This week we discussed the Mexican Revolution and the “Plan de Ayala.” The revolution is a concept I was already familiar with so it was easy to follow what the video was saying about a complex topic like the Mexican revolution. In school I was taught the Mexican revolution was one of few where entire families participated in the revolution. This meant women and children were also allowed to fight, even though traditionally, only the men fought. I found this fact quite interesting and since then have wished to learn more about this historical moment. One question that came up while watching this video was why Pancho Villa and the Serrano Revolutionaries were a group that was “on their way out”? I understand that Pancho Villa was a caudillo and in the coming years after the revolution the country would increasingly get rid of caudillos as institutions were created. Even Pancho Villa himself, was aware of it and was partly the reason why he decided to no longer take part in politics once the revolution settled and Obregon took power. However, I think saying that he was on his “way out” is not totally accurate. Pancho Villa was a very powerful figure throughout the revolution and throughout the years that followed. He was largely responsible for the progress made in Northern Mexico and his policies (although violent) were largely beneficial to the lower class community. Even after he retired he was still considered a threat by Alvaro Obregon because Villa still had enough power to potentially restart another revolution (which he feared because the nation was not content with Obregon in power). So although caudillos were not as powerful after the revolution, saying Pancho Villa was on his way out undermines the significance and power that he still held after the revolution.
I had heard about the “Plan De Ayala” before but unfortunately I do not know much about it. This topic is something I would like to discuss in class. My question is, why is the making of this document so significant? Is this document relevant because of the Zapatista movement or was the movement made more significant because of this document? Furthermore, I found it really interesting that the EZLN was the first guerrilla to use the internet. It’s a clever way of distributing your message to a broader audience, however, it makes me wonder, are people that are part of this group really as involved as members of other guerrillas are? Is it less effective to not have a leader physically present at all times as opposed to other guerrillas?
This week’s lecture was one of the most interesting ones for me. During my childhood I was taught about Porfirio Diaz and his “iron fist” rule through school. However, when I think of Mexico at that time my mind immediately goes to the Mexican Revolution. Looking back on it now, it seems very logical that people would oppose his government. Diaz turned Mexico into a modern nation, however, he had some really cruel policies and led the country as a military man instead of a democrat. People were tired of not being able to voice their opinion and living in fear. He did not allow the population to take part in government and simply justified it by saying that Mexicans were simply not interested in exercising their rights and if they were given any sort of freedom, the country would turn into complete chaos. The country was then ruled by a small group of largely white elites. In a way, Mexico has not changed very much. The population is still very much considered “incapable” and thus, is ruled by small groups of people. Of course, this makes the nation more susceptible to corruption. The population is kept at bay through violence, while the country’s wealth is distributed to the hands of the few people in power, as opposed to distributed throughout the nation (as it should be). However, the majority of Mexicans nowadays are quite young, and much more involved in politics. People are changing and expressing their discomfort (huge understatement) towards the government more and more. They are desperate for change and more willing to fight for it than before, which is both a hopeful and frightening thought.
The video also focused on the different types of modernity seen throughout the world. Mexico was considered a modern country, particularly Mexico City. In the nineteenth century, it already had an army similar to the one you’d see today, telegraphs, a railway system, modern roads, etc. I think people at the time were quite proud of this aesthetic and economic modernity. However, it’s hard to believe that they were so distracted by the latest innovation that they failed to acknowledge the underlying problems of the country. If Mexicans themselves, were distracted by this facade, it’s no wonder people like Creelman believed that Mexico under Diaz’s rule was something extraordinary or a so called “miraculous transformation.”
This week’s idea that race is simply a social construct and not a biological fact is something that had not crossed my mind before but now seems so obvious that I feel silly for not thinking about it before. Race is defined differently among different societies, which I find often leads to the question of identity. “Who are we and where did we come from?” these are two questions that it seems to me everyone asks themselves. We all want to have a concrete answer because it would make things so much easier. Whether this is due an instinctive human need to feeling like we belong or as mentioned before, the human “drive to categorize” I cannot say. Probably a little bit of both. Whatever the reason, it is true that social constructs (such as race) has real effects that impact our societies.
While watching the video, I was surprised to find out the number of slaves brought to Latin America. Three million slaves brought just to Brazil alone! There were six times more slaves of African descent in America than white, European inhabitants. We can only imagine how brutal the system had to be in order to keep that many people down. This is quite evident when you find out that most of them died within three years of arriving, keeping in mind that they had to be relatively fit and healthy before they started their voyage. There really is no way to make up for what millions of people had to live through but I think it is really important that we acknowledge what happened and educate people. This helps maximize our chances to avoid another institution like this one from taking place. Furthermore, I found it quite disheartening to learn that the process of emancipation was largely attributed to the liberals. By ignoring the way slaves fought for their freedom we are choosing to ignore the millions of lives lost during this struggle for freedom.
The last part of the video talked about Pelliza de Sagasta and her view of the feminist movement. She described women as “celestial conceptions” who should be everything but emancipated. I do not know much about her however, it is quite evident that she speaks from a privileged position. Of course women who were higher class and lived a comfortable life did not want things to change. Perhaps she never experienced the struggle so she saw this movement as an inconvenience rather than a necessity for the majority of women. However, this idea is not surprising and can still be seen by throughout societies today.
Week five’s reading was based around caudillos. At the beginning for the video we discussed that independence in Latin America brought neither order nor stability. It also said that “..independent nations of Latin America prolonged the colonial project left incomplete by their former Spanish masters.” I found this idea to be quite ironic. It is suggesting that Latin America was keeping up the Spanish ways that they had so desperately been trying to escape. I understand that Latin America was still a young nation that was still dealing with the aftermath of getting rid of their colonists. This feeling of uncertainty surely took a toll on them and lead them to resort to violence in an attempt of feeling like they had some sort of control over their own affairs. This feeling of uncertainty and threat of increasing influence from the outside world is still present in Latin America today. It is often shared by nations that are rich in both culture and resources because it makes them a more desirable piece of land to other nations. It’s funny how Latin Americans wanted liberty and control but they never adopted the idea liberalism. However, I understand why this “misplaced idea” was not fitting for Latin American society. In the case of Brazil, it would’ve exposed slaves (just one example) to even greater threats (as if they weren’t under threat already) due to the increase in sale of labour power. I can see why their idea of “favor” (as described by Schwartz) was more appealing and seemed much more beneficial. The idea of benefitting from others reminded me of modern day networking (it’s a bit of a stretch I know) but the principle is the same. You meet people for your own benefit who may help you out in the future. This requires a lot of trust between both parties. It requires loyalty as well. It also created rivalry which could potentially put people in more danger than whatever security was provided to them by caudillos. I can’t speak for every Latin American country but unfortunately for mine, corruption and violence are still very much present. In fact, while I was reading about caudillos I was thinking about my home country (like I do in almost every reading). In my country, during the last election one of the political parties (the winning one in fact) was often seen giving “rewards” to people who voted for them (the worst part is, they didn’t even try to hide it). Unfortunately, this caused some people to justify the corruption and crimes committed by some of these politicians (or at least, turn a blind eye). The “rewards” were often in the form of money, food, etc and they were mainly used to target people in need. These rewards were both concrete and immediate, which coincidentally was how the benefits given by the caudillos to the public were described in the video. In a way, the relationships between caudillos and the people at the time can still be seen in today’s society as well.