Concluding Latin America

The first thing that this course asked is

What is Latin America?

After twelve weeks of learning, I can confidently say that I do not know. Latin America isn’t just a collection of stories started in 1492, it is significantly more than that because although Latin America as we know it was formed in 1492, there was a history before that and there will be a future after today.

Latin America isn’t just violence, it is people fighting for their freedom, fighting for their agency. It is the Madres who knit in the town square, it is the No campaign where people fought for their right to independence over the airwaves. It is Ruben Dario calling President Eisenhower an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar and not caring about the consequences. It is Catalina de Erauso, proving that she is not just as good as any man but better.

But even this narrative is contrived because we all want the narratives we contrive to end with a happy ending. Just as the United States had no problem painting Fidel Castro as the enemy, it is easy to remember all the good that has happened in Latin America.  Despite all the inspiring hopeful stories that we have learnt about and experienced during this semester it is still important to remember the disappeared, to remember those who suffered as a result of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

This course had made me not only think about the complexities of Latin America but history itself, the stories we tell and why we tell them. History cannot be defined and neither can Latin America.

The Power of the people

I cannot imagine what it would have been like for the mothers and sisters of the disappeared. The Madres to me is a prime example of why Latin America is not full of helpless people who cannot fight for themselves. Despite the fact that many of the Madres had never worked outside their homes, the fact that they openly defied the government on behalf of their families is admirable, especially in a time where “traditional family values” were being reinstated by Military rule.

I also can’t imagine how heartbreaking it is for people who are told to trust their governments only for their governments to be the ones kidnapping their family members. It must be so upsetting to know that the people who are supposed to be protecting you are killing you.

Image result for the madres de plaza de mayo

I think the ways in which the Madres fought their government is particularly potent when looked at with their “perceived place” in society. By knitting,  they were displaying non-violence and the appearance of “decent folk”. The way they chose to dress is also reflective of this, by wearing “white headscarves”, they weren’t just representing purity but also modesty. These are traits expected of women and exacerbating these particular aspects of idealized motherhood was perfect in getting people to sympathize to their plight and believe that they were not stepping out of their social spheres in a “feminist-type agenda”. This was really important as people believed that.  However, in spite of this, they were also openly defying their government, organising mass protests and mobilizing their communities and that to me is incredibly remarkable.

To Roosevelt – An Analysis (Week 8)

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The North American superiority complex is fought again in “To Roosevelt”, out of all the excerpts we read in the duration of this course, “To America” is definitely one of my favourites. Dario plays Roosevelt as his own game, with a littering of biblical connotations and religious undertones.


You are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar,

breaking horses and murdering tigers


Echoing the notions of Marti, but in a less “Impointingthefingeratyouway”, Dario shows us as readers that although The United States might seem progressive and desirable, the country too is not without its problems.


You are primitive and modern, simple and complex


The word “primitive” is incredibly important here, this is what the United States thinks of Latin America, even to this day. The fact that the United States feels like they have to often interfere with events shows how patronisingly paternalistic they can be, even if it’s not helpful. By turning around this notion onto them, it shows that although this is what current notions are about Latin America, they are truly one and the same, both primitive at heart. This is what the juxtapositions mainly showcase, that one cannot fundamentally group people into categories, by saying that he is “simple” and “complex” shows that the American people can be either.


But our America, which has had poets

since the ancient times of Nezahualcoyolt

which preserved the footprint of the great Bacchus,

and learned the Panic alphabet once,

And consulted the stars;


“Our America”, really encapsulates them into the same group. As Latin America is just as much America as North America, he shows that Latin America is just as educated, against popular belief and that just like North America, Latin America has a history and is worthy of respect.


These are just some of the reasons I love this poem.


The No campaign or a falsified simulacrum of history

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The latter half of the twenty-tens has been dominated by fear, mistrust and insecurity. As a result of this, the very notion that we know as “truth” has been viciously complicated, especially in regards to the media. This is why we have chosen our group project on Latin America to be centred around the media, not because the media is always true, but because the media has the power to highlight and diminish stories and plights. We believe that what the media chooses and has chosen in the past to give a voice to is extremely important when regarding the global perception of Latin America today. This being particularly potent when researching the role of activist networks in Latin America. My personal focus is on the “Si” and “No” campaigns in Chile. The No Campaign was the successful advertising campaign which led to a historic plebiscite vote which led to the end of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 16 and a half year rule over Chile.


Source 1:

Dzero, I..”Larraín’s Film No and Its Inspiration, El plebiscito: Chile’s Transition to Democracy as a Simulacrum.” Confluencia: Revista Hispánica de Cultura y Literatura 31.1 (2015): 120-132. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>.


Larrain, P. (Director). (2012). No[Motion picture]. Chile: Sony Pictures Classics.


