Week 13

For this week, the video by Hanna Dandarell and Cody Alba “Towards an Uncertain Future”. I was impressed by the level of information the video presented, going extremely in depth about a variety of issues and explaining the causes and effects of situations in Latin America. I felt I learned a lot about a variety of situations and concepts that I was previously unaware of, beginning with the concept of making sense of the lack of stability resulting from renewed economic growth.

The first discussed the ideas discussed in Albert Hirschman’s book “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty”. The book aims to describe the behavior of members in a society after a crisis. Hirschman states that citizens usually either opt out or engage in he crisis. The reactions of citizens vary by the structure of the state and the capabilities the citizen has within the region. A response can be created based off of the state’s ability for reform and other times by impossibility of exit. I found Hirschman’s thoughts to be a good way to begin the discussion about people’s responses to changes within their region. The video then applies how the concepts of exit, voice and loyalty play out in different situations in Latin America, beginning with the example of the earthquake in Mexico City.

Mexico City was an interesting example of a situation where the dissatisfaction among citizens created by deficiencies within the state was emphasized by a natural disaster. With the 8.1 earthquake that occurred in 1985, the conditions in Mexico City went from bad to worse. Many factors leading up to the earthquake unfortunately made the people’s ability to recover afterwards exponentially more difficult. The economy was already in a crisis, making the government ill prepared to aid in the response to the earthquake. Additionally, many buildings built after 1940 collapsed due to poor construction. This was a result from corruption within the construction industry, where construction companies would use bribes to avoid close inspections of their buildings. When the earthquake occurred, the poor conditions of the buildings were revealed. Unfortunately, these were the buildings that stood for progress and prosperity, including hospitals and schoolhouses. I was shocked by the statistics of the damage, with 100,000 people left homeless, 10,000 killed and 412 buildings collapsed. For many, the level of destruction left in the wake of the earthquake and the state’s inability to support the people drove citizens to exit, either physically or mentally.

Overall, the topic of this week was interesting, especially considering the events discussed are relatively recent. I am enjoying expanding my knowledge on occurrences that I would not have known of without this course.

Week 12

This week’s reading on the situation in Argentina highlights the power of the people. What started as a small gathering of people with a common grief turned into an impactful movement. The mothers of those who disappeared as a result of the Argentinian government discovered a way to bring attention to a largely ignored human rights violation. The universal component of motherhood and loss of one’s own child made those unaffected by the disappearances connected and more emotionally invested in the matter. It is shocking to me that the government was able to cover up the story for so long and that the allegations against them were disregarded until the family members made a public outcry for justice and the return of their taken family.

It was interesting to see how the government responded to the open protests, especially since the outside attention the issue received made it more difficult for them to take their usual aggressive stance against opposition. However, it did not restrain them from attempting to spread fear through the group by kidnapping and killing some of the protestors. As a government trying to contain bad press, it was not in their best interest to hide past murders by committing more. The killings drew even more attention and sympathy from the media.

The government’s next actions to contain the issue reveal the power officials can have on media and public perceptions. They displayed the mothers as terrorist sympathizers, skewing foreign observers’ opinion on the matter. Since many looked at the issue from the outside, they had to rely on secondary sources to receive information and form their opinions. This information can be very susceptible to manipulation, delaying the mothers from fully conveying their concerns and call for help.

The government once again made the mistake of relying on killing to solve the issue. Their negligence led them to kidnap thirteen individuals linked to the mothers, two of whom were French nuns. This received a lot of international attention, with the French embassy demanding the government to return the two women, even though the government continually denied involvement. When the bodies of the nuns were found months later disposed of in the common manner of the Argentine government, public scrutiny increased even more. More investigations followed, revealing the astounding number of disappearances and reducing any credibility the Argentine government held among other nations.

The eventual downfall of the corrupt government leads back to the initial actions of brave individuals. It demonstrates even those without a great political standing or influence can make change and fight against the injustices within a nation. The mother’s realization of their power drove them to not stray from their cause, no matter the consequences or violence it brought upon them.

