Monthly Archives: October 2015

Week Eight

“In short, Latin Americans lived in a fragmentary world; one person’s boom was always another’s crisis.” says Alexander Dawson quite well. (p 141). This sentence sums up the events that followed the boom of modernity, using examples of the violent uprisings setting in countryside during the Mexican Revolution. A key concept in this chapter is that not everyone benefits from economic growth, to be honest a very small percentage of a population get benefits, usually the elites and owners. The crisis in the rural areas escalated quite quickly as elites began to control much of the land and political parties were controlled by a small oligarchy.

From this chapter I was intrigued by the Plan de Ayala a document written by Emiliano Zapata and villagers from the highlands of the Morelos. The fact that individuals who experience the very worst of the economy have a say in this document makes it more important. I find it very interesting that they actually set a “Liberation Plan”, usually many citizens will complain about  political leaders and if they fulfill their platform promises. But this group wrote this, denouncing the President Francisco I. Madero for his betrayal to the revolutionary concepts.

This document called on 15 key points but some of the main points were:

  1. Rejection of Madero’s rule and call for free elections.
  2. Pascuel Orozco as leader of revolution.
  3. The land and property owned by large “hacendados” be given to towns and citizens.
  4. Confirmation of agricultural nature of revolution.

As a result of an amendment, Zapata was put into a leadership role of the revolution. Zapata was able to overthrow Huerta with the help of allied northern revolutionary armies. This resulted in somewhat of an end to chaos in the country.

Mainly, a large concern is that this pattern continued in Latin America. Political leaders call for change and then they receive support from the people but do not come through with their promises. Another large factor it that there continuously is corruption and abuse of power. Authority and power differentiate by authority has the right to enforce power if needed but power can be used to force people to do something they wouldn’t usually do.

Imagine if these revolutions occurred without hidden agendas? or

How does one plan a successful revolution?

Looking forward to discussion in class!


Week Seven

This week our readings were on the advances towards modernity, immediately I expected to read 30 pages on economic growth, but I was wrong. There was most definitely quite a bit of information regarding economic growth, as it is a very strong factor in the comings of modernity. To my surprise, a significant amount was on culture and social features, there was quite a bit on photographs, which I found very interesting. In this chapter there are 5 pages that have pictures that represent significant views of history.

I would like to further focus on Figure 4.1 portrayal of two young indigenous boys, the are shown as poor and seem to be agricultural labourers. In the beginning of the 1860’s there would still be very much racism prominent in Latin America, generalizing the boys as labourers shows this. This photograph could be interpreted in many different ways, this is the beauty of a photograph, although we are at the hands of the photographer. This makes me wonder about what is the intentions of this photographer, or what is happening on the outsides of the corners of the photograph?

Another photo that intrigued me was figure 4.3, a photo of a peruvian man and his wife. This photo and its description below are very vague, which makes it more interesting to interpret. The couple’s body language seems to be nearly distrustful of the photograph, as their backs are hunched and they are merely looking into the photograph almost as if they were interpreting it as well. The fact that the man is wearing his uniform is important as well, perhaps he wanted to be photographed in it because he is proud of his contribution or maybe he was forced to wear it as a symbol to the military. This also made me connect to the traditional american “we want you” posters for the army, maybe at this time that this photograph was their version of the american poster.

Photographs are a huge part of history, it is a very special opportunity that we have today that we can interpret photographs from hundreds of years ago. Sometimes, a photograph can say much more than words can, this is why I choose to write this weeks blog on the photographs. It is one thing to read pages of statistics, historical facts and documents but the interpretation of a photograph from a different perspective than the photographer and the photographed can explain more than what is being said. Obviously, just as anything else there are flaws in this argument, such as it is a small frame and we cannot see beyond it.

See you all tomorrow!


Week Six

This weeks readings were very interesting, focusing on the challenging movements towards equality for all citizens. Beginning with The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizenthis document is better than nothing but it does not include women or slaves. This chapter focuses further into the impacts of independence and the race issues as a result, creating the issue of citizenship. Slavery was also a relevant issue during this time as many black slaves were brought from Africa to work in the plantations all over America. Racism resulted in what the textbook calls “the Color Line”, using the example of United States discrimination based on colour. This chapter gives us five very different documents written by Latin Americans about the views of these certain struggles.

This brings me into the two last documents, Maria Echenique’s “Brushstrokes” and Josefina Sagasta’s “Women: Dedicated to Miss Maria Eugenia Echenique”. These documents are examples of the challenges faced when moving towards equality, the contrast between “Brushstrokes” and “Women: Dedicated to Maria Eugenia Technique” highlights the complexity of this issue. Both have strong beliefs that women have roles in society, Sagasta directs her argument towards the traditional view of motherhood, she suggests that family and home would not function with women’s emancipation. This very much contradicts my beliefs, but this is why I found this document so interesting.

Does Sagasta realize that she is saying that a woman’s duty is solely to the family?

What makes Sagasta believe that a woman needs an education, but does not use it for anything but pleasure reading or writing?

Sagasta also ridicules North American educated women, she views that the liberty of our rights to be on an equal status to men erodes the privileges of motherhood, to be a good wife, and to make those around her content.

What bothers me about this document is a few times Sagasta uses the world partner as regards to a spouse, but what she is describing is not a partnership. When I think of a partnership, I see equality and sharing of opportunities or duties. When a woman is prevented from employment, when she is the soul caregiver, and it is considered her duty to be a wife…this is not a partnership nor equality.

Interested to hear your input!

See you all thursday.

Week 5: Caudillos Versus the Nation State

After many countries gained independence from the Colonialists, the Latin American countries set up independent governments. These Spanish colonies became republics, and as newly developed governments set up the institutions of caudillism. Charismatic military leaders were set up to control and rule a section of a country. These men were often stereotyped to be violent and unfair rulers, but part of their role was to be a mediator between both ends of society.

Until this week’s work, I had never heard of a Caudillo, however I formed the connection that it is somewhat similar to a noble in the old European empires or the Ottoman empire. The nobles would receive a piece of land, where they could create a little town and community, in which they would be able to use the land’s resources and make a profit for their warfare. This worked for the Ottomans just as well as it did in Latin America. Both had vast lands where Agriculture was an important element to their economic existence.

I am interested in the caudillo regarding their stance in between the elites and the poor, very much so the halfway point for both sides of society. A Guatemalan caudillo, Rafael Carrara in the nineteenth-century, not educated and a mestizo. He later pursued the conservative mindset as greed and wealth were exposed. I researched popular caudillos hoping to find a ruler who had a positive impact on a society, unfortunately, this proved to be very difficult.

Why is this?

I am sure there are many answers to this question and I hope to hear your input but, I feel as if there are many factors to why many of these caudillos were not beneficial to the entire society. I do not believe it is mainly because these men were military leaders, as there has been fair good leaders in the ranks. But I believe that it is incredibly difficult to find a “happy medium” in society, not everyone can be pleased and it is generally impossible for a ruler to humor two different groups in a society, especially when one is capitalistic.

All in all, the readings become more and more fascinating as we continue to acquire knowledge regarding Latin America, being able to make connections and gaining further understanding of this history.