Week 13 Thoughts

There is an interesting link between democracy and the environment that I have never seen before. The principle of voting is to gain a voice and advocate for your own gains in the government, but what we often forget about are the people and things that do not gain a voice. The issue of global warming is becoming more and more recognized today in society. There needs to be a defense of the environment, and if this does not happen, not only will the environment break down, society will too. One important reason to oppose the destructive extracting industries that harm the environment is the effect that it has on the poor in Latin America. A diminishing environment can result in a loss of jobs (fishing and tourism) and food and water drought. But it is contradictory because these industries also provide jobs. I consider myself a strong advocate for the environment but I have never thought about it in this way: quite eye-opening!

There are a couple of concepts that I am still unsure about and I hope to clarify during class. I don’t understand the concept of neoliberalism and whether it is associated with the right or left wing. It’s also still a bit unclear of what the right and left wing are and who benefits from each of their policies and the term “injunction”.

We live in a world that large companies seem to have more rights than the people and the environment. It is amazing that Chevron was able to “shop around” for a favourable ruling. Our courts are not, and never have been witnesses of justice.

Max Cameron made an interesting point about the condition of middle class workers in Brazil but I think it reflects most leftist governments. He points out that these governments preserve the upper class while making the lowest class better off. This leaves the middle class frustrated. In American politics middle class republicans feel this same distress in that they feel that they shouldn’t be taxed more to give benefits to the poor. It is interesting how these ideas intersect across the Americas.

I also found his comments on Morales’ Bolivia very interesting because I have never heard him portrayed in such a positive light. I have learned about Evo’s government from the perspective of an upper-middle class Bolivian who strongly opposes his radical reforms. Now after this chapter I understand why she has this perspective.

Week 12 Thoughts

This chapter made me aware of the American-centeredness of Latin American politics. I wonder if there is so much focus put on the U.S.’s response to events in Latin America because they held a prominent role or because this text is written from a Canadian-American perspective.

It was interesting reading about Raegan. I have always heard bad things about him: he cut taxes for the rich, built up the military, demonized foreigners, and pushed for trickle down economics. Mindful that this is from the perspective of a liberal American and these principles can be seen as positive, depending on the perspective. His role in Latin America seems to support this view; he supported the Contras in Nicaragua, who where known for committing human rights violations. Anti-communist sentiments dominated the U.S. during the Cold War. But these bias’ did not cease at the end of the cold war. American students are often blindly lead to believe in liberalism and capitalism.

The U.S.’s war on drugs seems to be perpetually disoriented. You can see it today in the debate whether full legalization or strict bans will end drug violence/use. You can also see it in the 90s when they shifted their focus from internal treatment to active foreign intervention. I think this ignores American’s craving for massive amounts of drugs. Clearly these foreign interventions were not effective in the case of Columbia in the 90s, when money given to the Columbian government was put towards the military to establish order at the cost of innocent people. Dawson talks about the need for peasant workers to be involved in the drug trade to support themselves. This suggests an underlying force in the drug trade: one that cannot be resolved with military equipment.

I liked the song from document 10.3. It shows the power of media and technology for the promotion of revolutionary ideas globally. We also see in document 10.2 the importance of technology. This video was able to reveal the brutality of the police and bring a certain degree of justice to the peasants. This hits close to home and resembles the events that are happening in Minneapolis right now. Hundreds of protestors, many of them are my friends, are demanding justice to Jamar Clark by the release of the video tape of the murder.

Document 10.6, the video of the 2011 Chilean student protests, shows the use of social media to gain global support for local causes. I agree that social media generates large numbers of superficial supports, but I think that movements gain power in numbers, no matter what kind of support is given.

Week 11 Thoughts

The power that the Shining Path had -and still has today- is chilling. I watched a video about the current conditions of the Shining Path in Peru. The video interviewed several peasants who produce cocaine for the Shining Path. It is interesting the way that they treat these peasants. The group treats them as close friends. They protect them, play games together and occasionally provide bananas for them. It seems to me that they are putting on a show for these peasants and using them for their drugs. The Shining Path is now a friend to the coca farmers.

The governmental civilian defence committees that were responsible for shutting down the insurgent group in the 80s are still around today in Peru, but the surprising thing is that they do very little now. In the interview with a few of the officers on these defence committees, they tell the interviewer upfront that they allow drugs carried by the Shining Path to pass by. They say that they only fight “common crime”. This seems corrupt and unjust to me and directly contrasts what Fujimori hoped would happen in his “1992 Declaration of the Autogolpe”.

