As the term draws to a close, I’ve been focusing on how my perspective of Latin America has changed. I always knew conflicts in Latin America were complicated, with many twists and turns. And although I have learned a lot over the past few weeks I am still more confused than ever. I am confused, because there is really no single answer to allow Latin America to prosper. There is no recipe and no series of steps. What might have worked in other regions will not necessarly work for Latin America.
Although I wish things were simpler, this has made me realize how special Latin America is. My mom always says that Latin America attracts so many countries (who unfortunately, also try to control it) because they want what Latin America has, good weather, plenty of resources, culture and an undeniably large amount of history. The past few weeks I have learned a lot about conflicts in Latin America. From colonization, to caudillos and the dirty wars and have definitely seen our fair share of violence and chaos, yet (oddly enough) this course has made me feel even more proud to be from Latin America. We are struggling right now but I definitely believe that after a certain point, for things to get better they have to get worse. That’s where we are at right now. Things are bad right now but I am confident that they will improve and Latin America will achieve the peace that it’s been after for so long. In a way, it is exciting to think we are living in an age where so many things are changing. We are living things that people will read about years from now. This course has definitely encouraged me to take more of an interest in what’s going on around me and learn about where I come from.
It’s sad to think that Latin America today has not changed much from how it was before. At the beginning of the course, Latin America was portrayed as violent, and full of internal conflict. Although I know things in Latin America are still not peaceful and still need to change, I was hoping along the way our topics would become a little more cheerful. Unfortunately, it seems Latin America is still as violent and chaotic as ever.
Something that really grabbed my attention was the Madres movement in Argentina. These women’s children had been taken from them, bringing them pain that I can only imagine. Of course these women wanted to get their children back so they began to protest. In my mind, their protests are completely justified and I cannot imagine why people would look at them in a negative light. They were deemed as “dangerous” and even considered terrorists for standing up against the military. The military, who took away their children! I may be wrong but as far as I know the Madres campaign was not a particularly violent movement, yet it was still deemed as dangerous and needed to be shut down. It’s tough to protest in Latin America. When you take a violent course of action, the military quickly retaliates with even more violence (and obviously they have more access to weapons) but if you choose to protest in a peaceful manner, your protest is ignored or shut down regardless. The sad truth is that neither of these are very effective and so you see people being violent towards a new target; themselves. In the video, there was some graphic images of people hung from bridges in Mexico as well as dead bodies laying in public squares with signs around their neck. Unfortunately, these tragedies are becoming increasingly common around Latin America.
The one thing discussed this week that gave me a little bit of hope was the idea that the introduction of media was helping people connect. Media is uniting people all over Latin America and encouraging them to spread their message and take a stand. The first step towards dealing with a problem is educating people and acknowledging that the problem is there. Perhaps if everyone in Latin America learned the truth about what is happening around them, they would understand that Latin America is not simply going to change on its own. I guess my question is, will Latin America ever be able to achieve peace or is there such a thing as a “point of no return”?
This reading was a little hard to follow because it talked about different countries as opposed to focusing on just one. However, this was also the topic that my group and I did our video project on so I will be focusing mainly on Peru and the rise of Sendero Luminoso.
When I started reading about this terrorist group I had (I’m sorry to say) almost no previous knowledge about it. This is the reason that when I first began to read about them I considered them to be brave and even respected them for being willing to risk their lives in order to give their country a little push towards prosperity. They began as a group of students of humble backgrounds who were simply fed up by what they considered to be an oppressive and unfair government that had cheated them out of their land and rights. However, when I began to learn more about Sendero Luminoso I quickly began to change my mind. While I understand their frustration and even feel that sometimes violence is necessary in order to quickly cause change, I definitely do not agree with the horrible crimes that they committed. Sendero has caused so much damage to the country and the people of Peru. They did not simply act out to who they saw as a threat or as a traitor, but they also murdered innocent people who had no part or say in government decisions. I think that at the very beginning of the creation of Sendero, they did not intend for this to happen. It seemed to me like they had some clear goals in mind and although they did act out in order to achieve them, their early protests were relatively peaceful. I understand why the people of Peru did not support and in fact were terrified of Sendero Luminoso, even though the majority of them also had resentful feeling towards the government.
