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.
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.
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.
Simon Bolivar is an idolized figure of Latin American Independence. He was strong, brave, and optimistic. He was also wealthy, Creole, and educated. He had the ability to summon the masses by promising one united Latin America- an autonomous land free of the “unnatural Stepmother-Spain”. He claims that “we are still in a position lower than slavery”- “we” primarily referring to the wealthy Creole elite. It is clear that his intentions are selfish, as he ignores the real slaves in the Old World. Many of the independence movements are characterized by the replacement of one oppressive ruler (the crown), with another (the American). In addition to Bolivar, two other examples of this are George Washington and Agustín de Iturbide. With the overthrow of one ruler, no fundamental change occurs for the members of the lower classes. Although Bolivar’s goals were skewed in his own interest as a Creole, he did establish a sense of pride and a vision of Latin America as a strong, united country. This pride is mirrored by Hugo Chavez, a contemporary model of Bolivar.
Connections can be made between the ideologies of Simón Bolivar and Hugo Chavez. They both ultimately sought to be the absolute ruler of one, united society. Chavez hopes to emulate the narrative of Bolivar of uniting the oppressed, however he fails to include the stories of the people who were not included in Bolivar’s narrative such as the Native Americans and the women. Chavez used the gleaming image of Bolivar to bolster support for himself. He has similar goals as Bolivar: to eliminate the power of one dominant force in favor of independence. For Bolivar it was independence from the crown, but for Chavez it was the North: “condemns them to the never-ending role of producer of wealth and recipients of leftovers”. This quote is applicable to both leaders, but is used by Chavez to support his call for an end to the economic power of the north. He sites neoliberalism as the cause of poor educational, economic, and health conditions when in fact he causes a great deal of suffering himself.
It is important to look at the narratives of independence from different perspectives. Although many independence movements had common characteristics, each was distinct and carried many different stories of the same events. Bolivar attempts to generalize these stories by grouping all occupants of America as opponents to the crown. Chavez, too, adopts the idea that he knows what is best for all.