Week 11

This week, I was very interested in the topics discussed in the lecture video “Peru’s Civil War”, especially the formation of the Shining Path and the profound effects the group had on Peru. In the 1960s, they began their formation and recruitments. Many of the leaders were those living in the city with a connection to rural people who then traveled back to rural areas to work with the indigenous people. This started their following and they continued to expand by helping areas that have been neglected by the government. The Shining Path came into these areas and protected the people, making a statement about their presence through public displays of punishment to those committing injustices within the community. This situation reminds me of our discussions in class where we talked about how leaders of groups see populations lacking support and structure as an opportunity. They can provide their protection and either gain volunteers for their cause or ask for service in return.

The government did not support the Shining Path taking leadership in these areas and sent the army to punish those associated with the group. Unsurprisingly, this did not solve the issue and led to a cycle of violence between the military and the Shining Path.

When the Shining Path made their first public display against the military as a unified group in the 1980s by burning down election ballot boxes, the situation, in my opinion, seemed to escalate quickly from then on. Much of the population in Peru was in a state of fear, with acts of terror taking place on the streets. The military’s official force only seemed to convince more people to fight against the government. This is when the new president, Fujimori, came in. I was amazed by the actions he was willing to take and the general population’s support of his approach to the issue. He changed the system to favor himself as a dictator where he could now tell the military to complete questionable tasks in the fight again Shining Path and not receive any of the blame.

I found it ironic, in a unamusing way, that after all the change Fujimori made to take a more forcible stance against the terrorism, the leader of Shining Path was brought in as a result of the investigations of the police. Even though Fujimori’s military force did not have a significant role in capturing the leader, I believe Fujimori’s actions still had an important impact on the people. He provided a sense of strength and stability that the people needed during this time, and his approval was made clear by the large amount of support he received.

Sources for Week 4 Video

Source 1: Simon Bolivar

The document “Simon Bolivar” provides a summary of the lifespan of Bolivar, from his adolescence to his death. The summary is written by Manuel Perez Vila who is a Venezuelan historian and professor, making it a reliable source. The source is useful because the chapter in the textbook only briefly describes Bolivar’s upbringing. This document provides a more in depth insight into the origins and development of the historical figure.

From early in life, Bolivar’s lifestyle was constantly changing. His father passed away before Bolivar turned three years old. He was homeschooled by his mother until he was nine when she too passed. He then lived and was taught by his grandfather, who also died soon after. Unhappy in the care of his uncle, Bolivar ran away and eventually game into the care of Don Simon Rodriguez, an elementary school headmaster. Bolivar soon became his pupil and began a critical period of his education in which he discovered his love for knowledge. At fourteen years old, Bolivar found success in the Battalion by combining his military knowledge with his subject knowledge. It is evident these were the early developmental stages of Bolivar becoming a leader.

His education continued in Spain in both the arts and subjects. Here he met his future wife with whom he decided to return to Venezuela with after getting married. She passed away after only a year of marriage, leading Bolivar to leave Venezuela once more and return to Europe. His used this time to continue expanding his political and literary knowledge. It was during these years he realized his dream of ending Spanish rule in South America. A series of actions derived from this realization, including returning to Venezuela and beginning discussions of independence with others.

Many initiatives followed, beginning with joining the military service. He took part in the raid of Valencia in 1811, freeing the Magdalena River and the beginnings of liberating Venezuela. During this time, he published “Memorial to the Citizens of Neva Granada by a Caraqueno”, an important documentation of his beliefs, and he also earned the title of “the Liberator”.

After losing La Puerta battle, Bolivar and other patriots were forced to leave Caracas. After multiple political struggles, Bolivar leaves his position of command and stood by in Jamaica until he found a new movement to fight for. It is here he wrote the famous “Letter from Jamaica”. His next important moment was after the formation of the Second Venezuelan Congress where he proposes a Constitution and delivers one of his most memorable speeches. The efforts of this congress, lead by Bolivar, results in the independence of Venezuela in 1821. He goes on to liberating Ecuador, becoming dictator of Peru, creating a nation called “Bolivar Republic” (now Bolivia) and escaping an assassination attempt. His death occurs shortly after stepping down from his position of power.

The document contains great detail about the momentous endeavors in Bolivars political and military career and will be extremely useful in providing relevant background information in the video presentation.


Source 2: Latin American Icon Simon Bolivar Gets Biopic Treatment In ‘Liberator’

One goal for our video presentation is to share present day perceptions and interpretations of Simon Bolivar. Bolivar is an extremely important historical figure to many in Latin America and the article explains a unique way in which Bolivar is displayed as an icon.

