Week 13 Response

This week, we learned about the uncertain future of many Latin American countries, and their transition. Personally, I didn’t find this weeks material overly interesting. I believe it is due to the fact that we are reaching an increasingly modern Latin America as the semester progresses and I’m learning about the more recent traumas experienced in these countries. Though this is crucial for a better understanding of Latin America as whole, I’m simply not finding it as intriguing. Anyways, here are my thoughts on the reading and documents:

Despite my dislike for more recent history, I did find it quite captivating how Latin America is “ahead of the curve” in terms of crisis. As unemployment rises in European countries as well as the United States, people began to give up on this crisis generation. It became a fact that this generation would not recover in order to attain middle-class jobs, an education, and a retirement plan. However, these factors had been longtime components of middle and working class of Latin America. Hence, these countries were already familiar with these crises, and had their own ways of dealing with these particular situations. Even when power was remote, Latin Americans proved it could still be immediate. When I first read this, I was admittedly confused. However, it made more sense as I continued reading. In other words, Latin Americans knew how to seize power, whenever and wherever they possibly could. For example, they would work systems in order for them to best fit their needs. In addition, they would use “unruly” forms of politics, such as riots and protests, in order to get their point across. I find it insane how hard life could be in Latin America, and how people fight every day for seemingly basic rights. It made me reflect on how privileged I am to live in a country like Canada.

The readings also touched on the economy for these countries as well. For instance, when the economy suffered in 2008, Latin America saw growth in exporting minerals, agricultural products, and hydrocarbons. However, this growth did not bring stability. I found Hirschmans notion that when states fall into crisis, people tend to engage depending on their best interest, quite interesting. The entire break down of how his book, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty,” applied to regions of Latin America.

My question for the class next week is as follows:

As we have learned, Latin America seems to serve as opposites to some countries: when economy fails, Latin America experiences growth. When the world fears the crisis of a generation, Latin America have for a longtime experienced these things. What are the main factors that cause this recurring theme?


Week 12 Response

This week, we read about the emergence of Human Rights groups in Latin America, and the reaction of governments and government officials. I found the reading a bit difficult to take in. It focused on quite a horrific subject matter, and it really touched me. I am very grateful to have read about this topic, as I think it is important to know that these situations happen around the world, even though we may not be aware of it. Anyways, here is my take of what I understood in the reading for this week:

It is now evident to me that Latin American states at the time were weak. As put by Dawson in the reading, they relied on buying the loyalty of allies and brutalizing their enemies. These states found it very challenging to govern themselves. On the other hand, stronger states thrived through little violence and explicit deal-making. With new military technology, states turned towards militarized regimes, and terror was enhanced by warfare techniques introduced in the Cold War. I found it interesting how leaders saw these technologies as a guarantee for the security of the people, while their enemies saw this as an opportunity for the government to dominate through distress. Those who opposed these leaders were often charged with treason, as they undermined national projects and embarrassed authoritarians. This really reminded me of the caudillos, who would rule over the nation through fear. Furthermore, exile became popular in Latin America. With the invention of the internet, news of what was going on in these states spread internationally which shed a bad light on these leaders.

The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina was very saddening for me to read. The Madres were a group of mothers whose children went missing during the late 1970s. During the dirty wars, states made their opposers systemically “disappear,” and denied any affiliation to the situation. These mothers gathered weekly in the plaza to publicly demand the return of their children. I cannot imagine the pain felt by these women, and I am inspired by their strength. I was utterly shocked to read the the government has murdered between 9,000-30,000 people during that time.

My question for this week’s class is as follows:

Do you think that the authoritarians in Latin America knew that the widespread of information through the media (cellphones, television, internet, emails, etc.) would backfire on them, exposing their crimes? In other words, did the governments ever think that modernization through media platforms would ultimately uncover their secrets?

