Monthly Archives: November 2015

Week Thirteen

I find week thirteen’s homework to be interesting as it focuses contemporary times and what the future holds for different countries in Latin America. In particular, I liked Maxwell Cameron’s conversation, “The Left Turns.”

Early in the video, Cameron mentions that, in the past as countries would transition from neoliberalism to the rise of the left, “Democracy often relied on elite agreements that certain issues would be ‘off the table.'” I find this to be interesting as it contradicts the values of a true democracy: in essence, being that democracy is a government that is by the people.

Cameron also mentions US relations among Latin America in recent decades. With more distractions the US faces, such as conflict risen in the Middle East, the US has lost most of its focus in Latin America. Unlike decades ago in Guatemala, countries in Latin America have finally had the opportunity to experiment with democracy, therefore developing a system most fitting. I also find it interesting that the United States obtains more inequality than many Latin American countries and that there are countries, such as Bolivia, that are recognized as anti-democratic, although have become prosperous.

On another note, it is interesting to see how peoples’ minds work. Cameron briefly explains the current protesting in Brazil and what it entails. The redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor benefits the poor as the wealthy continue to prosper. This angers the middle class because they see no benefits. Sometimes, people feel a sense of entitlement to things: that they deserve certain things “just because.” Cameron refers to a recent travel to Brazil, and how taxi drivers (recognized as people of the middle class) felt that the redistribution of wealth was unfair. People of the middle class, people who work hard and pay taxes, find it unfair that “lazy” people are getting better off. The redistribution of wealth will always anger people, regardless of which direction it goes, as certain groups are not accommodated.

Lastly, I would like to bring up Maxwell Cameron’s last comment. He mentions that there are times when democracy can take part in global issues as people ignore the impacts of their choices on future generations. I find this to be very interesting. As people vote based off of their self-interests, they can sometimes become part of “the” problem rather than a part of “the” solution. This issue can become very controversial as, stated earlier, a true democracy is labeled as a government that is by its people.

Week 11

After watching Cameron Maxwell’s conversation, I noticed many similarities between Peru in the 1960s and Guatemala a few decades prior. In both cases, coups were organized in order to proceed with land reforms, redistributing land to the peasantry. In Guatemala, land reforms were enacted by President Arbenz to redistribute the unused land that had been owned by the United Fruit Company, which was a foreign company. The redistribution was enacted to dispense the power throughout Guatemala rather than have it held in the hands of elites and in the hands overseas UFCO owners. This could have led to private ownership and competitive markets (capitalism). Agriculture Co-ops could have appeared in attempt to compete with big corporations, like the United Fruit Company. This could have then created a strong middle class, something Guatemala did not have.

In Peru, the land was redistributed by the military, although training and education on how to use it productively was not given. This led to the collapse of the rural production in Peru, leading to even more hardship than before. Going back to my earlier explanation on Guatemala, I have to rethink whether or not Arbenz’s Plan 900 (his land reform plan) would have been successful if the United States hadn’t intervened. The people of Guatemala did not have enough time to even attempt to cultivate the land that had been redistributed, but I now wonder if they would have even known how to without any training. Maybe farmers who worked for the seasonally paid jobs at the United Fruit Company, harvesting bananas, may have left their jobs to work on private property where they could then harvest more crops developing more income?

Maxwell also notes that “the typical peasant was less concerned with events in Lima or the nation,” but rather with [the] injustice and crime in local community[s].” Thankfully, the Shining Path helped these communities with the local injustices, but I have to believe that problems of local communities are planted in the central government. The reason for these injustices originate from the decisions made in Lima. I do believe that it may have been very difficult for the peasantry to reach contact with Peruvian officials and for their voices to be heard, but I still would have to think that many of the local injustices stem from the central government and that fixing the issues at the core would alleviate outward.

