I hadn’t thought of the colonial experience as a Spanish (or European) crisis of identity before. I had pictured the colonizers as eagerly consuming all the land they were able to, and exploiting those resources and people who lived there. It is fascinating to me that the same year that Columbus’ ships arrived in the Americas was also the year that Spain overturned 800 years of Muslim rule, and seemed to undertake an aggressive agenda to render the nation ethnically and religiously “pure.” The Spanish seemed to want most, during this time, to create a homogenous Spain. But what to do with the new lands that were now under Spanish control (or soon would be), and the diversity that existed there?
In addition to a colonial population, this was also the time of the African diaspora, and millions of Africans were brought to the Americas, in part to replace the quickly dying indigenous peoples who had no resistance to the new diseases that had arrived on their shores. The Spanish monarchy was desperate for a way to classify and comprehend the population, and as a way of achieving this, Casta Paintings emerged. The meticulous organizing of ethnic mixtures into hierarchical images was intended to not only clarify these racial distinctions for the Spanish elites, but also to ensure that every person was aware of their ethnic classification and could behave accordingly. Most often, the depictions were of an idealized role for each racial category, and this makes me think that the intent may not have been solely oppression. The Spanish elites may have believed they were helping the poor mixed-up peoples of the new world to organize themselves and regain their identity. From our modern perspective, we can clearly see the oppression and prejudice in these images, and they are hard to look at.
I really enjoyed the readings about Catalina De Erauso, a woman who ran away from her convent and lived as a man for most of her life. Though I don’t view her as a heroic figure–she easily committed murder and other less-than-noble acts–I liked reading a real account of someone subverting the strict gender rules that were enforced at that time. Interestingly, the translator notes that she should not be considered a victim, but that in her redefining as a man, she reaped all the rewards that came with the transformation. And it seems, at least from this excerpt, that she enjoyed life as a man and conquistador, much more than she would have as a woman and nun.
My name is Elan and I am coming back to university to finish my degree after several years off. I work in law, and I also write science fiction and play music. I took this course because Latin America is a fascinating place of which I know very little. I hope to change that over the next few months.
Here are my thoughts on some of the student videos from past classes.
I didn’t know what Caudillos were before watching this video. They are dictators that came into power in the 1800s in Latin America. But the term is more nuanced than that. Caudillos were also leaders who initially represented a change from the current government, but who eventually became corrupt with power. The people who had initially supported these leaders inevitably suffered under their command. I appreciated the comparison to Donald Trump at the end of the video. Trump certainly came to power because he represented change for the people who elected him, and perhaps we are now seeing the inevitable fall. But this isn’t political science, so I will leave it at that.
Casta Paintings: An Introduction
These paintings were created in the 1700s as a way of organizing and defining the boundaries between the different races in Latin America at the time. Casta is translated to Caste, and the artists of Casta Paintings, who were Spanish elites, were attempting to enforce a racial hierarchy within this diverse region. Represented at the top of the hierarchy were lighter-skinned Spanish peoples who were “pure of blood,” especially those born in Spain. Indigenous people were at the bottom, and women were always depicted as subservient to men. I appreciated the comparison to modern media, and the observation that perhaps very little has changed. There was a Filmora watermark on the video the whole time, which was pretty distracting.
The War on Drugs
The video begins in the 1980s when the movement of drugs from Latin America to the United States really takes off, and clearly illustrates those who gain (those in control of the flow of drugs) and those who lose (basically everyone else). There are several examples of cities and individuals directly affected by drugs, complete with compelling pictures and first-hand accounts. The video ends with an ominous question about whether drugs will continue to exert this tremendous power over Latin America, or whether the region will recover from the war on drugs. A clean and professional video.
Lastly, I LOVED the music in all the videos. I’m gonna go dance now.