Short Research Assignment

In her article Fragmented Borders, Fallen Men, Bestial Women: Violence in the Casta Paintings of Eighteenth-century New Spain (2009), Evelina Guzauskyte dissects violent casta paintings in eighteenth-century New Spain. She introduces her article by describing the structure of casta paintings as a series of sixteen consecutive scenes, portraying racially mixed individuals. These racial combinations derive from the three dominant races present in New Spain: the Spanish, Africans, and indigenous. The paintings were organized by hierarchical consideration, attempting to create the false illusion of stability in the colonies. Guzauskyte states that the casta paintings “suggest that each of these races and the castas had their own clear, unmovable place in society.” However, as social, racial, and cultural borders are transgressed, misrepresentation begins to take hold.

At the beginning of her article, Guzauskyte indicates the calm and peaceful composure of the characters in each casta scene, with the exception of one noticeable portrayal. Common to most casta paintings, one scene out of fifteen is of evident violent nature. These scenes depict degenerate individuals engaging in a physical and verbal conflict, surrounded by a hostile environment. This raises the question: what message were these images trying to encompass? Guzauskyte emphasizes that these vicious illustrations were various; displaying a multitude of racial combinations and socioeconomic classes.This suggests that every individual, regardless of background, was prone to aggressive behaviour. Therefore, violent casta paintings do not necessarily label particular backgrounds as aggressive. Rather, violence is a result of the transgression of gender and racial identity. Furthermore, most of the violent casta paintings include at least one parent with complex and untraceable ethnicity. This reinforces the notion, believed by the Spanish elite, that marriage between races caused rupture in society.

Perhaps the most prominent feature in violent casta paintings is their distinct portrayal of women. Guzauskyte states that “women, more so than men, are shown to be associated with or responsible for belligerence, disorder and destruction.” These scenes present women as unattractive beings who deliberately disrupt family relations and dynamics. Women are depicted as revolting throughout the scenes, completely disregarding any sign of beauty or erotic desire. In addition, they convey the idea that women are a threat to the male population, which can be traced from old-fashioned misogynous European and Latin-American traditions. Evidently, women play the role of the aggressor in violent casta paintings, rather than men.

Ultimately, Guzauskyte suggests that the violent casta paintings symbolize racial and gender-based prejudices, and reflect the elitist view of interracial marriage of the time. She bases her argument off of the misrepresentation of different racial backgrounds, as well as women illustrated in violent casta paintings. All in all, these attributes shape the entirety of these paintings.




Week 11 Response

This week, we covered the violent wave of terror that swept through Latin America during the late nineteenth-century. Despite this being a very sad and tragic period for Latin America, I was interested in learning why and how these events occurred. Anyways, these are my thoughts on the subject, and what I understood from the reading:

I feel that every time I write my blog post, I begin by saying how unaware I am about the topic covered during the week. This tells me it was a very good idea to take this course. Anyways, as you can probably guess, I had absolutely no idea of the violence experienced by Latin America between the 1960s and 1990s. I was utterly shocked when I read the death tolls in the reading. It seems insane to me that over 69,000 people lost their lives in Peru (and more all over Latin America), and I had no idea this was even going on. In addition, civil wars broke out in countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador, which made for countless casualties and lost lives. This made me wonder why we usually associate the US with civil war, even though there have been many civil wars in the Americas. The violence unleashed on these countries were mostly from military/authoritarian governments on what they saw as a communist threat.

It is difficult to pin down exactly why these dirty wars occurred in Latin America. Once again, we are forced to question Latin America (referring to week 1). Some argue that Latin America is historically violent, and never fully became modern. Economic challenges such as expanding debt and increased inflations also could have played a big role. Others say that these acts were simply a follow-up to the Cold War, or it was from young idealists attacking the government. Personally, I was a bit confused about the American effect on this violence, and hope to learn more through the class discussion next week.

Sendero’s War was also interesting to read about. As I understand it, Sendero Luminos were basically a military group with communist views. They burned ballot boxes during Peru’s first democratic vote in quite a few a longtime. When I read that many peasants saw this group as an opportunity for a strategic alliance, it immediately reminded me of the caudillos that we saw several weeks ago.

My question for the class next week is the following:

The reading states that “modern death machines,” which I assume consists of military firearms and explosives, were used during these attacks. Therefore, was the modernization of Latin America a driving force for the terrors that ensued? In other words, would these disputes have occurred without rapid modernization?