In 2013, the movie “The Liberator” was released. It tells the story of Bolivar’s political and military feats in the nineteenth century and aims to reach both local and international audiences. The movie shares a significant time in Latin American history while promoting the land and culture. It is clear the quality of the film is of great importance as it is one of the most expensive productions in Latin American history. A goal in making the movie was remaining true to the nation and its culture. They achieved this by getting finance from Spanish and Venezuelan producers, hiring a Venezuelan actor to play Bolivar and the using music by a Venezuelan conductor.

While the article emphasizes the positive outcomes of creating a movie that informs others of such an iconic figure, it also criticizes the interpretation of Bolivar. Marie Arana, a biographer of Bolivar, explains the historical inaccuracy of the film. The most obvious issue was the physical appearance of the actor playing Bolivar. He was tall, handsome and strong while Bolivar was known to be a small, skimpy man. She stated there also lacked some depth in the storytelling of Bolivar’s life and accomplishments, which she claims is a common mistake that needs to be resolved. His legacy has been left open to interpretation and manipulated over time, so

Arana feels Bolivar’s true story needs to be clarified to the public. However, Bolivar’s biographer notes the historically correct facets of the film. The display of race, inequality and hierarchy in the colonial systems was well represented.

The article continues by relating the issues of colonial Latin America to the similar ones that exist today. Bolivar fought for liberty and equality for the people within Latin America and hoped for a future in which society would not be separated by social standing. Unfortunately, as the actor Edgar Ramirez says in the article, a gap still exists between the rich and the poor, with the past systems having a major effect on how modern Latin America developed. The movie “The Liberator” is an opportunity to spread the messages of Bolivar and raise awareness of the imbalances that remain to this day.



“SIMON BOLIVAR.” SIMON BOLIVAR. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Latin American Icon Simon Bolivar Gets Biopic Treatment In ‘Liberator'” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Week Ten

The podcast “Music and Nation in Latin America” provided a unique way to observe unity in a nation. History in many different cultures demonstrates music’s capability to connect people in a deep way through mutual love for a certain sound. This connection doesn’t only exist in one’s community, but worldwide. It is truly amazing the reach it can have and the impact it has on a person’s life.

I thought Dawson made an interesting note when he acknowledged in the past, different areas were extremely distinguished by the style, sound and instruments that made up their music. It is definitely a huge contrast from today, where some music, no matter the language or style, is recognized worldwide. It is true there are still differences in music depending on where you go, but it is still highly unlikely to find a place where the people don’t recognize at least one song from popular culture.

This expansion in musical recognition is mainly due to the advances in recorded music, and more specifically, the transmission of recorded music. The radio spreads popular music worldwide and plays a major role in defining and identifying a particular area’s style of music. Dawson brings up the example of the tango in Argentina. He comments on difference between what tourists view as an authentic representation of a foreign country’s musical traditions versus what locals actually view as authentic. I’ve never personally experienced this coming from Florida, where we don’t have any stereotypical dance or music style; however, I have noticed this occurrence when traveling. It is obvious the displays are for tourists’ entertainment and I often wonder how locals feel about them.

After listening to the podcast, I now understand how the radio contributed to this misconception. At one time, the style may have been extremely evident in a culture. The radio displayed this style to the world, who then came to accept it as the norm in that specific area. So now if the style has changed in the locals’ minds, outsiders have already associated them with the old one.

One of the band examples that I found most interesting was the one from Cuba. They practiced “Cuban” music but were not well liked in Cuba. They then found popularity in the US, and were later accepted back into Cuba. The most ironic part is when they returned to Cuba, it wasn’t to play for a Cuban audience. Their primary gig was at a hotel where the majority of guests are foreign. It seems like even though locals may not personally want to listen to that music, they are using the misconception to their advantage to please outsiders who expect that style of music.

Week Nine

Out of the primary documents studied this week, I found Political Manifesto by Augusto Sandino extremely fascinating. From the first line, it is apparent Sandino is intensely passionate about his home country, Nicaragua, and Latin America as a whole. He explains his local heritage, role in society and his right to openly fight for what he believes his homeland deserves. Sandino begins the manifesto this way to position himself as a patriotic, dedicated individual whose connection to the land and culture proves his genuine concern for the well being of Latin America.

