Mr. Alba is a post-Spanish Civil War transplant to Mexico and he has been serving Latin America loyally for years through a growing number of impressionistic works on the region which make a more decisive contribution to the general readership than to the academic community. Undoubtedly Alba would have it this way and his books have been widely read in the two Americas. Here he joins many other predecessors in attempting to determine why North America has ""made it"" in economic, political and social terms, while Latin America, with a far more sizable colonial legacy in terms of administrative skill, wealth and population, continues to limp along as a marginal civilization that has utterly failed to meet the needs of its people. Drifting across four and a half centuries of Latin American history, and dwelling upon the so-called national period that began in the early 19th century, Alba quotes from an elaborate number of books by Latin Americans to support his major contention. While not particularly original, and placing the onus on the landed proprietors and their mercantile allies in the cities, he does make the point with clarity that Latin America has never truly had a real nationality or effective democracy.