Week 9 – Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire

This week we learned about how the US grew to become such a neo-colonial power in the early twentieth century with a focus on its military and economic relationships with Latin America. On the military side of things, I found it really interesting how the US used political unrest within a nation for its own gain. For example in Nicaragua, when there was a lot of violence between liberal and conservative groups and the US used this to gain control. It is the tried and true “divid and conquer” method. Similarly in Panama, where the US waited for the French to lose money and lives other the building of the canal and then brokered a multi-million dollar deal to build it. Again we see the US acting similarly in Guatemala, using the CIA to back the UFCO in ousting Jacobo Arbenz. Economically, the US became a large and prominent investor during the export boom, fuelling construction of railways and other infrastructure. From here, this grew into having a monopoly on extremely profitable exports such as bananas as with the UFCO. With these countries relying so heavily on these exported goods, those who had a monopoly had a tremendous amount of political power. Altogether, learning of all of the ways in which the US intervened in Latin American countries to gain political and economic control really helps to answer the question of why they became such a power compared to the still-developing Latin American nations.¬†From the texts like Augusto Sandino’s Political Manifesto and with the above context in mind, I can really understand why the US was often viewed in such a negative ¬†light by many middle and lower-class Latin Americans. As well, this week helps to connect the documents from previous weeks such as Ruben Dario’s “To Roosevelt” and Jose Marti’s “Our America” which identified the US as a war-centric, neo-colonial threat. With this in mind, I can also further understand why so many prominent Latin American figures that we have looked at called for unity amongst Latin America as well as the development of a Latin American identity that was distinct from the US and Europe.

I also really didn’t know much of the US-Latin America relations until taking this course and following the news of hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. I hadn’t realized that the US was not only a neo-colonial threat symbolically but they actually did forcefully invade and conquer many regions of the Americas.

My question for discussion this week is what are the current relationships like between Latin America and US? Being a Canadian, I am really unsure of how Latin Americans largely view North Americans and considering this history of oppression/exploitation from the North I am interested.

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