Week 10 Response

This week, we learned about populism, politics, and how the introduction of media influenced Latin America. The reading this week was very interesting to me. It mainly focused on a more relatable era, with the use of radio and communication, which definitely appealed to me. It also covered a new political group which I had never heard. All of this tied together makes for an exciting period to cover for this course.

I really enjoyed learning about how the implementation of radio helped shape whole countries in Latin America, such as Mexico and Brazil. Broadcasting allowed working people to insert themselves politically, which forced some governments to moderate radio stations. Some of these stations were even attacked by different groups trying to get their message out. This really shocked me, as it is definitely not as much the case today. With the radio came a new force that brought together entire communities: sound. I found it interesting how many politicians were able to make their listeners feel like active members if the national community, simply through effective media. Music also played a big role in radio: popular culture began to rise. Music also connected social classes. It seems crazy to me how about one hundred years ago, radio was such an impactful tool. I feel that today, the radio is on the verge of dying out. It seems that music has overtaken news and politics for the newer generation. However, music is listened through phones and music applications, instead of an actual radio station. Anyways, I am just in awe about how big of a role radio-communication used to play compared to now.

I also learned about populist leaders who used broadcasting to their advantage. The word “populist” signifies a political view that cannot easily fit under the common “left vs right” context. These leaders include Vargas, Cárdenas, and last but not least Perón. Though the other leaders are definitely worth looking into, the most interesting for me was Juan Perón. Perón wanted to end the strong presence of the oligarchy in the Argentinian system, and create a new society. What surprised me was how he was imprisoned as he had too strong of a political influence, and then was later released and elected soon after. Perón created an economic boom during his term. His wife took advantage of the radio, and promoted peronism.

Ultimately, I learned a lot of new things this week. Who knew how much of an impact the radio truly had on society.

My question for the class is the following: what are other populist leaders in history that are not from Latin America? I’m interested in knowing other figures outside of our studies who share this political view, as I’ve never heard of the term ‘”populist” before taking this course.

Week 9 Response

This week, we learned about the American presence in Latin America. Personally, I found this weeks subject very interesting, as it touched on topics and relations that I had never heard of before or studied in school. I believe most of my lack of knowledge of American presence in Latin America is due to the fact that I have lived my whole life in 21st century Canada. Anyways, I really enjoyed doing this weeks reading.

The very first thing I read about was how the American presence in Latin America was often represented as a violent oppressor or as a noble saviour. Though unwelcoming, the U.S. was a source of aid and investment to Latin America. I am aware of the contradiction in this statement, however everything falls into place to support this argument.

American expansion was not unfamiliar for Americans. Manifest Destiny was still a popular idea at the time, and through its military, economic power and negotiations, the U.S. was able to gain new territories. The U.S. military intervened numerous times in Latin America, creating a permanent presence of their military in neighbouring countries. Although this ensured their domination, it created many distortions between these countries.

My favourite part of the reading was about the banana industry in Guatemala. Americans developed a strong attachment to the fruit, which created a boom in the banana market. UFCO, an American company became the largest banana company in the world, and owned 42% of the land in Guatemala. Guatemala gave UFCO complete monopoly over the banana market, and in return UFCO would turn unproductive land into a source of wealth. This angered many Guatemalans as their country was practically owned by a foreign company. However, some Guatemalans benefitted as they received better opportunities from UFCO than from any other employer. Arbenz, former president of Guatemala, did everything in his power to push back against UFCO. He devised the Plan 900, which allowed the government to take away unused land from large estates and give it to peasants. Consequently, the U.S. planned to overthrow the Guatemalan government with the help of the CIA. This led to Arbenz resigning, who faced too powerful of an opponent. This seems almost absurd that all of these issues began with the production of bananas. Years later, the U.S. tried to strengthen the relation between them and the South. Interestingly enough, this was done through Disney cartoons. The U.S. even provided financial aid to Latin American countries in order to promote modernization, which is covered in the film Silent War (1945). I found quite interesting how many Disney films I watched as a kid were directly connected to American presence in Latin America.