We also see the theme of an ambiguity between hero and villain. This time of terror in Latin America produced great fear, and often uncertainty about who to be afraid of. In an interview with a man from a village that was attacked by the Shining Path, he speaks of his fury at the Shining Path for killing his family in 1986, but he feels a similar fury towards the Peruvian government that has brought in soldiers and created an insecure environment for those who remain in the village. In his case, it is ambiguous as to who should be considered the hero or the villain. He even says: “We are left traumatized; and who is to blame for that?”. Calling this period of Latin American history “the Terror” seems appropriate.

This ambiguity is also apparent in Mario Vargas Llosa’s account of events. History is subjective and the hero and villain changes depending on who tells the story. The excerpt from Chairman Gonzalo’s interview is scary. He claims that he has the support of the masses and that there was broad support by the peasants to overthrow the government, but this is not true. Even so, there would be no justification for the genocide that he proposed in this interview.

Fujimori provides another perspective on the nature and aims of Peruvian politics. Fujimori seems to emerge in Peru as a result of a vacuum of power. Another reoccurring theme in Latin American history.

Short Research Assignment

Women and Latin American Modernity During the Export Boom

First Source:

In her book, “Women’s Roles in Latin America and the Caribbean”, Kathryn A. Sloan speaks to the emergence of feminism in Latin America. The women’s rights movement focused on women’s rights as human rights, and also on the importance of economic justice. Race, class, and status contributed to a varying condition for women, and the movement towards modernization played out differently across Latin America.

Sloan focuses on “civil codes” enacted by liberal leaders throughout the 19th century and early 20th century in Latin America, and their effects on women. One can look at civil codes as a push towards modernity in Latin American countries. They were modeled after Western European enlightenment principles, and emphasized freedom of contract, the importance of private property, and the family as the primary unit. But to the disadvantage of particularly illiterate women, these civil codes put aside the needs of the minority (Rosen). The nuclear family was encouraged and the man was put at the front of it. In contrast, civil codes in central America and Mexico gave women increased property rights, civil marriage and divorce.

The status of women was important in determining how modernity in 19th century Latin America played out. To elite educated women, liberalizing Latin America provided them some opportunities to gain a position in the workforce, even sometimes in the medical field. Poor women had fewer liberating opportunities. Some worked in fields or provided cooking, cleaning, and child care services for low wages to hacendado’s family. Others moved to the industrializing city, sometimes to work in gender segregated and dangerous working environments in the factories. Other times they worked as prostitutes, servants, or market vendors to serve the rising population of men working in industrial cities.

This source is important in assessing the impact of modernization on women in Latin America. Sloan’s book adds to the analysis by distinguishing the experiences of elite women to the experiences of ordinary women who had to work in the factories. These women had to face the realities of modernization not only as oppressed women, but also as oppressed workers. It is important to address these difference because it supports the common theme of Latin American history that one person’s gain is another’s loss. Some women gained from the implementation of liberal civil codes, but other women were better off without these modern concepts. This idea contributes to the theme of “modernity without liberalism”. Modernity and liberalism in Latin America surely produced an environment of winners and losers.

Second Source:

Excerpts from the book “Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice”, by Francesca Miller were useful in the analysis of the intersectional impact of modernization and industrialization on women and the working class. It points to a sect of feminism called “socialist feminism” that advocates the emancipation of women: socially, politically, and economically. Although one of the key aspects of modernization in Latin America defined by Dawson was emancipation, this seemed to exclude the emancipation of women from the patriarchal systems that were established during an era of liberalism. Socialist feminism links the oppression of workers with the oppression of women. This is important in analyzing this period of modernity. Dawson defines modernity by the export boom that occurred. This export boom subsequently led to the oppression of workers: a situation that was amplified in the case of women.

In her book, “Rewriting Womanhood”, Nancy LaGreca lays out important points in her analysis of Latin American feminism, particularly in Mexico. She speaks to the divide between the women in the private realm and the men in the public realm under the Díaz regime in Mexico.

