I write about Latin American soldiers. My research interest goes back to 1999 when I studied at the University of Chile. The strong influence of the military in national life sparked my curiosity and I wound up returning to the topic in graduate school.
My book, The Pinochet Generation: The Chilean Military in the Twentieth Century, follows the careers of officers who entered Chile’s military academies in the 1930s and 1940s, completed advanced training in the 1950s and 1960s, and went on to positions of senior leadership in the 1970s. This generation overthrew president Salvador Allende in 1973 and decisively altered the country’s historical trajectory. A central argument of my book is that the peculiar nature of the Pinochet regime (1973–1990)—its policies, repressiveness, longevity, and political project—cannot be separated from a broader intellectual and institutional culture in the armed forces.
I am currently writing a book about soldiers and warfare in Latin America that includes individual chapters on four very different countries –Brazil, Chile, Cuba, and Guatemala. The book places the region’s armed forces in global context, inviting comparisons and highlighting a set of themes about the role of militaries in Latin American society.
In January 2016 I presented a paper at the American Historical Association entitled “Memory Frameworks in Chile’s Armed Forces, 1930-1990”. Broadly, it commented on the role that collective memory plays in the attitudes and orientations of South American officers. Specifically, it examined the legacy of political and social dislocations during the 1930s for Chile’s armed forces in the second half of the twentieth century.
A very different historical interest of mine, one that forms a part of my longer term research agenda, has to do with the people and places Spanish conquistadors failed to conquer, most notably in southern Chile where indigenous armies forced Spain to recognize their sovereignty over lands south of the Bío Bío River. Two topics interest me. First, the religious and cultural values that sustained Mapuche resilience and resistance after initial defeats in the sixteenth century. Second, the peculiar modus vivendi that developed between natives and Spanish authorities during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Drawing from anthropology and early Spanish chronicles, I presented a paper at the Southeastern Conference on Latin American Studies in March 2015 entitled, “Resilience in Defeat: The Cultural and Religious Underpinnings of Mapuche Resistance in Southern Chile, 1550-1600”.