September 2015

Week 4: “Independent Narratives, Past and Present”

After doing this week’s readings there are a few things I’ve learned:

First, I’ve learned that Media can be used as a tool for propaganda and that in order to motivate people into believing in any case, actors of war create social division of ‘us’ against ‘the other’, which leads to labelling individuals and often used at will in discursive devises (‘freedom fighters’ and the ‘Bolivarian dream’). On the other side, many atrocities were committed in the name of independence and we need to bear in mind the losing side: Indigenous people, slaves of African descendants, and other minority groups such as women who were not heart but actively participated in the war. Furthermore, the struggle of independence in Latin America was created in various countries and did not have a unified time-line. Conversely, the independence narratives we hear containing heroic names (such as Simon Bolivar), are directly connected with people’s perception of heroism and weather people considered them to be heroes or not. Hence, in Latin America, ‘criollos’, were at the center of the revolts again the Spanish/Portuguese Empire.

The first document, Simon Bolivar and his “Letter from Jamaica”, contains a message to the duke of Manchester but also a self-reflection of how how Latin American should be organize politically and economically, without the intervention of any empire. His intent is towards forming a ‘Pan-American’ central government in which an authoritarian ruler would control the continental affairs for the good of the liberal majority. From the start, Bolivar knew that, at the time, his dream was a just a dream. However, there are people currently in Latin American who think and wish to maintain Bolivar’s dream alive because the current political arena still doesn’t favour the mass majority of people at the bottom of the social scale. In fact, Bolivar’s letter invites his national counterparts to stop “suffering at the hands of that unnatural mother-Spain”; this evil characterization serves as a rhetoric tool to appeal to the hegemonic control that the Spanish Empire had in many countries in the region. On the other hand, there is a lot of exaggeration (hyperbole) used throughout his letter; for example, “examine as I may the entire history of time and the politics of all nations”. This is, for a lack of words, humanly impossible to do; however, Bolivar’s goal was to appeal knowledgeable to his reader about previous models of governance. Also, there is used of many metaphors such as in “the veil has being asunder”, pointing out that ‘criollos’ now see Spain for what it is: an abusive mother whose main self-interest of insatiable greed was to extract wealth out of her colonies without carrying for her sons and daughters.

Jose Marti’s “Our America”, talk in a very poetic manner to his audience but his intent is very political and wishes to awake a Latin American population whom has been comfortable for way too long. Marti aims to appeal to the power of the ideas and his goal is to cause an appropriation of the land, of being mixed race, which in turn, would reflect the majority of people in post-colonial Latin America and who are not participating or deciding on what is best for them. Furthermore, Marti invites Latin Americans to instruct themselves and to obtain local knowledge from their own communities and stop going to school outside their countries (USA and Europe). Marti also calls for the respect Indians and nature. The government has to be born within the country and run by local countrymen.

Lastly, Hugo Chavez speech at the opening of XII G-15 summit has some very relevant points in the economic, political, and socio-cultural arena of current Latin American. However, I must confess that I do not liked his political agenda and personally I know of many Venezuelan friends who had to fled their country because the situation inside was unbearable. Nonetheless, while I was reading his speech I wanted to know who wrote it because from an International Relations point of view, there were many spot on points which speak to the inequalities of the global division of the North versus the South, technology superiority of USA, economic development and Keynesian Theories of open markets, NAFTA’s negative effects on rural development in Latin America, and lastly, American interventionism and their imperialistic agenda. To sum up, I could go on and on, but generally speaking, I must agree with much of the message of his speak, but the mare idea of agreeing with him makes me want to vomit.

Week Three: “The Colonial Experience”

Week Three: “The Colonial Experience”

The ‘discovery’ of the Americas must have been a tremendous cultural experience. I mean, just by encountering new and different peoples, territories, and climates, these circumstances created new socially constructed categories of ‘Otherness’. As commented in the video, what King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela had started with the expulsion of two very important social and economic powerhouses: the Moros and the Jewish people in Spain; conversely, in the Americas and with Christopher Columbus voyages, he created new categories which undermined previous imperial efforts for homogeneity. However, I wonder, is this totally true? I believe that while this may seem to be the case originally, social, political, and economic division continued to happen in the Americas with the favoritism of the white-Spaniard, ruling class at the top of the social lather.

