Week 4

This week we have learned about independence in Latin America. From the very first line,”the idea of Latin America destabilizes geography, history and identity” this video made me reflection what I know about Latin America. Growing up in Mexico, I learned about independence through school. I always thought independence was something that was inevitable. I figured that no nation would want to be a part of political representation if they could avoid it. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before people would take up arms and fight to get rid of the Spanish. It seemed to me that by overthrowing the invaders from their land, the natives had achieved freedom. However it was only until recently that I began to think about what being a free, independent nation really meant. My parents are very interested in politics in Mexico and the Mexican government is a constant topic of conversation at our house. Recently, they made a comment about how Mexico is not a free nation. In Mexico, we have been ruled by the same political party for many decades now that is known to have committed fraud for most of its rule. I won’t go into too much detail but generally, it is believed they have benefitted and exploited the working class for their own benefit. While watching this week’s video a quote from Simon Bolivar came up, “a people is enslaved, when the government infringes on and usurps the rights of the citizen or subject.” This really stood out for me because I could relate it to my own country. I strongly feel that the role of a government is to protect its people and that everyone should have a say in the country’s decisions. Simon Bolivar mentions the “world balance of power” that was needed at the time and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was about the people’s need for independence and getting rid of Spanish rule. What really surprised me though, was that people who were not of Spanish descent such as the Indigenous people would ever oppose this movement. I understand that they were given many benefits however, they were often seen as less important than the Spanish.  If this was the case, why would they not want to support a movement that would potentially give them a higher social standing as well as a voice in terms of how their country is ruled?

Week 3

This week we have looked at casta paintings and the colonial experience. I found the casta paintings really interesting because they represented the social hierarchy found in Latin America at the time. At first, I tried to search for any signs that casta paintings might’ve had the intention of celebrating diversity  by showing the different combinations. I am aware that this idea might not have been a common way of thinking at the time however, I thought it was an idea worth exploring. Unfortunately, I believe that the result of these paintings was quite the opposite. These paintings were an attempt to capture the different family unions in society. They often made certain unions appear less desirable to society. The paintings portrayed Spanish as educated and professional, while they showed other mixed races such as mestizos, mulattos, etc as lower class. While people must’ve thought it was true at the time, I can’t help but wonder if seeing these paintings encouraged people to be openly racist to others or if they had little effect on people’s everyday lives. And if they did not, why do we still discuss them and learn about their importance today? Also, if they were displayed at work places and prestigious institutions, would they have had a bigger impact on certain people as opposed to other people who perhaps did not visit these places frequently?

When social hierarchy is determined by race, it makes it almost impossible for people to move up and prosper. Your race is something you are simply born with and is completely out of your control. I think it’s disheartening that no matter what your attributes and accomplishments are, a large part of society will ignore that and will simply notice whether you are mestizo, chino, mulatto, etc. Labels, have incredible power over people. I think Catalina de Erauso is a really good example of a person trying to escape labels. I thought the section assigned was a really engaging reading. Although her story is told quite fast, there is so much detail there. It really captures her desire to change her life and be able to be her true self. I thought she was quite brave to escape everything she had known without having any sort of plan other than to let herself “be carried off like a feather in the wind.” What I found really surprising was that there was not any type of punishment given by either the church or the Crown once she admitted what she had been doing. I would’ve thought they would have seen this as a great and punishable offence. Whatever the case was, Catalina’s story was still interesting to read and learn about.

