Week Ten: The Power of Art

It was very surprising to see the power that art, particularly music, had in 20th century Latin America. While it isn’t unusual for individual artists to make political statements, I generally see that as the limit to any interaction between art and politics. Yet music was so significant in some Latin American countries that it was acknowledged and used by politicians. People were able to rebel against their government with as seemingly simple and small an action as listening to a particular song that they enjoyed. I couldn’t tell who, exactly, gave the music so much power. Did the people give it so much power that their leaders had no choice but to acknowledge it, or did the leaders give it power by acknowledging it that the people were later able to use to their advantage? Would samba in Brazil or tango in Argentina have had so much power if the governments had simply ignored it? In a way, the leaders of those two countries created their own enemies in the music. By trying to limit or ban it, those governments were telling the people that they were bothered by it, therefore giving it political significance. Listening to music, even if the message was anti-government, wouldn’t have carried the same weight among the people if the government hadn’t banned it. It is hard to say then if the power surrounding music was something that the people took for themselves, or if the power was inadvertently given to them by their governments. Among politicians who didn’t understand or even like their people, music was a dividing factor that deepened existing separations between the lower and upper/ruling classes. However, Peron was able to use that music to unite people and create a connection between himself and the lower classes by incorporating elements of it into his speeches. I found it strange, at first, to learn about rulers giving so much respect and significance to popular music. I can’t imagine that happening in Canada or the US(where I’m from). Presidents and Prime Ministers may make the occasional reference to pop culture, but I can’t remember any times in which one of them gave that kind of honor or respect to art, or made any attempt to incorporate in into their political strategies or use it to better connect with the people. I’d be interested to hear any examples of a time when a President or PM did give art that kind of recognition, if you can think of any. 

3 thoughts on “Week Ten: The Power of Art

  1. Olga Kochkareva

    Hi Elena,

    This blog was very insightful! I particularly like your attention to the significance of music and dance to the politicians. I think that you made a good point when you asked whether the the samba and tango would have been as important if the governments hadnt made such efforts against it. Perhaps this is true, however, I believe that they would have been integral to culture, and it was this that prompted the leadership’s interest in it in the first place!

  2. Magalee

    Hey Elena,

    This question “Did the people give it so much power that their leaders had no choice but to acknowledge it, or did the leaders give it power by acknowledging it that the people were later able to use to their advantage?” is a great question to ask and truly brings to light the important role artistic outlets such as music bring to politics as a whole. Not only the potential it posseses for the propagation of political idealogy from prominent figures but how it can be used the other way around as rebellion by the masses. This entire concept of “music as rebellion” is incredibly interesting and is a trend frequently seen globally.

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. isabel cortez

    Hello Elena!
    I really liked your thoughts on the philosophy of censorship. It is interesting to consider if censorship really “works”. I agree with the idea that oftentimes it just serves as a symbol for those who wish to rebel against the powers who are enforcing censorship.

    I liked that you compared this type of extreme censorship (managing of music consumption) to a culture we know here in North America where pop culture is not especially relevant to the political world. However it is worth considering Canadian history in terms of religious and legal restrictions on what media and influences people should be exposed to. I think every country has a measure of voluntary and involuntary censorship now or historically.


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