Saturday, June 28, 2014

the last book I ever read (Marie Arana's Bolívar: American Liberator, excerpt thirteen)

from Bolívar: American Liberator by Marie Arana:

Certainly, it was not the first time the legend was twisted to preposterous ends; nor were Chávez, Guzmán, and Páez the only strongmen to try it. Countless dictators who came after independence tried to manipulate Bolívar’s image in some way in the process of burnishing their own. Bolívar purported to hate dictatorships—he claimed he had taken them on only for limited periods and as necessary expedients—but there is little doubt that he created the mythic creature that the Latin American dictator became.

In centuries to come, dictators came in a multitude of varieties. But the trajectory was always the same. Indeed, many of the most tyrannical and barbaric started out as liberals. South American history is replete with such men. As the Argentine writer Ernesto Sábato once said: “The most stubborn conservatism is that which is born of a triumphant revolution.” Bolívar had feared it would be so. He died convinced that a bloody-minded era would follow, and follow him it did. In Bolivia, a famously debauched dictator, fleeing retribution, was tracked down and killed by his mistress’s brother; in Ecuador, a deeply religious despot who had installed himself for a third term was butchered on the Cathedral steps in the full light of morning; in Quito, a liberal caudillo who tried to seize power too many times was thrown in prison, murdered, and dragged through the cobbled streets. There is a reason why blood trickles down roads and heads roll out from under bushes in Latin American literature: this is not magical realism. It is history. It is true.

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