Sometimes, as I write these blog posts, I feel like I am contradicting what I say. When I think of different parts Southern California (where I am from and most familiar with), I realize that it has stable government and has laws that tame the social injustices. But I then think of different parts of Los Angeles, where crime rates of theft and whatever else exceed other surrounding areas. I know that this is different, but I feel somewhat related to a more contemporary time (or maybe just to me because I’ve never been surrounded by cattle or any type of agriculture for that matter). Obviously, political issues cannot be completely solved, so I guess thats the main reason to some of these social injustices found around the world.

Sorry for the rant.


Short Research and Writing Assignment (2)

“Banana Republic: The United Fruit Company,” offers a great run-down of the United Fruit Company’s origins till its fall, which took place from the 1870s to the 1970s. The article beings with the construction of the railroad in Costa Rica in 1871, led by 23 year-old Minor Keith from Brooklyn. With mass amounts of determination, he did anything to lead to his success. At a young age, he was given the title “The Uncrowned King of Central America” for his success.

As the construction of the railroad in Costa Rica progressed, he planted bananas alongside the railroad in hope that they would grow with success. Ten years later, as the bananas flourished, he owned as many as three banana companies, transporting the “new” fruit to the United States and Europe. Soon after, he then partnered up with a Cape Cod sailor and a Boston businessman, raising money to found the Boston Fruit Company. In 1899, their company merged alongside the United Fruit Company, forming the largest banana company in the world with plantations in seven different countries located in both Central and South America. Along with the company’s banana monopoly, the United Fruit Company owned eleven steamships (also known as the Great White Fleet) and 30 other ships that were used as rentals as well as 112 miles of railroad that linked plantations with ports.

The article mainly focuses on the United Fruit Company’s huge influence on Guatemala. Although other countries in Central and South america fell under the “thrall of the mighty UFCO,” the UFCO obtained its most power in Guatemala. In 1901, the Guatemalan dictator granted the United Fruit Company the exclusive right to transport postal mail between itself and the United States. This, alone, gave the U.S. massive amounts of power in Guatemala. It wasn’t long after until the United Fruit Company gained control of almost all means of communication and transportation in Guatemala.

The relationship between the UFCO and right-wing Guatemalan dictators grew unconditional, as the UFCO’s empire was located in Guatemala. Unhappy with an unfair and terrorizing government, the people of Guatemala overthrew their dictator of the time, Jorge Ubico, and held their first true elections in 1944, electing Dr. Juan Jose Arevalo Bermejo. As president, he created a new constitution based on the U.S. Constitution. In power, he made great progress, especially in education and healthcare.

In Guatemala’s next free election, Jacob Arbenz succeeded Arevalo. He continued Arevalo’s progress, proposing the idea to redistribute the huge amounts of unused land back to the Guatemalan people, but most of the land was held by the United Fruit Company. The U.S. State Department, alongside the United Fruit Company, started a campaign to convince Americans that Guatemala was becoming a Soviet “satellite” state. With success, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a coup in 1954, replacing Arbenz with another right-wing dictatorship that would cooperate with the UFCO.

The United Fruit Company did, in fact, boost economies where they had plantations, building schools, housing, hospitals, and research laboratories, as well paid its employees better than other companies did, although showed detrimental aspects. If the UFCO saw unionism growing in areas, it would abandon the areas, tearing down all the housing and schools it had built. This left these areas desolate, with nothing.

In the 1970s, the UFCO lands were bought by the Del Monte Corporation, an existing and successful company. Del Monte does not engage in any political manipulations, like the United Fruit Corporation had in the past.

As partners, Nayid and I are doing our video project on Week 9: Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire. One of our main focuses is going to be the influence the United Fruit Company had on Central and South America, so I believe that knowing its roots will be very important in constructing a better video.

