This is the first interpretive history of Central America by a Central American historian to be published in English. Anyone with an interest in current events in the region will find here an insightful and well-written guide to the history of its five national states—Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Traces of a common past invite us to make generalizations about the region, even to posit the idea of a Central American nation. But, as Hector Perez-Brignoli shows us, we can learn more from a comparative approach that establishes both the points of convergence and the separate paths taken by the five different countries of Central America.
The author offers a concise overview of the region's history from the sixteenth century to the present, beginning with human and cultural geography in the first chapter and ending with the present crisis in the last. He deals with the fundamental themes and problems of the area: the characteristics of the colonial heritage, independence and the crisis of the Federal Republic, the formation of nation-states during the nineteenth century, and the development of export agriculture based on coffee and bananas. The narrative moves finally into the twentieth century to look at the growing impoverishment that multiplies inequalities and leads to the shipwreck of liberal democracy. The case of Costa Rica, exceptional in more ways than one, receives special attention.