The Latin American feminist movement did not emerge until women entered the industrial workforce in the late 19th century. This is the beginning of the link between the women’s movement and the worker’s movement. LaGreca explains that in order to “modernize” Díaz’s Mexico, women were needed to fill low wage blue collar factory jobs. Educated, elite women took on low white collar jobs such as office workers and teachers. Most educated women used their knowledge for the sole purpose of carrying out “polite conversations”. Women’s education in the Díaz regime was primarily used to make families look more prestigious. The entrance of women in the workforce allowed women to see the inequality more visibly, thus spurring the beginning of the feminist movement in Mexico.

Elite women during Díaz’s regime personally felt the push for a “look and feel” of modernity. LaGreca describes their education as “superficial”. The superficial nature of women’s education reflects the superficial nature of modernity as a whole in Latin America; Latin America had modernity without liberalism. The increasing amount of women who were educated makes it appear that women were gaining equality, but LaGreca makes clear that this was not genuine. This period of modernity lacked true emancipation: one of the key concepts of modernity.

Aside from their role in the workplace, LaGreca also speaks of women’s role in society and the family. Early Mexican feminists took a more conservative standpoint on their role in the home. They did not want to leave their traditional roles, but they did want more legal control over property and the ability to earn their own living. The 1887 Civil Code allowed them to do this to an extent. One could look at this more conservative stance as a product of the Latin American history. Maybe conditions of Latin American history prevent the region from reaching fully modern, liberal standards. But that makes one wonder if anywhere is capable of achieving true liberalism.

Works Cited

LaGreca, Nancy. “Rewriting Womanhood.” Google Books. N.p., 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Miller, Francesca. “Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice.” Google Books

. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Karst, Kenneth L., and Keith S. Rosen. “Law and Development in Latin America.” Google

            Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Sloan, Kathryn. “Women’s Roles in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Google Books. N.p., 31

Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.



Week Ten thoughts

One theme of Latin American history seems to be a lack of unity due to the inability to define Latin American. There are many divides, not only between the countries, but within the countries as well. The radio seems to act as a small measure to bridge that divide within these nations. Music was a way to represent everyone during a time of the crisis of representation. For example, this national unity comes from the samba in Brazil. The national unity also came from a common distaste for the government. I think the internet acts in a similar way now. Although it does not necessarily unite the people culturally because unlike the ratio, there is a wide range of content on the internet, but American citizens unite using media in times of crisis. No matter where you are, you can sympathize with the victims of police brutality or school shootings. It shows the power technology in uniting a group of people.

It is interesting how Perón gained so much support from the people. In my eyes, his method of leadership seems corrupt and centered upon his sole power. This impression comes from my experience in a federal republic. This leadership technique was evidently quite successful for a while in Argentina. But he had a way of connecting with the people and providing what they really needed. Like the caudillos we looked at a few weeks ago, he was able to stir up emotion in the hearts of the people.

After reading the documents of Evita’s speech, it is not a mystery how the couple rallied the crowds. She gained so much enthusiasm from the crowd that they even convinced her to make a major political and career altering decision. In my opinion, this shows to me the priority of popularity rather than sound political moves. Both Peróns seemed to crave political loyalty. Perón showed this when he purchased loyalty using clientalism. However Dawson’s comment about how everyone thinks that their system of government is the norm made me think again at the federal elections in the U.S. Candidates for presidential election use similar methods to gain support; they use media and make bold promises to the people in return for their vote.

The texts have starkly different perspectives on the renunciamiento. This shows the power of literature in shaping history. It is also important to note the subjectivity of history and how everyone has a bias and a purpose for writing. I wonder why one of the documents chose to leave out the reaction of the crowd in its account of the reunciamiento.

Week 9 Thoughts

I was excited to read this week’s chapter because this topic of American imperialism and its rocky history has come up in conversation often in the past couple weeks. The U.S. has a long history of imperialism that is often overlooked because the ideas it imposes, such as democracy and capitalism, are widely seen as positive. My argument against my fellow American friends who feel strongly patriotic is that even though the U.S. provides surface value health and freedom to its citizens (as seen in the U.S. initiative to decrease mosquitoes born illnesses), we cannot look over its past and current conditions, no matter how they compare to other countries. In my opinion, the hostile conditions between the Latin American and the American visitor to the region stems from these numerous interventions by the U.S. in Latin America.

It is absolutely shocking that UFCO owned 40% of Guatemalan land. Clearly, the economic stakes for the U.S. in Guatemala were high. The economic imperialism of the U.S. is as important, if not more important than its political and social imperialism. When looking closer at the U.S.’s previous interventions, it seems like the underlying reason for a lot of them was money. America intervenes for its pure intentions of spreading democracy and peacem but truly seeks economic gain. This is seen in Guatemala, where the U.S. investors of UFCO, two of them were government officials, had large economic interests. However, the “Good Neighbor Policy” does the opposite by using money and other types of support with the ultimate purpose of spreading their political ideas.

