This week’s reading was very centered on the theme of modernity and it got me thinking. I mean, if you have taken economy classes, you probably have learned that the fastest way for an underdeveloped country to embrace progress is through forest investment and international borrowing. Many countries in Latin America followed this policy after the colonial era was over. Many governments in power did not want to remain behind of what they saw as a very tight door leading towards prosperity, modernity, and enlightenment. It must have been very difficult for Porfirio Diaz to resist the temptation of inviting American investors and military machinery personnel to help him show a more prosperous and less backwards Mexico. After all, at the time what counted as modernity was the appearance of the electricity running through public streets, new modes of transportation (railways), and new fashion stores selling European clothes symbolizing a continued fixation for the foreign, while undermining the locality. However, these 18th and 19th century ideas of a modernity in Latin America, were centrally planned and implemented by a few people who had the intellectual, political, and economical capabilities to implement, sometimes by force, theories of order and progress designed to rule over marginalized classed whom were already used to be told what to do. This is not to say that, when oppressed people did not revolved in Latin America; on the contrary, many rebellions and revolts were initiated in order to fight such repressive forms of governments.
That many governments in Latin America and their elites (oligarchies) thought that the only way to achieve modernity was to clean their indigenousness and their blackness out of their veins, was another scientific approach to what a few saw as the problem and leading the region towards barbarism. How can you get rid of who you are as a nation? Destroy many indigenous monuments, build upon previous indigenous cities and think that somehow the answer could still come from Europe through immigration, economic policies, imports, exports, fashion, and technology? What it is more troublesome, oligarchies never thought to incorporate traditional ways of life that many indigenous and other minority groups had successfully had in the local communities in Latin America. I’m sure that when they actually did, like in the case of Mexico during Porfirio Diaz, they only saw to parade them as relics of the past and never as functioning vibrant sectors within Mexican society. Now, I see the connections that such oligarchic measures inflicted upon modern Latin America and one that still can be seen as current economic dependency in foreign policies. Hence, the incorporation of the region into international forces such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Trade Organization (WTO), and NAFTA, has catapulted new post-colonial, imperialistic, and neoliberal modes of domination over many Latin American counties and other marginal societies.
To conclude, I would like to say that James Creelman’s “Porfirio Diaz, Hero of the Americas”, was a bit too much. How can a professional writer like I imagine he was, could be so adulating, and exaggerated, almost blind towards a man who he did not know very well at all. Once you have finished reading the excerpt, it is hard not to question him uncanny extreme admiration for Diaz, which makes you wonder of his real political intentions.
On the contrary, I think this interview revealed quite clearly the nasty intentions of Díaz. He was looking to make Mexico prosperous as a whole, while disregarding the disadvantaged. He used whatever means possible to achieve this, including accepting loads of foreign investment.
I agree that the racial purge that took place in many Latin American countries is extremely troublesome. I had not realized that the reason that places like Buenos Aires are so European feeling is entirely intentional.