main subject of the essay, which is a discussion of the economic climate in the 1960s and predictions for the 1980s if trends do not change. Niedergang explains the United States’s increased interest in the 1960s beginning with President John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress” financial aid program. The second half of this essay discusses American imperialism and how it left Latin American countries poorer while the foreign monopolies with increased profits; American intervention in Latin American politics; and the revolutionary tendencies of Latin American countries that are born in universities, which have always been centers of intellectual and political concern. The author’s last observation is that there has yet to be a reexamination of the social structures that have been handed down since colonial times, and he notes that upheavals are imminent.
The French journalist Marcel Niedergang (1922–2001), who was for many years the Latin American correspondent of the French newspaper, Le Monde, wrote The Twenty Latin Americas, which includes this introduction to the first edition. The pivotal idea of this publication stems from a conviction born in the late- 1940s (among scholars such as Fernand Braudel) that is of no use any purpose to circunscribe Latin America as a whole without having focused before each and everyone of its national specificities. Thus, Niedergang distributes “twenty Latin Américas” throughout his three volumes, country by country. The author, who spent much time in Peru, originally published the book in French as Les vingt Amériques latines (3 vols., Paris, Plon, 1962). The present translation, however, is by Rosemary Sheed (Marcel Niedergang, The Twenty Latin Americas/Translated by Rosemary Sheed, vol. 1, (Harmondsworth, London: Penguin Books, 1971).