Similarly, the increasing violence by Sendero Luminoso led the government and military to retaliate, creating an on-going violent cycle. Although the government justified their violent attacks as their way of keeping the guerrillas under control, they also killed many innocent civilians along the way. All this violence caused confusion and fear amongst the people of Peru since they did not know who to trust. It is hard to “choose a side” in situations like these. Both sides truly believe they are right but the crimes that they committed make it difficult to support them even if you believe in what their basic ideologies are. Perhaps if both parties had not resorted to violence, people would have been able to truly choose who to support as opposed to simply running to the lesser of two evils?
This week opened my eyes to how big of an effect media can have on a community. The introduction of the radio connected people throughout all of Latin America in a way that had never happened before. People from the country and isolated communities were able to listen to the same things, and feel the same way, as people in large cities on opposites ends of the country. I can only imagine the excitement and curiosity of the people when the radio was first introduced. I found it very curious that the radio had the power to connect people in such a way that it was even able to spark a sense of national belonging in the hearts of people. A great example of this was the role of samba in Brazil. Samba was so popular in Brazil that even president Getúlio Vargas tried to link samba to his “Estado Novo” in an attempt to gain supporters and increase his likability in the country of Brazil. Perhaps his plan would’ve worked had he not failed to consider that the introduction of the radio also provided people with much more power. The power to make judgements based off the way he presented himself. He was now forced to think carefully not only about the message he was sending, but also the way in which he delivered this message. Another factor that he failed to remember was that people now had the power to choose whether they would listen to what he had to say, or turn the radio off. Perhaps if he had used this new technology more effectively, his story would have ended differently. In contrast, María Eva Duarte de Perón was a politician whose success was largely attributed to her use of the radio. “She found her voice in the era of amplified, broadcast, and recorded sound,” is the perfect line to describe Evita’s rise to power. She used her voice to deliver her message to regions where she would have never been able to before.. Her voice was her greatest weapon and it allowed her to move people all over the country. Perhaps it seems a little silly to us now, to think that politicians did not think to use new technology available to them as a resource to help them gain an advantage. However, it was this concept that often determined which politicians would have a successful future like Evita or fade into the past like Vargas. It makes me question, how would things have been different without the invention of the radio?
This week is a tough one for me to write about because this topic seems to me quite controversial. Latin America has always been majorly influenced by the United States. The economic industrialization that occurred in the late 1800’s resulted in the United States needing to export goods to Latin America. In return, they would supply some natural resources of their own to the United States. You would think this is an okay deal however, the United Stated gained too much power and controlled much of Latin America. In fact, Latin America is now so dependent on imported goods that many of the local industries have gone bankrupt due to the extreme competition from larger, more successful foreign industries. These industries provide jobs for some of the locals however, we also have to consider that much of this produced wealth does not reach the hands of the people of Latin America. Yes, these industries pay taxes to the government, (at least they should, although it has been reported that a lot of them don’t or do not pay the full amount) and salaries to the worker but much of the wealth is actually kept by the industry and taken back to their home country. It seems to me like foreign industries are benefitting from Latin American resources and Latin Americans are not being given their fair share.
In Mexico, I have heard two very different opinions on this topic. People seem to find that a lot of the products manufactured locally are not as useful or high quality as the ones imported from the United States. Generally, these people support and even encourage the import of goods from The United States to Latin America. They don’t seem to mind where the products are made or where they come from as long as they are efficient and serve their purpose. I understand this point of view, and understand that this seems like a more comfortable choice. However, I think that it would be better for Latin America to take care of their own affairs and start managing the manufactured or their own goods. It may be true that Latin American products may not be as high quality as the ones produced by the United States at first, however I think in the long run this would be beneficial. This change will still provide jobs for Latin American people and perhaps even more that the previous system did. It will also cause the wealth to the be cycled through the country as opposed to having it be divided with another country. Maybe it is time for outside influences, including that of the United States, to be pushed out of Latin America. Perhaps if Latin America was left alone, it would have a chance to learn to manage its own affairs.