Confronting the American Dream

9780822336341: Hardback
Release Date: 27th December 2005

9780822336471: Paperback
Release Date: 27th December 2005

26 illus., 3 tables, 5 maps

Dimensions: 156 x 235

Number of Pages: 392

Series American Encounters/Global Interactions

Duke University Press Books

Confronting the American Dream

Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule

Hardback / £95.00
Paperback / £24.99

Michel Gobat deftly interweaves political, economic, cultural, and diplomatic history to analyze the reactions of Nicaraguans to U.S. intervention in their country from the heyday of Manifest Destiny in the mid–nineteenth century through the U.S. occupation of 1912–33. Drawing on extensive research in Nicaraguan and U.S. archives, Gobat accounts for two seeming paradoxes that have long eluded historians of Latin America: that Nicaraguans so strongly embraced U.S. political, economic, and cultural forms to defend their own nationality against U.S. imposition and that the country’s wealthiest and most Americanized elites were transformed from leading supporters of U.S. imperial rule into some of its greatest opponents.

Gobat focuses primarily on the reactions of the elites to Americanization, because the power and identity of these Nicaraguans were the most significantly affected by U.S. imperial rule. He describes their adoption of aspects of “the American way of life” in the mid–nineteenth century as strategic rather than wholesale. Chronicling the U.S. occupation of 1912–33, he argues that the anti-American turn of Nicaragua’s most Americanized oligarchs stemmed largely from the efforts of U.S. bankers, marines, and missionaries to spread their own version of the American dream. In part, the oligarchs’ reversal reflected their anguish over the 1920s rise of Protestantism, the “modern woman,” and other “vices of modernity” emanating from the United States. But it also responded to the unintended ways that U.S. modernization efforts enabled peasants to weaken landlord power. Gobat demonstrates that the U.S. occupation so profoundly affected Nicaragua that it helped engender the Sandino Rebellion of 1927–33, the Somoza dictatorship of 1936–79, and the Sandinista Revolution of 1979–90.


Illustrations ix
Tables x
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Part I: Manifest Destinies, 1849–1910 19
1. Americanization through Violence: Nicaragua under Walker 21
2. Americanization from Within: Forging a Cosmopolitan Nationality 42
Part II: Restoration, 1910–1912 73
3. Challenging Imperial Exclusions: Nicaragua under the Dawson Pact 75
4. Bourgeois Revolution Denied: U.S. Military Intervention in the Civil War of 1912 100
Part III: Dollar Diplomacy, 1912–1927 123
5. Economic Nationalism: Resisting Wall Street’s “Feudal” Regime 125
6. Anxious Landlords, Resilient Peasants: Dollar Diplomacy’s Socioeconomic Impact 150
7. Cultural Anit-Americanism: The Caballeros Catolicos’ Crusade against U.S. Missionaries, the “Modern Woman,” and the “Bourgeois Spirit” 175
Part IV: Revolution, 1927–1933 203
8. Militarization via Democratization: The U.S. Attack on Caudillismo and the Rise of Authoritarian Corporatism 205
9. Revolutionary Nationalism: Elite Conservatives, Sandino, and the Struggle for a De-Americanized Nicaragua 232
Epilogue: Imperial Legacies: Dictatorship and Revolution 267
Notes 281
Selected Bibliography 325
Index 351

Michel Gobat is Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa.

“Extraordinarily engaging, Confronting the American Dream is far and away the best work ever written on the convoluted path of elite/Conservative disenchantment with the U. S. imperial project in Nicaragua. Its relevance to broader historical and contemporary phenomena throughout Latin America and well beyond is really quite remarkable.”— Lowell Gudmundson, coauthor of Central America, 1821–1871: Liberalism before Liberal Reform

“This is a beautifully argued and researched book—one of the most important and revealing case studies we have in U.S.–Latin American relations. But it goes far beyond that. Without ever significantly moving past the 1930s, Michel Gobat has provided an indictment of the early-twenty-first-century embrace of ‘American empire’ and, in a model of scholarship, provided stunning insights into the ironies—and tragedies—of the misuse of U.S. power.”—Walter LaFeber, author of America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–2002