My question for the class is as follows:

Why did the American develop such an attraction to bananas? In addition, why would they simply grow their own bananas and avoiding a turmoil with Guatemala?

Week 8 Response

Before I finish my blog, I just wanted to say that I had a bit of a harder time understanding this weeks subject. I was even debating writing this post after the class just so I could get a better grasp on the topic. Also, midterm season has taken a bit of a toll on me which is why I am a bit late on uploading this blog. Anyways, this is my take on the signs of crisis in a gilded age:

This week, we learned mostly about the Mexican Revolution. The video by Alec Dawson was very interesting and informative, however I do not feel fully confident in my knowledge about the subject. As I understand it, there were three main groups in the revolution who fought to maintain a strong political stance. This includes the Zapatistas and Agrarians, the Villistas, and the Old Guard.

The Zapatistas and the Agrarians were a group consisting of mostly indigenous peoples and mestizos. After having their land illegally taken away from them in Central and Southern Mexico, they were eager to reclaim what was once theirs. The Villistas were people who wanted lo live a free life, which was taken away as modernity took place in Mexico. On the other hand, the Old Guard was made up of upperclass people who benefited from Díaz’s reign, and are wanting to maintain their higher standard of life. All three of these parties fought between each other during the Mexican revolution.

Something I found particularly interesting was how the Zapatistas were the very first guerrilla campaign to actually use the Internet, as mentioned by Alec Dawson in his lecture video. This really surprised me, as I imagined the Zapatistas as a “lower-class” group of people who might not have had access to such things at the time. I believe this is a good example of how modernity can effectively influence everyone, no matter their social class.

Once again, I apologize for the rather boring blog post. I hope to learn more throughout the week, and perhaps modify my post a bit to add more content.

My question for the class is as follows:

We learned last week about Porfirio Díaz and how many Mexicans lost their land due to international investors. Were the Mexicans that lost their land the ones who became the Zapatistas and Agrarians? Might sound like a stupid question, just looking for clarification.


Week 7 Response

This weeks topic of modernity and exportation was very interesting to me. I always heard about Latin America’s big exports such as coffee, tobacco, and rubber, but I never realized the bigger picture behind it all. The scale of Latin America’s role in global trade was truly astonishing.

Firstly, I would like to touch on Mexico’s once president, Porfirio Díaz. I found it interesting how he brought so much wealth and modernity to his country, but at such a big cost. During his dictatorship, he stabilized the government, grew the economy, developed infrastructure, and established a healthy treasury. Industrial economies of the North desired many resources, such as oil, iron, silver, rubber, coffee, sugar, tobacco, etc. which Latin America had in abundance. In return for these resources, Mexico acquired steam engines, guns, cameras, radios, cars, and rail roads. Rail roads became very important as they would facilitate the transportation of military and economic products. This really helped Mexico in it’s goal to modernization.

Despite this success, Díaz was viewed as a cruel dictator to the people of Mexico. It became impossible for poor Mexicans to own land in Mexico, as it was occupied by international investors introduced during Díaz’ reign. This only created a greater gap between the rich and the poor living in Latin America. Also, Mexico was on the verge of rebellion, and opposing political parties were in exile. Thus, Díaz seems to me as a ‘double-edged sword’.

One thing I found very intriguing was the boom in artists and photography during this time. The many photos in the reading were striking, and only reinforced the strong link between photography and modernity.

Finally, I was totally unaware of the emerging feminism in Latin America. As I understand it, family business’ were passed down to men, which meant women were now solely confined to a domestic sphere. In addition, they were payed less than men. Women then began fighting for equal rights. Unfortunately, this movement did not get very far, as feminism was a very new ideology of the time, and often disregarded by the elites in Latin America.

All in all, I found the reading as well as some student videos very informative and interesting. My question for the class next week is as follows: how did Latin America do such a good job in hiding the fact that it was politically suffering, as other countries marvelled at their success?

