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The Road to Modernity: the 20th Century in Latin America

The 20th century saw the modernization of much of Latin America, but not without significant growing pains. Industrialization, modern transportation and infrastructure all came to the region, but brought with them poverty, disease, social inequality, foreign intervention, corruption and, in some cases, war.

Latin American History: Civil Wars and Revolutions
Even since most of Latin America gained independence from Spain in the period from 1810-1825, the region has suffered from numerous disastrous civil wars and revolutions. They range from the all-out assault on authority of the Cuban Revolution to the bickering of Colombia's Thousand Day War, but they all reflect the passion and idealism of the people of Latin America.

The Galapagos Affair
The Galapagos Islands are famous for being remote and sparsely inhabited. They only rarely come to international attention. That all changed in 1934, when the islands were home to a scandal involving sex, lies and murder. When all was said and done, three people were dead and two more missing. Do you think you can solve a mystery that has baffled historians for almost a century?

Lázaro Cárdenas del Rio: Mexico's Mr. Clean
Lázaro Cárdenas del Rio was President of Mexico from 1934 to 1940. An honest, hardworking veteran of the Revolution, he stabilized the country when it needed it the most. Along with Benito Juarez, he is one of Mexico's most-beloved statesmen.

Biography of Ernesto "Che" Guevara
One of the more famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) protagonists of the Cuban Revolution, Argentine doctor Ernesto "Ché" Guevara would go on to play a key role in post-revolution Cuba. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967 while trying to stir up a Cuban-style communist revolution.

Biography of Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista was a Cuban army sergeant who took command of the military before being elected president for the term from 1940-1944. He returned to power in 1952 and is today best known as the man who was President when Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution took place.

Biography of Juan José Torres
Juan José Torres was a Bolivian general and President of his country for a brief time in 1970-1971. Deposed by Colonel Hugo Banzer, Torres went to live in exile in Buenos Aires. While in exile, Torres attempted to subvert the Bolivian military government. He was assassinated in June of 1976, and many believe Banzer gave the order.

Biography of Orlando Letelier
Orlando Letelier was a rising political star in Chile in 1973, when General Augusto Pinochet seized control of the government. Living in exile, Letelier was an outspoken critic of the military regime, and in September, 1976, he was killed in Washington, D.C. by Chilean agents: an attack on US soil by an "ally" in the war on communism.

Biography of Camilo Cienfuegos
Camilo Cienfuegos was one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution, as famous to Cubans as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Considered a hero of the revolution by Cuba's government, there are neverhteless lingering doubts about his untimely death and whether or not Fidel Castro had anything to do with it.

Biography of Alberto Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru from 1990-2000, is something of an enigma. Is he the one who controlled Peru's runaway economy, ending inflation and providing economic security for millions? Or is he the one who oversaw unheard-of levels of corruption that saw $600 million in skimmed funds over ten years? The answers are not easy to find.

Biography of Anastasio Somoza García
Anastasio Somoza García seized power in Nicaragua in 1936, beginning a dynasty of rule that would pass through his two sons and last until 1979. The dictatorship years were marked by corruption and repression, but the Somozas had the support of the United States government because they were fiercely anti-communist.

Biography of Carlos Prats
Carlos Prats was a Chilean Army General who served under President Salvador Allende. After Allende was removed in a coup, Prats fled to Argentina, where Chilean agents assassinated him in 1974.

The Bogotazo: April 9, 1948
On April 9, 1948, the poor of Bogota, Colombia, took to the streets after Liberal party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was gunned down int he street. The riot that ensued, known as the "Bogotazo," is one of the worst in history.

The Tupamaros
The Tupamaros were a Marxist urban guerrilla group that operated in Uruguay from the early 1960's to the mid-1980's. Their most high-profile action was the kidnapping and murder of American FBI agent Dan Mitrione in July-August of 1970. After the general amnesty of 1985, many former Tupamaros went into politics, and several have been elected to important political positions.

The Thousand Days' War
The Thousand Days' War, a Civil War fought in Colombia from 1899-1902, devastated the nation and brought about the secession of Panama as an independent nation.

Biography of Jorge Luís Borges (1899-1986)
Jorge Luís Borges (1899-1986)was an Argentine writer and poet. His intellectual short stories made him internationally famous, and his is considered a precursor to the famous Latin American literary "Boom" of the late Twentieth Century.

Biography of Pablo Escobar
Pablo Escobar was the greatest Colombian drug lord, whose Medellín cartel once controlled 80% of the cocaine shipped illegally into the United States. Although his personal fortune reached into the billions, his crimes eventually caught up with him and he was killed in a dramatic raid by Colombian security forces in 1993.

Biography of Roberto Gómez Bolaños (Chespirito)
Biography of Roberto Gómez Bolaños, a.k.a. Chespirito, Mexican writer and actor who made famous characters such as el Chavo del 8 and el Chapulín Colorado.

Biography of Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) was a general in the Chilean military who also served as president and dictator for almost twenty years.

Biography of Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera was Mexico's best-known muralist. An avowed communist, he was as well known for controversy as art, and his is also famous for his volatile marriage to fellow artist Frida Kahlo.

The Tlatelolco Massacre
The Tlatelolco Massacre, often referred to as "Mexico's Kent State," was in reality far more horrific, as hundreds of protesters, most of them students, were gunned down by government security forces.

The Colombia-Peru War of 1932
In 1932, Peruvian irregulars attacked a remote Colombian outpost with the intent of keeping it as Peruvian territory. War swiftly broke out between the two nations as they fought over a chunk of the Amazon River basin. The war itself was a stalemate of sorts, but Colombia eventually got to keep the town seized by the Peruvians.

The Ezeiza Massacre
On June 20, 1973, former president Juan Domingo Peron returned triumphantly to Argentina after 18 years in political exile. As his supporters gathered at the Ezeiza Airport to welcome him back, a firefight broke out between conservative Peronists and liberal Peronists, resulting in at least 13 dead.

Biography of Juscelino Kubitschek
Juscelino Kubitschek was President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961. His administration was marked by great prosperity and the construction of Brasilia, the national capital.

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