Sandino’s tone throughout the manifesto is very assertive. He is forthright about his opinions of those who he feels have wronged Latin America and what should be done to repair the damage that has been done. I found it interesting how he addresses both the crimes of people of the same nationality and the United States. The United States is the most obvious culprit in Sandino’s mind; however, he does not ignore the fact that there has been corruption within Latin America. He also expresses anger towards those who do not fight for what he believes Latin America needs, desperately trying to get the “cold-hearted Nicaraguans, the indifferent Central Americans, and the Indo-Hispanic race” to understand that the fight should not be with those within the borders, but with the external forces that repeatedly take advantage of their land and people.

This leads to what I consider the topic of most concern in the manifesto, the urgent need to fight against United States interference. Sandino uses the same argument that we have seen in previous chapters, that external involvement prevents Latin America from advancing as a self-reliant, strong region. It is evident he fears the United States may one day monopolize the sources of profit that Central and South American land provides. It is interesting how he proposes to solve the issue with the example of a potential canal in Nicaragua. While he does not seem to like foreign involvement, I thought it was rational for him to acknowledge their participation is still important in certain matters, as long as the home country has majority control.

Overall, I found Sandino’s manifesto successful at conveying the message that he vehemently wants Latin America to be successful on its own terms. He remains focused on his goals until the end, unwavering from his position no matter the influences that may persuade him otherwise.

Week 8


It was interesting to read about how the crisis affected the rural poor. This section in the book provided a much deeper insight on the feelings and actions that arose during this time period. I was surprised to learn about some of the tactics that were used to ensure “order” when tensions were rising in the countryside. It seems rural people were handled in a different, more aggressive manner than those rebelling in other areas.

One of the situations that shocked me the most was the level of political and government involvement in these efforts of maintaining control. The actions of political thugs were put in quotations in the text, suggesting unfair practices went into the “recruitment” of labor and the “buying” of land in rural areas, further increasing rural tension. All the while the police and the military were aware and an important part of these pushes for order. Their social roles placed them in a position to legitimize the wrongdoings placed upon rural peasants. Political parties were also highlighted and displayed in a different perspective than they were in the previous chapter. In this section, the idea that order must occur before progress, which will then lead to democracy was seen as superficial promise for equality and an excuse to enforce order upon the people. This demonstrates the major differences in ideas and practices during the time that produced aggravation for many groups of people.

The impact the progress Latin America wanted to achieve was also not in favor of the rural people. Advancements in railroad systems and forms of communication made rural areas more accessible than ever before, disturbing rural peasants’ way of life. These people were accustomed to anonymity and separation from things like national and global markets. Their systems were beneficial to their needs and were comfortable to rural populations, so when “capitalist penetration” entered the regions, rural life became more difficult. Once again, I was shocked by how the government responded to the rural peasants’ conflict with the drastic changes in their systems. It is sad elites genuinely believe they were the more superior of the two groups and viewed a decline in the rural population as an opportunity for Latin America to be more productive with more “civil” people. It makes me think of how these beliefs have been proven to exist in many places outside of Latin American and how they still circulate today.

The Export Boom as Modernity

At a time when Latin American was still in the process of developing a strong, unified government, I can understand why Latin American elites would believe that they needed order to begin to create progress. However, I do not completely agree with why they thought order was difficult to achieve. The elites believed the people were not civilized enough or held the capacity to be able to live under a democracy and be a part of the modern rule. While it is hard for me to say if that is true or not, I think the lack of order was not solely due to the people being “uncivilized”, but largely because of the significant differences between the groups of people in Latin America. Before the export boom, there were limited ways to travel to different areas, making the people geographically divided. The interests of groups also varied greatly depending on their occupation or place in society. These factors made an already difficult task of creating order and seeing progress even harder, struggling to find a system that agrees with the majority of parties.

It was interesting to read about how the export boom helped actualize Latin American progress and the debates over whether it was beneficial progress. I was specifically intrigued by the differences between Raul Prebisch and modern-day contemporary economic historians because I thought they both make valid arguments.

