Allen Wells

Roger Howell, Jr. Professor of History

On leave for 2018-19 academic year

Allen Wells came to Bowdoin in 1988 after teaching nine years in North Carolina. His scholarship has focused on modern Mexican history, especially Yucatán, the history of commodities, and U.S.-Latin American relations, and he offers a range of courses in colonial and modern Latin American history. Originally from New York, he received his M.A (1974) and Ph.D. (1979) in History at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his B.A. (1973) in History and Latin American Studies from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Recent Pubications

Global MarketsTranslation and publication of essay in anthology. “Los informes sobre su desaparación no son exagerados: vida y época del henequén yucateco,” In De la plata a la cocaína: Cinco siglos de historia económica de América Latina, 1500-2000 trans. by Mario A. Zamudio Vega, eds., Marichal, Topik and Frank (Mexico City: El Colegio de México and Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2017): 426-454.

Global Markets Transformed, 1870-1945, co-author, Steve Topik (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2014).

“Rivalidad económica e inquietud rural a fines del Porfiriato,” and “El ‘porfiriato prolongado:’ La resistencia popular y de las élites, 1910-1915,” co-author of both essays, Joseph, in Vol. 4, Yucatán en el México porfiriano, 1876-1915 in Historia General de Yucatán, eds. Sergio Quezada, Jorge I. Castillo Canché, y Inés Ortiz Yam (Mérida: Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán Press, 2014), 91-167, 281-319.

“Playing God:  Choosing Central European Jewish Refugees for the Dominican Republic during World War II,” in Exile and the Politics of Exclusion, eds., Luis Roniger, James Green, and Pablo Yankelevich (Portland, OR:  Sussex Academic Press, 2012), 80-99.

“Commodity Chains in a Global Economy, 1870-1945,” co-author, Topik, In Vol. 5, A World Connecting: 1870 to 1945, volume ed., Emily Rosenberg, A History of the World, general eds., Akira Iriye and Jürgen Osterhammel, 6 vols. (Cambridge, MA and Munich: Harvard University Press and C. H. Beck Verlag, simultaneous publication in English and German, 2012). HUP edition, 5:591-812, 1051-1077.  German edition: “Warenketten in einer globalen Wirtschaft,” trans. Thomas Atzert, in Geschichte der Welt: Weltmärkte und Weltkriege, 1870-1945 (Munich:  C H. Beck Verlag, 2012), V:  589-814 and 1042-1063.

Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of SosúaTropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of Sosúa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,  2009).

Published in Spanish as Un Sion tropical: el general Trujillo, Franklin Roosevelt y los judíos de Sosúa, trans. Natalia Sanz González (Santo Domingo: Academia Dominicana de la Historia, 2014). 

Gallery of historical images from the book »

"Reports of its Demise are not Exaggerated: The Life and Times of Yucatecan Henequen," In From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000, eds.Carlos Marichal, Zephyr Frank and Steven Topik. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 300-320.

Translated into Spanish as: “Los informes sobre su desaparición no son exagerados: vida y época del henequén yucateco,” In De la plata a la cocaína: Cinco siglos de historia económica de América Latina, 1500-2000, trans. by Mario A. Zamudio Vega, eds., Carlos Marichal, Steven Topik and Zephyr Frank (Mexico City: El Colegio de México and Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2017): 426-454.

“Los mayas en las obras de los historiadores yucatecos del siglo XIX,” in Los mayas de ayer y hoy: Memorias del Primer Congreso Internacional de Cultura Maya, eds., Alfredo Barrera Rubio y Ruth Gubler, 2 Vols. (México: Solar, Servicios Editoriales, 2006), II: 807-830.

"Dialectical Bananas," in Steve Striffler and Mark Moberg, eds., Banana Wars: Power, Production and History in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003): 316-334.

The Second Conquest of Latin America: Coffee, Henequen & Oil During the Export Boom, 1850-1930 The Second Conquest of Latin America: Coffee, Henequen and Oil during the Export Boom, 1850-1930. Co-editor and contributor, with Steven Topik (University of California, Irvine). (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998).

Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval:  Elite Politics and Rural Rebellion in Yucatán, 1876-1915 (Stanford:  Stanford University Press, 1996), co-author, Gilbert M. Joseph. Published in Spanish as Verano del descontento, epócas del trastorno: Élites políticas e resistencia rural en Yucatán, 1876-1915, trans. Ari Bartra (Mérida, Mexico:  Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán Press, 2011).

"A Welcome Shift of Emphasis: Scholarship on Plantations,Haciendas and Ranches in Nineteenth-Century Latin America," Plantation Society in the Americas 6:1 (Spring 1999): 1-12.

"Out from the Shadows: Recent Scholarship on Late-Nineteenth-Century Mexico," Latin American Research Review 35:1 (Winter 2000): 172-186.

"Clientelism and the Political Baptism of Yucatán's Urban Working Classes, 1880-1929," Wil Pansters, ed., Citizens of the Pyramid: Essays on Mexican Political Culture (Amsterdam: Thela, 1997), 66-106.

"Forgotten Chapters of Yucatán's Past: Nineteenth-Century Politics in Historiographical Perspective," Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 12:2 (Summer 1996), 191-229.

"All in the Family: Railroads and Henequen Monoculture in Porfirian Yucatán," Hispanic American Historical Review, 72:2 (May, 1992), 159-209.

Fernando Castro Pacheco Mural, State Government Palace, Mérida, Yucatán
Francisco Castro Pacheco Mural, State Government Palace, Mérida, Yucatán



Just as Latin America was about to become a flashpoint during the Cold War, thanks to Fidel Castro’s abandonment of the U.S. “backyard” after 1959, many regional reformers, unhappy with what they viewed as Washington’s and Moscow’s simplistic “us versus them” mentality, sought a third more autonomous path, rejecting both right-wing militarism and left-wing totalitarianism and embracing democratic and capitalistic values. Alliances were forged between middle-class reformers such as José “Pepe” Figueres (Costa Rica) and Rómulo Betancourt (Venezuela), and U.S. liberals like Charles Porter and Wayne Morse. Efforts by reformers and their allies did not go unrewarded; a slew of popular upheavals between 1956 and 1961 ousted no less than ten dictators from power.

Until recently, students of U.S.-Latin American relations, relying heavily on U.S. diplomatic records, have adhered uncritically to the Cold War binary, obscuring as much as they reveal about the contingent and multi-faceted character of Inter-American relations during this turbulent era. While state terror, guerrilla insurgencies, mass graves, and the plight of the desaparecidos have monopolized Cold War historiography, as my research underscores, hemispheric relations were not just reflected in an East-West mirror; they also were refracted through multiple lenses of Latin American nationalism. Only modest scholarly attention has been paid to these reformers, and even less consideration is given to the U.S. politicians and exile communities who allied with democrats to topple dictatorships and stifle domestic leftist subversion.

My research unravels these transnational relationships, paying special attention to the facility of Latin American policymakers to influence U.S. policy before and after the Cuban Revolution. This diplomatic give-and-take makes clear that hegemonic relationships were flexible and that weak client states could achieve limited successes and sometimes wring concessions from Washington.

Honors and Grants

Andrew W. Mellon Sabbatical Fellowship, 2018-2019

Appointed, Corresponding Member of the Academia Dominicana de la Historia, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2014.

American Philosophical Society Franklin Research Award, 2012

Andrew W. Mellon Sabbatical Fellowship, 2012-2013

Fletcher Family Award, 2011-2012

Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture in History, Vassar College, February 3, 2010.

Delbert McQuaide Distinguished Lecture in History, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, March 22, 2010.

Karofsky Faculty Encore Lecture, nominated by the Senior Class ’08. “Cuba’s Favorite Pastimes: Baseball and Politics,” September 7, 2007.

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 2006-2007.

American Council of Learned Societies/Social Science Research Council/National Endowment for the Humanities International and Area Studies Fellowship, 2006-2007

President, New England Council of Latin American Studies, 2005-2006.

Fund for Course Development Grant for travel to Cuba in April 2000 with Nat Wheelwright (Biology) to acquire materials to co-develop a course entitled, "Contemporary Central America and the Caribbean: Environment, Politics and Culture."

Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval: Elite Politics and Rural Insurgency in Yucatán, 1876-1915Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval: Elite Politics and Rural Insurgency in Yucatán, 1876-1915, named an Outstanding Academic Book for 1997 by Choice.