Week Two

“The Columbus story is an allegory, whose true object is missing or displaced.” I had never thought of the discovery of the new world as a myth. I always believed that the discovery of the new world was rightfully attributed to him due to the amount of evidence of his arrival on October 12th, 1492. Yes, I knew he was not aware of the magnitude of his discovery at the time, but nevertheless, in my mind, Cristopher Columbus was always a brave leader who was bound to have stumbled across a legacy one way or the other. However, after watching the video I began to feel like the idea I had of Cristopher Columbus was actually a fraud. Columbus was not a great hero, he was simply lucky. He was a man who was able to set out to sea, with the help of the Spanish crown by promising the crown greater wealth sometime in the future. After reading a section of Guaman Poma de Ayala’s writings on “How two men discovered it, the companion of Columbus, and Candia,” it was clear that Columbus’ voyage was largely fuelled by greed. His motives, although not uncommon, may not be something to celebrate. Specially, when you take into account the savage treatment of the Spaniards towards the Incas. Furthermore, Columbus’ journals often reflect that he was desperate to prove his voyage was not a waste of time. He was not aware of the magnitude of his discovery and was therefore left unchanged by it. This idea got me thinking about whether or not Columbus truly deserves full credit for finding the New World. For example, let’s think of inventions in the sciences field. The telephone is one of the most revolutionary inventions of the modern world and it is attributed to Alexander Graham Bell. Yes, he was able to conduct the first practical phone call in 1875 however, many people had been making significant  advances on how to build the telephone over 30 years before. In sciences, discoveries are usually attributed to whoever had the most impact on the discovery. If we take that into consideration, we may find that there are other candidates who fuelled colonization in the New World more than Columbus did. If the land, and even Columbus himself, were not significantly changed by his arrival then how can he be solely responsible for colonization? I realize the invention of the telephone and the discovery of America are very different concepts but they both describe a process. Colonization cannot be fully attributed to Columbus because it was a gradual change caused by series of historical events. This gives me a whole new perspective on colonization and emphasizes how Latin America is fluid and ever changing.

Hello world! (Week One)

Hi! My name is Carolina Rueda Miramontes and I am a first year student in the Faculty of Science. I was born in Mexico City and I lived there until I was about 10 years old. I moved to the Vancouver area about three years ago and have lived here ever since. I decided to take Latin American studies to learn more about my Mexican heritage, as well as broaden my knowledge of other Latin American countries.

The War on Drugs:

This video was really interesting because I found it explained a very complicated (and sad) business in Latin America in a simplified way. However, it included enough detail for the audience to realize how devastating the situation really is. I liked the way they focused on three different countries throughout the video. This gave the audience a chance to compare the three countries and emphasized how large this business has become. It also helped understand where the issue originated and how it has progressed. I also wonder if the expansion of the business from Colombia and Brazil up north to Mexico was inevitable. Geographically, it makes sense that they would manage the drug trafficking farther north, closer to the United States (one of their biggest consumers). However, towards the end of the video they talk about how Mexico saw a management “chance” and took it. What I’d like to know more about are some of the reasons as to why it was Mexico that undertook this charge as opposed to say, Venezuela, or even Colombia.

Independence in Latin America:

I liked this video because it featured people from different parts of Latin America. I got to learn a little more about how independence came to be in other Latin American countries as well as my own. I also liked the fact that each person had some type of diagram or explanation written on the background and although it was a little hard to see, it helped visual learners like me. The last part of the video also made me reflect on the topic of solidarity. I do think most people are proud to belong to a region so rich and diverse as Latin America. Also, I think in a way independence helped nations realize that if the come together they are very much able to overcome any challenges.

Modernity in Latin America:

I thought this video was quite engaging due to the many pictures that it featured. At the beginning, it was a little dull to listen to since some of the voices sounded slightly monotone. Fortunately, the subtitles were there to keep me focused and helped understand the video much better. However, what peaked my interest was the fact that women were allowed to work on factories, despite the fact that they obviously did not have equal rights as men. I thought it was really cool that they had the foundations of a feminist movement, even if it did not progress very much. I was also surprised at the rate of expansion of the railroad system in Brazil. This urgent need of expansion shows how countries full of resources (in this case, coffee) are so essential for trade in the rest of the world.


This video was perhaps my least favourite out of the four. It contained really interesting information however, because there was only few drawings on the screen at a time I found that it was not as engaging. Although I was not a huge fan on how the information was presented, it was nice to see the different types of pictures that people had drawn and made the video quite cute. Fortunately, this video still got the main message across and taught me about some Latin American historical figures that I had not previously heard of.


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