In This Review

The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds, and Riches of Latin America During World War II
The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds, and Riches of Latin America During World War II
By Mary Jo McConahay
336 pp, St. Martin's Press, 2018
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During World War II, the United States urged Latin America to join the struggle. Washington aimed to deny Germany and Italy access to vital raw materials from the continent, disrupt fascist spy networks there, and protect transatlantic sea-lanes. The U.S. war machine relied on Mexican oil and Brazilian rubber; Mexicans replaced American farm workers diverted to military service; and a Brazilian expeditionary force fought bravely in the invasion of Italy. These facts have been well recorded elsewhere, but McConahay, a seasoned journalist, enriches her dramatic account of the period with sympathetic interviews of survivors whose lives were scarred by wartime disruptions. She reminds readers that U.S. behavior was not always noble. People of German and Japanese origin living in Latin America were kidnapped, shipped to remote prison camps in the United States, and sometimes bartered for American prisoners of war. And opportunistic U.S. firms seized market shares from their excluded Axis competitors. Distrustful of U.S. power, some Latin American countries leaned toward neutrality or even the Axis, but McConahay reveals the essential truth that, in a time of great peril, the United States and most of Latin America found common cause against a shared enemy.