It’s true. There were some defenders of indigenous populations in the Americas. And yes, we can definitely count as Bartolome de las Casas as one of the leading early defenders of indigenous in the Americas. However, it is important to remember that, at the beginning of his administrative career as a servant of the Spanish crown, de las Casas owned slaves, of both black and indigenous origin. Later on, he had a change of heart and saw this as cruel and unequal practice in the eyes of God. Consequently, I think that, in a way, de las Casas gave Indians the godly right of having a soul as a way to indoctrinate them into the catholic region; hence, forcing them to assimilate into an imposing culture that brought them damaging consequences. Conversely, and no less important, it has to be present that many Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves with the solely purpose of helping with the production of staple products such as sugar, tobacco, and corn. This is to say that countless, African slaves lost their lives and were forced to work under despicable human conditions.

Homogeneity was a social preoccupation which hunted many white Spaniards who resided in the Americas and whom saw racial mixing as a direct threat to their social status. Consequently, it is because of these social challenges that the creations of Casta paintings were formulated to ensure, at least at a superficial level, that the superiority of the white-Spanish elite was preserved. When I see these Casta paintings, I recognized a clear hierarchy of race and class having a few at the top, mostly Spanish ruling classes and underneath them, the majority of other racial categories. There is also a patriarchal vision of power within the Casta organization putting the white-male figure, as the most important political embodiment of social control. In the same token, the only practical use of the Casta system was to exercise political control and dominance over a majority whose rights were oppressed and sometimes taken for granted.

On a side note, I find the story of Catalina de Erauzo fascinating. She is an adventurous figure who, not only challenged the stereotypical female roles of her time in colonial America, but also as a heroic persona who made her own destiny.

Week Two: “The Meeting of the Two Worlds”

Week Two: “The Meeting of the Two Worlds”

As we have seen in the videos and readings, there is a problem when trying to locate Latin America in a geographical sense. Now, we know that Latin America, more than a place which actually exists, is an idea. Its borders are fluid and what is considered as Latin American keeps changing through time. I often ask myself how much of Español, indigena, or even what other races reside inside me. For once, I know that we, Colombians, are a mixture of races. However, we have been thought to see ourselves as a homogeneous race of mestizos with Spanish ancestry. As a result, I am the mixture, and therefore, the product of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial history, which in turn had to learn to adapt and experience his culture, or at least, interpret what means to be a Latin American living outside his continent.

Going back to the reading and the video, the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the small island of what is now called the Bahamas, is for many the breaking point of what we know as modernity. It also serves as a cultural, racial, and status marker for Europeans to see themselves as superior, the inner-group, and therefore, as conquistadors. With such declarations, differentiation, and separation (Casta Paintings); they established a system in which to assure their superiority claiming their knowledge as superior and as exclusive from those conquered. By doing so, Europeans created divisive lines which put the new mixing categories in the Americas as less worthy than the Europeans. These previous results of the colonial conquests did not show right away. In fact, these results came to be understood much more lately from when Columbus fists visited the Americas. That is to say that, Christopher Columbus died not completely knowing the extent of this ‘discovery’ and perhaps believing that he arrived to what the thought to be the distant orient.

To be honest, I have studied Christopher Columbus dairy entries and letters before. For instance, I know from previous Spanish and Latin American classes that, Cristobal Colon as he’s known in the Spanish world was an ambitious man who captivated the queen into financing his uncertain voyage to the orient. I also knew that he had previously tried to convinced the king of Portugal to back him up; however, the Portuguese king refused his request and commissioned other sailors to do the same on the side. It was at this precise moments when he visited his religious friends, catholic priests, and asked them to intervene on his behave to gain an audition with Queen Isabel. Furthermore, I find Christopher Columbus’ story to be sad. I say this because, even though we all think of him as being one of the first, if not the only man, who discovered the Americas, he died as a poor man, and worse of all, he died not knowing the extent of his accomplishment.

