Week 9 – Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

Whilst we had previously looked at America’s involvement and intervention in Latin America in a more political sense, this week’s lecture focused more on the cultural and economic aspects of their presence. I couldn’t help but try to find the similarities with European colonization that had taken place in continental Africa, yet immediately, from the beginning of Dawson’s chapter, we are told that this was different because America saw themselves as anti-imperialist. I found this to be really interesting because it seems as though America truly thought they were solely acting in a beneficiary manner in terms of bringing economic opportunity through trade, as well as exposing many of these countries to American culture. Nonetheless, I find that the possible reasons that formed the basis of America’s involvement in Latin America enough to question whether this is actually true. I think that the lines are blurred at this point because, on the one hand, one could say this was simply a way of globalizing its economy and stretching its economic influence, whilst on the other, it’s easy to say that this was clear evidence of America wanting to become a dominant superpower.

Another interesting point that stood out to me was the huge impact that the building of the Panama Canal had on this subject of American intervention. I had not previously known of the intricacies that came with the building of the Canal, including that the value of American investment in the region, jumped from around $308 million in 1897 to $2 billion by 1929. Although this didn’t result in any further direct US government involvement in the region (apart from the Canal being under its jurisdiction for several years), it cannot be understated how important this would’ve been for the American economy. In particular, it would have been a big marker in achieving what I described previously as a way of globalizing its economy and stretching its economic influence, yet even more straightforward, it would have allowed the US to expand its trade routes whilst also simplifying them.

Lastly, after reading the piece by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, I found it valuable to gain an insight into one of the Latin American perspectives of American involvement in the region. In my opinion, one of the main things I gathered was that there was a huge aspect of deceit and disguise in relation to how American involvement was perceived. And I think that the question of what extent was this aspect of deceit and disguise purely based on Latin American perception, addresses interesting points.

Thanks for reading,


6 thoughts on “Week 9 – Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

  1. Lauren Hart

    Hey Antonin,
    I like your comment about questioning America’s motives, it was something I was thinking about too. I think that it honestly depends on which part of the country you’re looking at. The government officials might have different intentions or perspective on Latin America than someone living in the South, or an African American, or a Native American. As much as America was/is a hegemonic society, there was still a lot of division and diversity of perspectives.

  2. Leobardo Elizondo

    I agree, witht he Donald Duck comics it was impossible not to see the relation with how the Spanish conquistadors made their “deals” with the native people, yet this idea is somehow immediatly disregarded.

  3. Lourdes Kletas

    I also found the details on the Panama Canal very interesting. Without a doubt, the Panama Canal was huge for the United States’ economy. This was definitely strategic in expanding American economic interests.

  4. kito gordon romero

    The Panama canal is quite interesting, but i also found their role in the attempt to build the Nicaraguan canal very interesting. It seems that this was, in large, responsible for the invasion by US marines and the subsequent war with Sandino and his men.

  5. Melissa Funes Fedosenko

    I like your comment about american motives as well and can really only say that as we mentioned in class, the deceit is not unknown by most Latin americans but rather american involvement is so absolutely needed that many counties have to “suck it up” in order to get face agreements and such. Great post!

  6. Lotfazar

    I agree with your points. Anti-imperialist or not, on some level, I also think that when it comes to building relations with other countries, Americans believe their decisions are more beneficiary to others. But when it comes to Latin America, I too questioned their motives. Hopefully, this will be something to delve into next class.


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