Week 7: The Export Boom of Modernity

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the potential of Latin America seemed to be unfolding in a favourable way or at least by first glance. This is how I first viewed it when I read about it in books when I was trying to learn about Argentina and Mexico from afar. Argentina was within the world’s top ten richest countries and Mexico was reaching new economic limits by the years. What I didn’t know or learn about the manner in which way they were expanding their nation or modern culture.

Anyone who tries to modernize, in a way, loses a piece of the past or part of their character. When I think of modernization, I think of Japan, who went from a feudal state to a modernize reflection of the western world within a relatively short amount of time (I can’t remember how long but I assume it was around a century or less). They sacrificed their cultural heritage and practices for a more “civilized and industrial” lifestyle. Or course, their modernization couldn’t of happened without an internal conflict which was between the Samurais and the Empire. I bring the Japanese up because in a way they were really successful in modernizing the nation. So what happened to the rest of South America? Why didn’t they modernize as the Japanese did?

Though I don’t know much about Japanese history, I do know a bit about their culture and loyalty. They are a very respectful people that believes in community and it is their heritage that solidifies their beliefs. Almost the whole nation made an effort to modernize, where as in Latin America, only the elites and a few trickle downs attempted to modernize the nations but even then it was against the nations of some people. The fact is that the nations within Latin America we never united as a people and that will eventually lead to divides and stalemate in progress. Then again, one could question what is progress? There are various forms of progress like economical, cultural, humane, educational, etc., and these are all still subjective so it is hard to define progress when perspective is not objective and it probably shouldn’t be, because in general socio-political realities are never seen as a one way street. People should be allowed to live the way they want, wether that’s in the forest, on the ranch, in the city, or among the villages, but should they all be governed under one system that has nothing to do with their own? It is a matter of co-existence and liberty, not of demagogues and production.

2 thoughts on “Week 7: The Export Boom of Modernity

  1. Jon

    “in Latin America, only the elites and a few trickle downs attempted to modernize the nations.”

    I’m not entirely sure this is true. Or rather: we should recognize that both the “elite” and the “people” (to put the divide in these terms) were made up of groups or factions that often wanted different things.

    So, for instance, there were rural elites, in countries such as Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and elsewhere, who fiercely resisted many aspects of modernization, as they benefitted from what was in effect a semi-feudal system in which peasants undertook all the labour on their large landholdings.

    Urban elites, on the other hand, were generally more partial to modernity, so there was often conflict between city and countryside as a result.

    As for the poor, they might want aspects of modernity, but without perhaps letting go of elements of traditional culture (religious beliefs and practices, for instance) that were central to their communities. In, say, Cuba or Haiti or Brazil, they might hold on to beliefs and rituals that progressive elites denigrated as “uncivilized” or “savage.” And yet they might still want the benefits of modernity in terms of material improvements in their standard of living–plumbing, electrification, or whatever.

    Hence the modernization process was always a negotiation, and both brought new conflicts and revealed old ones.

  2. David Darbinian

    I agree that there are various forms of progress. I would also argue that there’s no such thing as guaranteed/teleological progress for “humanity”. It seems that even Europe, the harbinger of modernity (which itself touts that we’re fated to reach a better place), lost a lot of faith in that idea after getting through two world wars. When I look at Latin America, I also agree with your point; the population’s diversity means there will be advocacy for a lot of different types of subjective ‘progress’ which may suit one community but not the other. I think that Latin America being composed of many different groups and histories means there is even more tension when it comes to what societal elements to keep and what parts to scrap – and of course this all relates to the implementation of modernity.


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