Prebisch argued “Latin America simply replaced on colonial master with others at independence”. While this is an extreme statement, it has a point in that Latin America put the livelihood of its economy into the hands of foreign countries, making it extremely vulnerable to a serious downfall. The statistic that astounded me the most was that foreign countries held up to fifty percent of capital in some Latin American countries. While details like that are expected to generate a negative outlook on foreign control during the economic boom, the fact remains that Latin America’s lack of capital and domestic markets put them in a situation where they needed outside support in order to see economic growth. With foreign capital, Latin American countries were finally able to build effective ways to travel, communicate, and create a society with the beginnings of a centralized government and law system.

Even though the impact of foreign interactions was not equally positive across Latin America, it is difficult to deny that, overall, it jumpstarted progress that would not have been obtained on their own.

Week 6

This week’s reading in the book provided a greater insight on the development of citizenship and rights in the America’s. I liked that the progression of slavery in Latin America was continually compared to the United State’s progression. Since I know more about the United State’s history and time periods, relating significant events in time in Latin America to the states help put it in context for me.

Three topics particularly stood out for me this week: scientific racial separation, improving race and the impressive racial advancements in Brazil.

How Europe and the Americas used science to support their racists systems still astounds me. Especially since the “scientific racism” was largely based off of the ideas of theorists who had little scientific evidence to support their claims. They came up with arguments such as “the mixing of races led to the degeneration of species” and that “society was responsible for maintaining and improving the gene pool” that blatantly encouraged racial separation. Then came the claim that the cleanliness of blood biologically gives whites more advantageous characteristics suitable for any power-holding roles in society. This was a way to scientifically establish whites as the more superior race and encourage the idea that those with mixed racial origins were not biologically adequate to govern themselves.

The reaction to these scientific claims and other racial beliefs was astonishing to me. Latin American elites took it upon themselves to “improve” their society by cleaning their nations of unbefitting races. They did this through intermarriage or reclassification, hoping to make their nation more civilized and prosperous. The reclassification example with Afro-Argentines was interesting to me. Over fifty years, they were able to decrease their representation from twenty five percent to two percent by simply changing the title of these residents.

The last topic that caught my attention was the experience of people of color in Brazil. I had no knowledge of their early advances towards racial equality. Even though the system was not completely fair, they still adjusted their restrictions on people of color to give them a more free life in relation to other nations in Latin America. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, the now libertos could vote if they met certain qualifications. Non-whites were even found in government and respected as intellectuals, titles that were not given to non-whites in other areas until much later.

There is more in this chapter that I found interesting, such as the ways in which slaves relentlessly fought for their own freedom Cuba, that I look forward to discussing in class.


Week 5: Caudillos Versus the Nation State

The topic for this week was particularly fascinating for me. I enjoyed learning about how such a large area of land dealt with an extreme transition from monarchy rule to independence. After reading about the context of their situation, it’s understandable why the people, both elites and indigenous, struggled to find the right balance of power.

I noticed each group had their own self-serving definition of what freedom meant to them. These values were amplified when the Spanish colonial age ended and the people felt they needed to protect their own interests in this unpredictable time.

This led to the rise of caudillos, who proved to be complex figures. They were contradictory, providing what many needed while prohibiting any progression of a strong, centralized union for countries in Latin America. A large majority of a caudillo’s following would consist of peasants and Indians in need of a leader to defend their autonomy. With liberal elites trying to change communal land holding laws to their advantage, villagers would heavily rely on the caudillo to protect their land and sometimes even grant more land to the rural poor for their military service. The dissimilarities in interests within countries were one of the main reasons it was so difficult to establish an overall institution that could equally serve the people. As difficult as it is for me to imagine living under a caudillo ruler, who acquires many enemies and only provides a temporary solution to problems, I can recognize why certain Latin Americans during this time period would depend on this style of leader.

The map on page 51 of the textbook also stood out to me as I was reading. It provided a shocking depiction of the negative repercussions of a weak central state. Actually seeing the receding borderlines due to lack of union emphasized the seriousness of the post-colonial crisis. Bolivia’s divided people made them extremely vulnerable to attacks, with only a series of independent caudillos to act as military figures. This up against more stable and somewhat prosperous states, such as Chile, led to the loss of almost half of their territory.

Overall it was very interesting to learn about a segment of history that I have not been taught before. It still amazes me how my secondary school provided practically nothing on history of Latin America.