Tag Archives: capitalism

Week 8 – Signs of Crisis

Diaz’s proclamation, in 1908, that he would not run for the presidency opened the floodgates for countless marginalized groups to speak out against modernization. Groups that had for decades been silenced, displaced, repressed, and forced to work for the capitalist system, could take advantage of this political opening and launch their own version of revolution against the oligarchy. Though motives of the revolting groups throughout the Mexican revolution are ambiguous and diverse, the lengthy revolution seems to be a push against the idea of modernity itself. Or at least that is how the revolution is remembered, particularly when we consider the images that have come to represent the Mexican Revolution: Zapata and Villa sitting on the thrones, and the “unruly” villagers drinking expensive chocolate in elite spaces. This week’s readings are very different from Creelman’s article. We hear from those who benefitted the least from the export boom, and the “capitalist penetration” that occurred throughout rural areas in Latin America.

The United States is recognized more broadly as a threat to Latin America during this time. Dario’s “To Roosevelt” is inspired by the United States’ interference in Panama’s economy for its own political gains. Increasingly, the United States, rather than Europe, was bullying its way into economic and political domination over Latin America, and the country could profoundly affect any Latin American state’s prosperity and independence by using its superior global status, or the ideals of “progress.”

The article I found most puzzling is Vasconcelos’s “The Cosmic Race.” He seems to be promoting an idealized vision of humanity growing into an enlightened race naturally, and as a result of racial mixing, but at times he uses extremely exclusionary language. At one point he suggests that a person who is only mediocre will willingly choose to not marry or have children for the good of the race, or that only beautiful people will feel that they can produce offspring on a moral basis. While Vasconcelos is presenting his ideas as hopeful suggestions that humanity will grow spiritually, he simultaneously suggests that there is an “in group” that will carry us forward into this ideal future, while the rest of us can quietly eliminate ourĀ  inferior genes from the bloodline. I picture Vasconcelos as a person suffering from undiagnosed mental illness, but I’m not a psychologist and have no legitimacy in making that claim. I feel that if Vasconcelos’s ideas gained momentum, the result could be a version of ethnic cleansing similar to earlier claims that there are scientifically supported bases for superior intelligence in certain races. Though Vasconcelos is less scientific and more spiritual in his views, the ideas are equally dangerous.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Week 8

Week 5 – Caudillos

Echeverria’s The Slaughterhouse was very hard to read. Not only was it told from the perspective of an elite with deeply rooted racist opinions, but the tone of the story is one of dejected acceptance of the inevitable loss of culture to “barbarism.” The depictions of, as Dawson puts it, the “dark skinned people of the countryside” are vile and unfair. They are presented as individuals capable of torture and murder, as completely lacking in social decency, and they repeatedly make a mockery of the revered Catholic church. In contrast, the light skinned European is pained as an innocent victim, destroyed by the barbarians. The text may offer us deeper insight into the mind of an elite in Latin America during this period, but at the same time, it is disturbing to read the embedded racism of the time in such stark language.

The emergence of the caudillos post-independence seems a natural progression. After decades of continued repression peasants, the indigenous, and the lowest classes, would certainly pounce on the opportunity to gain from the ineffectiveness of a weak state. Who wouldn’t rally behind a champion of the poor, after generations of oppression? If you happened to be a charismatic and militarily-minded man after independence, you were in a unique position to gain power and allegiance by forming relationships with the right people. And with an army of underprivileged, angry, non-elite people demanding an interlocutor to defend their interests, you could bolster your own might by appealing to them. It is difficult to ascertain the motives of these caudillos. Were they really championing human rights? Or were their actions driven by personal ambition? Either way, the political landscape of the region shifted away from the state and toward these, in a way, military powerhouses.

Of course, the rise of the state once again drove out these opportunists, or more appropriately, created infertile soil for the sort of domination caudillos practiced. With a move toward liberalism, as in the example of Mexico, the state gained stability and institutions appeared, but so did capitalism. And as Dawson points out, in the span of 50 years, 90% of Mexican land was owned by 1% of the population. Though I certainly support state intervention in the name of equality and aid for the poorest, I admit that I can understand the allure of a charismatic champion, fighting for the rights of the poor, despite that champion’s own motives.

How did the end of the caudillo era affect other states in Latin America?


Filed under Week 5