In This Review

Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence, 1810-1830
Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence, 1810-1830
By Robert Harvey
Overlook Press, 2000, 561 pp

A compelling narrative history -- totally politically incorrect -- of the great white men who created the independent states of Latin America in the early nineteenth century. In recent times, historians have ignored this epic tale, even though some Latin Americans, such as novelist Gabriel Garc'a Marquez and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, have fallen captive to the stories of Simon Bolivar's adventure. Harvey revives these extraordinary individuals in a tour de force that recaptures the drama of Latin America's liberation from Spain and Portugal. There is Francisco de Miranda, who impressed both George Washington and Catherine the Great, escaped the guillotine in revolutionary France, and then become dictator of Venezuela before his capture and death in a Spanish jail. Bolivar himself plays a leading role, and Harvey breathlessly follows him through swamp and jungle and across Andean ice packs. On the stage too is the onetime extortionist Augustin de Iturbide, who briefly served as emperor of Mexico. Rounding out the cast is Dom Pedro, who brought independence to Brazil and became its first emperor. Harvey also skillfully weaves the tale of the eccentric Scottish aristocrat Admiral Lord Cochrane, who brilliantly managed the motley fleet that helped secure the independence of Brazil and Chile and served as the inspiration for Patrick O'Brian's fictional British naval hero, Jack Aubrey. A splendid old-fashioned read for those who like their history rich and romantic.