One particular paragraph on page 191 characterizes the discussion that I’ve have been having with my friends. On one hand, America is this advanced, industrial, and modern land of incomparable opportunity, however on the other hand it is a culture of imposing consumers who have dominated much of Latin America. The question is whether we can overlook the harm done by the U.S. to appreciate the societal conditions it enjoys today (in comparison to other countries).

I really enjoyed this week’s reading and also found it very relevant and applicable to today. What the glamorous foreign cigarette was to Latin America then, is the Abercrombie of today. From the little time that I have spent in Latin America, I have found a strange dynamic of admiration and resent towards Americans. The U.S. is still working on imposing aspects of its culture and ideology on to Latin America.

Week 8 Thoughts

The way in which the rural people used the new technologies to generate a united front against the central government reminds me of the current use of digital technology to gain momentum in the movements for social equality. In both of these instances, technology creates a greater front, involving people who would have been previously excluded from the efforts.

This chapter is interesting because it emphasizes the importance of looking at historical events from many different perspectives. Even people coming from the same place will have starkly different opinions. This is evident in this week’s documents and in the nature of the seemingly endless Mexican Revolution.

I was quite surprised as I was reading José Vasconcelos’ excerpt from La raza cosmica. It gets at the complex class systems of Latin America. We have talked about how class was based on a number of different components in Latin America, not just race. Vasconcelos insists that the highest form of humanity is the most beautiful, regardless of race: “We would feel no repugnance at all if it were the union of a black Apollo and a blond Venus”. Somehow “inferior races” could be “improved”. There is a contrast between the positivity of having this patriotic and independent sentiment about Mexico and the negativity of the racism and superiority. He also emphasizes the importance of Christianity, which is interested because it originated in Mexico from the influence of the Spanish: those that he rejects as imperfect. Dawson mentions that is important to look at Vasconcelos’ writings as a product of his time, but I can’t imagine that his opinions were reflective of the general population. You can dismiss the racism as part of the time, however there will be people in today’s time that think the same way as him, however this is thought of as unacceptable.

I like the José Carlos Mariátegui’s Marxist perspective. This excerpt from his essay exemplifies how Vasconcelos’ opinion was not universal, therefore cannot just be seen as a product of the time. I agree with his idea that the concept of a superior race was used by the white man for conquest, but I think it goes further than that. Vasconcelos’ view, like other

racist’s views are used for the purpose of elevated themselves, similar to the conquistadores.

It interests me that Mariátegui advocates for the education of indigenous people in boarding schools and public schools established by the government. I always thought that this was an imperialistic practice to assimilate indigenous children into white culture.

Week 7

In this chapter, we see the emergence of Latin American Feminism. It is interesting to note that this first push for equality came at a time when men are beginning industrialization and modernization, while women are largely kept out of this process. Although it is important to note that many women did work, they were ultimately tools in the white man’s push to move away from the “natural” and colonial. Dawson points out that this association of men with modernity and industrialization and women with the nature and the past is evident in the photographs; men wore Western clothes and women wore traditional attire. This modernization was a step away from a society that values the natural (women, indigenous, equality) and a step towards a buildup of “isms” (sexism, racism, classism). As Dawson notes, this modernization came with the look and feel of a liberal democracy, but without the political attitudes of the democracy. I think that with this look and feel also came the social inequality of the liberal democracy- all are free and equal as long as you are white and male. The white men held authoritarian positions in the government, workplace, education system, and the Church.

It is upsetting that even as these societies across the Americas were pushing for modernity, certain aspects, such as women’s rights, were held with very conservative values. This is evident in our liberal capitalist societies today. Many feminists argue that equality cannot be achieved in this system, suggesting a complete revolution.

Diaz belittles the Mexican people in order to maintain his power. He claims that they are not capable of a democracy. It confuses me as to why an American journalist would idolize such a repressive and non-democratic leader. I also noticed how Díaz advocates for a capitalist democracy, but also insists that the people of Mexico ignore their “duties” to the society. This seems more like a socialist idea. Clearly, not only this interview, but Díaz’s whole rule is full of contradictions.