Appointment, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, Princeton, New Jersey. National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow for 1995-1996.

Advanced International Research grant from the Joint Committee of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1995-1996


Student Honors Theses

Aron, David, '05, "Making Choices, Sowing Division: Chile's Jewish Community during the Allende and Pinochet Eras."

Boeke, Annabel, ’12, “’Hombres de bien, de honor y de conciencia:’ Medical Authority in the Buenos Aires Anti-tuberculosis Campaign, 1900-1930.”

Brant, Sarah, '94. "Assimilation, Accommodation and Resistance: A Reevalution of Gender in Colonial Mapuche Society."

Butchenhart, Nell, '97. "The Transformation of the Virgin of Guadalupe: The Female Archetype and Women's Activism in Morelos, Mexico."

Del Calvo, Andrew, 12, “Biographical Representations of Fidel Castro.”

Endries, Carrie, 97. "'Si la mujer no está, la democracia no va:' Chilean Women's Resistance to the Military Dictatorship,"

Evans, Chris, '98, "The Politics of Human Rights: U.S. Foreign Policy and Argentina, 1976-1980."

Finnegan, Karen, '03. "The Paradox of Pinochet's Chile: Patriarchal Ideology and Women in the Work Force."

Guerin, Emily, ’09, “Environment, Society and the State in Chile’s Forestry Industry.”

Hess, Benjamin, '02, "Ni un paso atrás: The Dirty War and the Human Rights Movement's Struggle for Justice in Argentina."

Jessel, Kirin, 12, “The Other Immigrants:  Paraguayan and Bolivian Immigration to Argentina during the Dirty War and the Return to Democracy (1976-1989).”

Johnson, Julie, '97. "Building Community and Forging Resistance Against a Military Regime: Brazilian Women during the Distensão Period (1974-1978)."

Kimball, Ellen, ’11. “’The Fourth Reich?’  Argentina’s Welcome of Nazi Fugitives during the Perón Era.”

Lee, Jae In, ’06, “De Coreano a Coreguayo: The Korean-Paraguayan Community, 1964-2005.”

Lettieri, Michael, '05, "Mexico's Long Road to Democracy: How Middle Class Politicization and Political Reforms Transformed Mexico's One Party State."

Pearson, Marcus, '05, "'Cuba Needs Many Robespierres:' Soviet Spies, Cuban Dissidents and the Institutionalization of the Cuban Security Apparatus, 1959-1964.'"

Pisegna, Nicholas, ’11. “Beisbol’s Been Very, Very Good to Me:” Major League Baseball, the United States and the Evolution of Labor Markets in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.”

Reilly, Katherine, '04, "A Wound that Will not Heal: Argentina's and Chile's Judiciaries and the Elusive Search for Justice and Reconciliation."

Sherman, Richard, '02, "Reconstructing Nicaragua's Revolutionary Past: Augusto Sandino, Carlos Fonseca and the Sandinista Myth."

Short, Jonathan, '00, "Justifying a Cold War Intervention: U.S. Propaganda and the Post-Mortem Campaign to Discredit Maurice Bishop, Former Prime Minister of Grenada."

Troya, Natalie, '93. "Redefining Community in Exile: The Guatemalan Maya in Mexico."

Villano, Vincent,'00, "Multivocal Interpretations of the Symbol of Emiliano Zapata: The Evolution of a Mexican Myth, 1920-1976."

Watt, Jonah '18, "Que vivan los estudiantes:' Cycles of Contention and the Chilean Student Movement (1906-present)."

Weisbrode, Kenneth. "Spiritual Nationalism and Politics in Argentina, 1900-1912: A Critical Interpretation," 1991.

Whitaker, Georgia, ’14 “Reconsidering Operation Condor: Cross-Border Military Cooperation and the Defeat of the Transnational Left in Chile and Argentina during the 1970s.”

Wood, Joshua., '98, "Adapting and Recovering Ixilian Culture: A Guatemalan Region Responds to Crisis and Change."

Zavardino, Christian, '17, “‘Good for Nothing but Mischief’: Irish Catholic Indentured Servants, Rebellion, and the Imperial-Religious Politics of the Seventeenth-Century English Caribbean.”

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