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Una historia americana, Fernando Butazzoni

I bought this novel when in Uruguay, with the hopes of reading newer and more contemporary authors.  When I told the bookkeeper this, he immediately suggested trying this book that was recently released.  And I have to say, it did not disappoint. 


Although it was about the Tupamaros and the events that eventually led to the Uruguayan dictatorship, something I’ve taught about in my class, I learned so much from this book.  Firstly, I learned about Dan Mitrione, a famous US government official sent to Latin America to teach others how to torture victims, and to get information out of them to help stop the spread of communism.  I also learned how this underground group, the Tupamaros, fought for communism and equality in a country and class system that had many disparities. 

Yes, although this book is political fiction, the role that the Tupamaros played in the kidnapping and assassination of Dan Mitrione are facts and thus made me see the Tupamaros in a new light.  After having watched Una noche de doce años (A Twelve-Year Night), a movie that I will review next month, the film made me see the Tupamaros as innocent victims.  And while they were certainly victims of torture and abuse while incarcerated, they, too, committed heinous crimes.  This novel sheds light on the responsibilities of both political parties, particularly how evil the Tupamaros were willing to be in the name of their cause, as heroic as they thought it was.   


This novel not only follows Dani Mitrione’s story but the story of Eduardo González, a bookkeeper for a store in Montevideo, and his family and a spy for the US – Randal Lassiter.  Throughout the novel, we see how these stories are intertwined and add to the story of the revolutionary movement in the year 1970 in the capital of Uruguay.  These characters help us understand both sides: the warriors and those who wanted to kill them.  Although it’s hard to feel sorry for them, the book does a good job of making you empathize with the people who not only blindly became part of the underground movement, but for the victims such as Dan Mitrione and the other undercover spies/police that tried to take down the Tupamaros.   


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and was sad to finish it, as it was unlike anything I’ve ever read.  While the Southern Cone dictatorships are an area of interest to me, I learned so much in this book that I never knew prior.  I’m very glad I bought this book, not only for its content but also for the fact that it’s hard to get in the UK or the US.  I’ve seen it here and there on Amazon, so if you’re interested in buying it, I suggest you start looking today and when it’s available, snatch it before someone else will! 


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