In the late 1960s, Van Dyk moved to Columbia University as vice president to help quell campus disorders which threatened the university. Over a period of 35 years he was a senior advisor to presidential candidates Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Ted Kennedy, Mondale, Hart, and Tsongas; contributed regular essays to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Fortune, and other national publications; and led two national think tanks. In 2001 the Bellingham, Washington, native returned to the Northwest to write a regular editorial-page column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Van Dyk’s memoirs contain many previously untold stories from an historic period of national politics, portray brilliant and not-so-brilliant leaders and ideas, and also illuminate politics’ darker side. They bring to life the flawed realities and enduring opportunities of public policymaking in our time.
Led by the military strongman Rafael Carrera, an unlikely coalition of mestizos, Indians, and creoles (whites born in the Americas) overcame a devastating civil war in the late 1840s and withstood two threats (1851 and 1863) from neighboring Honduras and El Salvador that aimed at reintegrating conservative Guatemala into a liberal federation of Central American nations.
Sullivan-Gonzalez shows that religious discourse and ritual were crucial to the successful construction and defense of independent Guatemala. Sermons commemorating independence from Spain developed a covenantal theology that affirmed divine protection if the Guatemalan people embraced Catholicism. Sullivan-Gonzalez examines the extent to which this religious and nationalist discourse was popularly appropriated.
Recently opened archives of the Guatemalan Catholic Church revealed that the largely mestizo population of the central and eastern highlands responded favorably to the church’s message. Records indicate that Carrera depended upon the clerics’ ability to pacify the rebellious inhabitants during Guatemala’s civil war (1847-1851) and to rally them to Guatemala’s defense against foreign invaders. Though hostile to whites and mestizos, the majority indigenous population of the western highlands identified with Carrera as their liberator. Their admiration for and loyalty to Carrera allowed them a territory that far exceeded their own social space.
Though populist and antidemocratic, the historic legacy of the Carrera years is the Guatemalan nation. Sullivan-Gonzalez details how theological discourse, popular claims emerging from mestizo and Indian communities, and the caudillo’s ability to finesse his enemies enabled Carrera to bring together divergent and contradictory interests to bind many nations into one.