Short Research and Writing Assignment (1)

The segment “Walt Disney’s Latino Cartoon Characters” within the larger text of Pop Culture Latin America!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, written by Lisa Shaw and Stephanie Dennison, gives more insight to Walt Disney’s perception of Latin America and what exactly he wanted to accomplish. Hollywood’s depiction of Latin American identity relied heavily on the cartoon representations Disney had developed. With the use of cartoons, Disney enforced the “Good Neighbor Policy,” which had been implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt and his administration in United States’ foreign policy towards Latin America. In short, the Good Neighbor Policy had been developed to potentially create new economic opportunities “in the form of reciprocal trade agreements,” although it did not convince many Latin American countries. The policy also promised “non-intervention and non-interference” in Latin America’s domestic affairs. Feeling the need to protect the west from Soviet influence, the Good Neighbor Policy came to an end in the rise of the Cold War.

Disney had created two films in the 1940s: “The Three Caballeros” and “Saludos Amigos,” with characters from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and the United States. “Saludos Amigos” represented the travels of Walt Disney to South America in 1941 in attempt to capture authenticity of characters in which he believed would be a “principle feature of his ‘Good Neighbor’ projects.” The character Donald Duck would represent the tourist from the United States visiting the Andes. The film, “The Three Caballeros,” captured live action with animation, which was viewed as a “remarkable technical achievement” in the motion picture press. “The Three Caballeros” incorporated real human figures, such as Aurora Miranda (Carmen Miranda’s younger sister) dancing alongside the character Joe Carioca, a Brazilian parrot, who stood as a primary figure in the films. Author, Lisa Shaw, states that Joe Carioca epitomizes his country, Brazil, “more than any other nation depicted.” She also finds that the “essence of Hollywood’s version of Latin America in the 1940s as a source of pure spectacle, rhythmic exuberance, and carnal spontaneity,” a way in which many people around the world view Latin America as of today. Like seen in these cartoons, music videos, full-length films, and many other forms of pop culture depict the same personalities.

As partners, Nayid and I are doing our video project on Week 9: Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire. One of our main focuses is going to show how pop culture has influenced the United States’ view of Latin America as well as the implementation of the Roosevelt Administration’s “Good Neighbor Policy” in foreign policy among Latin America.

Week Nine

This week’s homework focuses on the influence that the United States had, both positively and negatively, on Latin America prior to 1959. Throughout the readings, I found many intersecting sections, one being the core periphery relationship between the United States and several countries within Central America and the Caribbean. Similar to cases in the past, the United States exploits these countries of their periphery, this time focusing on the banana, a difficult and specific fruit to breed. North American plantation and railroad entrepreneurs create the United Fruit Company in 1899, later becoming the largest banana company in the world, with plantations ranging in the Caribbean and different countries in Central America. On page 182 of this week’s readings, Dawson writes, “the United States was at its core an anti-imperialist nation” and a few lines down, concludes the paragraph by saying that the United States was “a nation dedicated to the principles of freedom and self-determination.” I feel as if these two statements, in a way, contrast the international monopoly over bananas that the United States had inflicted over the countries they had purchased land for banana farming: not that the U.S. necessarily had conquered these countries, but rather developed and held much power and money within them. The United Fruit Company would exploit the periphery countries as they would transport huge amounts of bananas (up to 45 million bunches a year by 1914) north and then artificially ripen them in American warehouses before further distribution. In essence, this has become to be known as the dependency theory: arguably a reason as to why some countries are less developed than others, creating this core periphery structure. In the readings, it was also noted that the United Fruit Company “controlled hundreds of miles of railroad in the Caribbean, employed tens of thousands of workers, operated stores, schools, hospitals, radio stations, breweries, banks, and hotels.” Not only was the North dominating the banana industry, but also had a major influence on different industries.

Something else Dawson mentions, also on page 182, states that during this time were the “halcyon days of American Imperialism, a time when one could image that U.S. hegemony as not simply Great White Fleets and U.S. Marines, but as Coca Cola, jazz, baseball, and movie stars, as things that people all over the world desire.” Like discussed in weeks earlier in “The Export Boom as Modernity,” Latin American elites wanted “the look and feel of modernity, rather than its philosophical or intellectual ethos.” This notion can pertain to another form of imperialism-cultural imperialism-unintentionally.

Maybe I’m just confusing myself now, I don’t know.