In the end of the interview, when Creelman is reporting the achievements of Díaz’s regime, the aspects he focuses on are the ones that benefit the country and the elite. He measures the success of the country in monetary value and statistics. The “conditions” that he speaks of are not the conditions of the people, but the conditions of foreign investment in Mexico. When looking at the Díaz regime from an economic stance, it is more understandable as to why an American journalist at the time would support Díaz. The economic goals of Díaz are more in line with the interests of the American than his political stance. Creelman (and presumably many other Americans), were willing to overlook the political injustice of the Díaz regime in order to fit their economic interests in the country.

Week 6

A question that arose in my mind while I was Reading Dawson’s analysis before the primary documents was why did certain countries like Cuba and Haiti’s emancipation begin with the efforts of the slaves themselves, and in other countries the movement began with Liberals and planters like in Brazil. I am also surprised that the indigenous people would prefer the rule of the crown over the rule of the colonial elite. Although it is quite logical that they would prefer the rule of one elite leader that would give them benefits over another that would not, the way that I have been taught history is to villianize the royal colonizer.

I also found interesting the difference in racism in the United States and in Latin America. Dawson argues that race was more of a clear-cut distinction between the classes in the United States than in Latin America during the time of the New Republics. He gives the example of the elite blacks in Cuba and Brazil. In the United States, blacks and slaves were nearly synonymous, unlike in Cuba and Brazil. He mentions the “one drop” rule, which I believe still applies today. However, in my experience, having even just a drop of black ancestry is a source of pride. This makes me think of our previous class discussion about the equivalent of the caste systems in today’s society. I think that in Western society, people still feel a need to categorize races, and when someone does not fall into the equivalent of a frame of a casta painting, they feel marginalized. The casta paintings attempted to eliminate this interstitiality that many people who fall into the “one drop rule” face.

The difference in opinion between Maria Eugenia Echenique and Judith is one that is still applicable today. Liberal Feminists and Radical feminists argue whether women should be assimilated into male society and male traits (liberal feminism) or whether they should embrace their “superior” traits and roles as women (essentialist radical feminism). Maria seems to be embracing the liberal sentiment of the time. Judith sticks with the essentialist view that women are made for a certain role in society. It is interesting how often God is brought up in Judith’s writing. Like current Radical Cultural Feminists, Judith values motherhood and the “God-given” abilities of women. It is shocking that a woman could write in such simple words her belief that she is socially, politically, and economically unequal to man. It makes me wonder who was the audience of this journal.

Week 5

The first thing that I would like to comment on is the ongoing theme of the Western liberal overstepping its boundaries. There seems to be a reoccurring phenomenon that could be called the “White savior complex”. In the case of post-colonial Latin America, it was the liberals who hoped to enforce a strong central power that would seize resources from everyone, including the peasants and indigenous people, and distribute it for the prosperity of the nation as a whole. Although this idea is widely accepted in many nations, as Jon states in his video, these liberal ideals do not appear in Latin America. In fact, the peasants and indigenous people “flourished” when these “liberal enemies” were absent.

The “kinship” between the caudillos and the poor and indigenous people reminds me of the current situation in Bolivia. The president, Evo Morales, is the first indigenous president elected in Latin America. I also may mention that he did not finish his college degree. He has been president of Bolivia since 2006 and is an opponent of neoliberalism and the strong influence of the U.S.  His presidency is controversial to many Bolivians because he has been known to favor uneducated indigenous workers over qualified workers in the government. Like the caudillos, he has generated wide-spread support in exchange for jobs and extra (possibly unjustified) privileges.

It is important to note that different places require different means of rule. Using this document as a reference, it is easy to criticize the method of the caudillos, however as Dawson points out in the podcast, there are shocking similarities between the caudillos and the leaders of western democracy today. This ties back in to my point of the liberal overstepping its boundaries. Clearly the power of the caudillos was corrupt, but I think the post-colonial Latin Americans and Indigenous people needed a new strong figure that could fill the void that the crown left.

Obviously the Federalist regime under Rosas was corrupt and violent. What struck me was the humiliation that was bestowed upon not only the Unitarians, but also the animals, who represented the Federalist. The Rosas rule was described in excruciating simile. This brutal interpretation of caudillos contrasts the description that Dawson gives in the pages before “Slaughterhouse”. Dawson portrays the caudillos in a positive light- giving indigenous people and peasants a voice. In “Slaughterhouse”, the people’s voices are taken away and they are dehumanized.

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