Week 6 Response

I found the video for this weeks lecture quite interesting. I found that it focused primarily on serious and still ongoing subjects and topic matter, such as slavery throughout the Americas. I believe it is crucial for everyone to learn about slavery and the effects that it carries through society today in order for us as a nation, to move forward and help in the healing process of this trauma.

Based on my previous knowledge of Casta paintings, it becomes obvious to me that race and racial distinctions were more related to social construct rather than actual biological fact in Latin America. This stain of racial violence and prejudice stills endures today into the present. Although it may appear more subtly than before, it is still existent. I was extremely shocked when I learned that by the 1600s, the indigenous population of the Americas had dropped to roughly 1/5th of its original size. I was aware that the colonization of the Americas brought a disgusting amount of cruelty and violence, however I did not think it reached this extent. Evidently, this is an example of cultural genocide. Examples of this continued racism includes Argentina’s Conquest of the Desert, and the more recent wave of terror in the Guatemalan Highlands by Guatemalan States (over tens of thousands of dead).

In addition to the extreme mistreatment of indigenous groups, one can only imagine the hardships faced by the African slaves working in plants across the Americas. It surprised me to learn that slavery was only abolished in Brazil until 1888. Like I have said in my previous blog, Brazil was not a country that I associated with slavery, until now. It is strange to think that just over a hundred years ago, the slave trade was still active in the Americas. We are still suffering from the consequences of slavery today. Emancipation is truly a longterm process, rather than an event.

Echenique and de Sagastas passages were a bit harder for me to follow. As I understand, Echenique uses emotion and sentiments in order to convey her idea of the “regeneration of women.” On the other hand, de Sagasta appeals to spirituality. Tying these two together, we come to learn that the invocation of affect has led to powerful gains where debate of citizenship and rights have failed.

My question for the class is as follows: it is mentioned in the video that de Sagasta rejected equality in the name of advantages that women enjoyed under the regime of the time. My question is what were these advantages, and why were they beneficial towards women?

Week 5 Response

In my last blog post, I said that politics were boring and unappealing to me. However, although this week mainly focused on politics, I was super interested and captivated by the readings and videos. I was actually intrigued by the content. This week, we learned about the effects that independence had on Latin American countries, as well as political systems in said countries; specifically the infamous power of caudillos.

First of all, I found it strange how independence did not bring order nor stability in Latin America. Naturally, you would think that with independence, a nation becomes stronger and united. However, this is obviously not the case for Latin America. Many wars and battles took place in these countries after the end of Spanish rule, making them very dangerous and hostile areas in the nineteenth century. In North America and Europe, liberalism (right to vote, freedom of expression, etc.) became normal, however it never really developed in Latin America. This surprised me, as the majority of hispanics and latinos living in the United States are mostly in favour of democrats.

Rather, liberalism in Latin America becomes favour, instead. In other words, the people’s wellbeing totally depended on their relations and connections to powerful patrons. These patrons provided these people with favours and/or protection. These patrons are called caudillos, with caudillaje power. This system causes corruption throughout communities since rather than treating people with equality, their fate is decided by the connections they have. For example, if you are a caudillos opposer you are automatically subject to a brutal and unfair treatment. Perhaps even death. In the reading, I learnt about the caudillo ruler Juan Manuel de Rosas. De Rosas was an extremely cruel leader, ruling through the fear of citizens. He would confiscate his opposers land just to pay his soldier or provide recompense to the poor. I could see why many desperate people would be in favour of the caudillaje system: they are able to receive immediate rewards. They are able to cling to a powerful figure, as they live in dangerous conditions.

Esteban Echeverría, a famed unitarian, was a strong opposer of caudillos in Latin America. He wrote the book “The Slaughterhouse,” demonstrating his anger through an allegorical story. I read parts of his book, which was really interesting. The language he uses is very violent, almost shocking to some extent. For Echeverría, caudillaje was a type of barbarism that blocked civilization as a whoel. It was interesting learning about what he had to say. All in all, his book was really intriguing.

My question for the class this week is as follows: would it have been more beneficial in the end for Latin American countries to stay dependent to the Spanish crown? Was independence their own downfall?