I think that, one of the things I take from Columbus’ dairies and letters is that, we cannot think of the production of history as one-sided and/or all-encompassing true. Hence, we should think of history not as linear but rather as a multi-dimensional social creation with many ramifications.

A Commentary to Last Year’s Videos: Doing it right!

A Personal Commentary on Last Year’s Videos

To be honest, commenting on other students past videos, makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. However, since it is being ask of us and also knowing that it is very possible that this will happen to ours next year, here is what I think of them:

After seeing the posted videos, I have to say that I’ve picked “The Meetings of the Worlds” as my first worse video. I applaud their effort but to be honest, the setting of the video gives me the chills! The idea of having as the setting of their videos their own personal spaces –their rooms- is a poor decision. The lighting of the rooms is poorly illuminated, hence, both presenters give the impression they rushed to make it and the results are devastating. The presentation and delivery was non-existent. There were not real contributions besides reading from a monitor which pearly colored their faces while they coyly exposed their main theme. On the other hand, both presenters look a bit lost, confused, and unsure. As a personal note, I know we as students get very busy but preparation is the key.

My second worse video goes to “Caudillos versus the Nation State. I’m stroked by the lack of creativity! I made a list of pros and cons of the video and I have to say that the cons are substantially larger than the positive points. The guy in the video just limits himself to read from his notes and leaves not substantial contributions to the conversation he and his friends were having. The used of definitions was very basic and did not expand into examples. Consequently, the extreme use of conceptual ideas lives no room to show their personalities leaving me yawning the whole time. To conclude with this group and knowing that their intent was to present about ‘Caudillos” in Latin America, they focused too much in Argentina and left other important figures out. I have to say that I should have taken their writing of their title on the blackboard as foreshadow that the presentation was going to be the same way they drew it on the board.

Now, regarding my favourite videos, as number one is “The Terror”, by Camila and Miles. They did a great job! They started very strong, with a clear theme and lead the watcher with a set of point that was presented. Both presenters knew what they were taking about. They had rehearsed their parts before presenting and it shows in the fluidity of their dialogues. On the same note, I love the use of old footage and pictures throughout their video; especially the footage of “Soy Guerrillero” of Sendero Luminoso’s revels. Additionally, their use of maps, language, examples, and correlating stores goes well when presenting a cohesive videoMy last and most favorite video has to be, “Independencia Narrativos, Past and Present”! They did an amazing job! The interaction of the presenters was so candid and vivid, that created an instant connection with the audience-me. As a result, the opening line: “Welcome to history gossip with: Julian and Michelle”, was so funny and clever that my interest was caught right at that moment. The passage of time and the tightening with examples, using the figures of Bolivar, Marti, and Chavez, created a cohesive thematic dialogue for the presenters and make the presentation clear and objective. . Personally speaking, I could go on and on taking about how good this video is; however, I will sum up my preference for it here: you guys rocked it out!

Introduction About Myself

Me and my Mom

Me and my mom back in Colombia

Welcome to UBC Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Hi everyone!

My name is Nayid Contreras and I’m taking this class (LAS 100) because It is one of my majors. I’m originally from Colombia but have been in Canada almost ten years now. That’s a big deal because at this moment, I feel like a mutation between being a Latino but getting a costumed to being Canadian. To be honest, every time I visit my family for holidays back in Bogota, I feel like I miss Canada: it’s organization, politeness, and safety.

I’m in this class because, as part of the main courses needed to graduate, LAS 100 is one of them. I have taken LAS 201already. You can say I’m working my way backwards into my LAS major. This is my final academic year before I graduate in May. I have to say that by being part of LAS major, I have gotten to experience a true interdisciplinary approach to learning, not only about Latin America, but also about history, science, arts, political science, and even Spanish.

On a side note, I have created a Facebook page for our class. Here is the link:

so take a look at it and make any comments and/or suggest stuff to be posted.