The first sources I utilised are interlinked, Larrain’s 2012 film “No” discusses the power of advertising and media in running an effective campaign. Despite the film not being entirely factual, it’s seamlessly interwoven real-life footage, places it as a useful source, especially for understanding the extreme gravitas of what those in the No Campaign willingly chose to embark upon. For the main character, the very fictional Rene Saavedra, both democracy and dictatorship are both products that need to be sold to the public with the television is only its marketplace. Just as it happened in reality, both No And Si (Yes) campaigns were given just fifteen minutes to convince the public to take their side, and according to this film, it was bright colours, catchy jingles and rose-tinted blindness that led to success. An article from Project Muse, “Larraín’s Film No and Its Inspiration, El plebiscito” ultimately decides to discuss the film as a simulacrum, a falsified adaptation of the real truth. It focuses on the journey that films which happen to be “based on a true story” are forced to take, how years of strife has to be condensed into a consumable yet snappy amount of time. The film is an adaptation of the play and the play, real life. Just as the main characters in the movie “No” were forced to truncate their arguments we are forced to digest this and take it to be the truth. Fundamentally, the problem with adverts is the similar to issues with films, being that in creating simplified antagonists and protagonists the complex parts of history will be cast away. Critics familiar with what they believe to be true events have slandered the movie for only drawing light to the role of the media in the plebiscite, with the real director of the No Campaign Genaro Arriagada calling it a “gross oversimplification that has nothing to do with reality”. In this instance, the simulacrum takes the shape of “fake news”, according to “factual” academic sources, the real swaying factor in the plebiscite should really be attributed to the grass-roots effort to register 7.5 million voters for the election. However,  whilst voter registration is boring whereas fun, bright colours and a disillusioned romance are a lot more compelling. What is most important to note is that in this case, the media is choosing not just whose truth is worth telling but whose truth should be immortalised.

My second source is a primary source, No Campaign advert itself. I have chosen to focus on the Chile, la alegría ya viene” section of the advertisement. This is primarily because of the fact that it is this clip which was highlighted the most in the No Film and it is also the section held at the forefront of the campaign. The clip displaying happy and hopeful visuals, with dancing and picnics is accompanied by a joyful and catchy jingle. However, what this clip demonstrates in actuality is advertising at is most excellent. The first thing to focus on is the No Logo itself, the word No is written is white, not black, showing that disagreeing does not have to have negative connotations. This very notion is reinforced by the colourful rainbow background, rainbows signify the calm after the storm. In this case, the storm is Augusto Pinochet. Whilst the Yes campaign, brandished No as uncertain, costly and irresponsible, the No campaign juxtaposed this with peace and as something which will bring a restoration to normality. When deconstructing the three-minute advert itself, what may seem like pretty visuals, is actually accompanied by powerful anti-government lyrics. The verses are perfect for this

Whilst these lyrics are being sung in an upbeat vibrato we are met with visuals of smiling, children dancing and a man who misses the bus only to be hugged by his fellow Chilean. There are no demonstrations of death or violence, but instead like the rainbow, the idea is to showcase this ideal hope. There is no more powerful moment in the video than the refrain.

Chile la alegría ya viene

Chile la alegría ya viene

Chile la alegría ya viene


Chile, la alegría ya viene” which roughly translates to “Chile, happiness is coming”. This section is the most memorable section in the video, its ritualistic chanting nature filled with claps encourages audience inclusivity. Even if you aren’t in the video you are almost compelled to become part of the performance and in turn part of the movement. The rule of three is incredibly effective here, also, repeating phrases three times is the perfect way to get messages to resonate more deeply with their audiences. It is unsurprising that it is this very section that became a motif for the movements.

But are any of these sources truthful, or are they simulacrum skewed ideas and skewed perspectives that we are forced to consume.  Arguably yes and no, despite that the advertising campaign is more likely to be etched into the fabric of time it is also important to take every source with a pinch of salt. Every source has a motive, the film had a motive to make a coherent narrative and the advert to convince people to vote for their cause. However, just because these sources have a motive doesn’t make them false, it just makes them powerful.



Dzero, I..”Larraín’s Film No and Its Inspiration, El plebiscito: Chile’s Transition to Democracy as a Simulacrum.” Confluencia: Revista Hispánica de Cultura y Literatura 31.1 (2015): 120-132. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>.


Larrain, P. (Director). (2012). No[Motion picture]. Chile: Sony Pictures Classics.


  1. (2013, October 04). Chile, la alegría ya viene. Retrieved from


Rohter, L. (2013, February 09). One Prism on the Undoing of Pinochet. Retrieved from


Hare, E. (2013, March 19). Happiness is Coming! Retrieved from


The Power of The Microphone

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“In the radio age, the act of listening to the leader still connected the listener to power, but instead of something that was individually empowering, it made the crowd into the people”

The power of the spoken word is infinite, especially when it is said in a splitting improvised moment. Before the radio, there was this gap between the ruler and the ruled, every statement was written and revised, made for the educated and heard only by those in a position to witness these spoken moments.

And then there was the radio. Affordable and simple it connected people, it was the internet before the internet, everyone no matter their race class or gender were interconnected through the means of their airwaves. However, what started as an innocent beautiful thing was quickly politicized, with Governments trying to police what was being said and shared. And unsurprisingly, the Hora de Brazil, for example, failed miserably.

But how can we compare that to today in a world of careless covfefe tweets and a globalized conglomerate of ideas and thoughts all being spewed at any given time?

We can look to China who has banned certain websites, or North Korea. We can think about those who are excluded from this network. Will this continue or will they like the Brazilians who turned off their radio’s, fight back?


The Good Neighbour

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The United States of America prides itself on being the strongest regional hegemon in the world. It sees itself as the worlds police force with the rights as well as the capability to impose its way of life on other states. Obviously, this is not always to be seen as a bad thing, however, the obnoxiousness in which it carries itself has tended to rub a lot of states the wrong way.


Being from England, as a child I grew up wanting to be American, my television was flooded with American shows as much as British, everything about Hollywood seemed newer and shinier. The trips we took as families were to hotspots Disneyland and New York, ethereal places which could not be recaptured in tiny rainy Britain. Time has changed my perspective. Behind the glamour lies an ugly history of genocide, gun violence and corruption. Being so close to the states in Canada has only affirmed this view in my mind. However, whilst Canada is generally respected by the States, Latin America is not nor has it ever been. The United States might be a good neighbour to us, but it has certainly not always been a great neighbour to Latin America.

Who can forget what Donald Trump has said about Mexico in the past.

The funniest thing is that Donald Trump is not the first president to not treat Latin America with respect, the anger felt is at times very justified


The Export Boom as Modernity

Image result for president porfirio diaz celebration

I have always found the concept of “modernity” to be one to investigate. This drive for modernity came during the core period of the Second Industrial Revolution. Contextually, improvements in the transport industry and technology propelled states into untouchable power. Paired with the scramble for Africa, this desire for “modernization” is by no means unorthodox.

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But who do we give the power to choose what “modernization” is, and how many times it can be seemingly replaced for the word normal? Is modernization the harbouring of technology or a certain kind of dress, is it consuming a product because it is popular in a seemingly more powerful state. Maybe it is all of these things, but it does show how cognizant states in Latin America were of those around them.


I find it particularly striking that despite the fact that politically the Latin America ran so differently to the west. Ultimately, it competed with the major powers.

Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics III

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“She rejects equality in the name of the advantagess that (some) women felt they enjoyed under the existing regime: the “unequalled mastery” making them “strong, colossal in the midst of their weakness”

I think the concept of the past not necessarily being in the past to be incredibly striking. 1888 might seem like it was a while ago, but there are still widespread ramifications of slavery not just in the America’s but in Europe. I also think that the idea of “rights” and who gets to have them is also potent. For example voting and who gets to do it, even today in the Americas not every citizens vote has the same equal weight. When Pelliza de Sagasta was mentioned I found it compelling how she did not care for improvement as it might threaten her own comfort. Comparing that to politics today, I find voters apathy to be much of the same nature. Especially in terms of big voting events such as the American Election and Brexit, the amount of people who chose not to go out and vote simply because there lives were comfortable echos this.

The fact that de Sagasta was a middle class white woman speaks volumes, today, we are still debating the nuances of “white feminism” and what gravitas intersectionality plays in civil rights movements. All in all this video was very interesting and very relevant to everything that is happening in the world today.

Caudillos versus the nation state

It matters who you know and how well you know them

Before watching this video I had never heard of clientism, I had never heard of the caudillos, but I had heard of liberalism. In some ways, liberalism is the guise that leads much of the Western world, that if you work hard eventually you will rise up through the ranks. What is most potent about this, however, is that much of this notion is a lie. The idea of upward mobility is often a ruse to make people complacent with their lot in life when in reality most societies rely on a scheme of clientism.

Even today who you know and how well you know them often trumps how smart you are. There is a cycle of poverty and insecurity among the working classes that have not been fixed post-revolutionist times, and I believe that it is time that we realised this.

Independence and its silence

And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here.”
“And it smells of sulfur still today.” 
Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.

When I think of independence, I think of freedom and all the beautiful liberties that come with it. The United States of America is known to itself and the world that surrounds it as the land of the free, a land free from bureaucracy and tyranny.

And then we here Hugo Chavez’s speech, we hear anger, we hear his anger and we hear how he feels about The United States of America.

They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democratic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons. 

It is interesting how sometimes liberty for others does not equal liberty for all. I am not sure if I completely agree but I do in many ways understand his point, the fact that The United States frequently chooses to represent itself as the new world when it still uses the oppressive techniques of the old one is fascinating, to say the least.