Monthly Archives: September 2017

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?



Week 4 Response

These past few weeks, we have been primarily focusing on the early stages of Latin America. For example, the landing of Christopher Columbus as well as the beginning of the colonial period. However this week, it seems that we have begun a more political chapter of Latin America. Personally, I’ve always found politics less interesting, especially in a social studies environment. This said, I do realize that politics are an essential topic in history and I am willing and excited to immerse myself more into this said subject.

As previously mentioned, politics can be at times monotonous. Hence, it was a bit more difficult for me to fully understand what I was reading and watching. I first read about Simón Bolívar and his famous “Letter from Jamaica.” From my understanding, Bolívar wrote a letter outlining his dream of a unified Latin America, under the guidance of a strong liberal nation. Fed up with unfair Spanish rule, he wrote and sent this letter to Great Britain, hoping for them to ultimately replace the Spanish. Despite his efforts, Bolívar was unable to receive any kind of assistance from Great Britain. After reading this letter, I did notice many metaphors, which was mentioned in the lecture video. Take for example the following line in Bolívar’s letter: “That wicked stepmother is the source of all our suffering.” This is obviously displaying his deep hatred for Spain, comparing it to an evil stepmother. In addition, the fact that Bolívar is still relevant today, as he is referenced by Hugo Chávez’s speech in 2004, is fascinating. This truly demonstrates the impact Bolívar had at the time as a leader.

The works of José Martí and his “Our America” were also quite interesting. To my knowledge, “Our America” is Martí’s take on Cuba’s struggle in becoming independant from Spain, as well as the threat that the United States could pose on the island. He tries to give a Latin American identity to his people. In the video, it is mentioned that there are many metaphors and allegories in his essay. Take for example: “Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones”. I was really interested about how the Americans were causing trouble to the Cubans, as they could potentially have wanted Cuba as a territory.

My question for the class is as follows: why did the British not help Bolívar in his conquest to end Spanish rule in Latin America? The abundance of valuable resources located in the Americas would seem appealing to European colonists, so why didn’t the British cease this opportunity?

Week 3 Response

Personally, I found this weeks readings and videos very interesting and intriguing. Not only did it focus on the big picture of the colonial experience in the Americas, but also on specific aspects of this time period. For example, the infamous Casta paintings and the legacy of Catalina de Erauso.

Firstly, I would like to touch on the sheer number of African slaves who were brought over to the Americas to work on plantations. I was completely unaware of the scale of the slave trade to places such as Brazil, Mexico, and even Peru. Never before had I associated these countries with slavery. Furthermore, I was shocked to hear that Brazil had way more African slaves than the United States ever did. I believe that my lack of knowledge on this subject is mainly due to media. There are many popular movies and documentaries that display the harshness of slavery in the United States. However, I have never seen a television show nor movie that include the presence of the slave trade in Brazil. I was left speechless after learning this brutal information.

There were also a few videos explaining the implementation of Casta paintings in Latin America. As I understand it, Casta paintings are paintings that illustrate the different racial combinations of African, indigenous, and Spanish blood. This dictates the social class that people fit under, having pure Spanish heritage at the very top. This was created by the Spanish to control the population and enforce European superiority. The Mestizo people, a mix between Spanish and indigenous parents, reminded me of the Métis people of Canada. This idea of “Spanish purity” isn’t an unfamiliar concept though, as I also learned about the expulsion of Jews and Muslims living in Spain by Christians.

I watched quite a few videos and did my own reading about Catalina de Erauso, which really fascinated me. Her life story reminds me of the plot of an action movie. From changing her name several times and secretly fighting in the Spanish army in Latin America, her life story is quite exciting. However, the most interesting thing I found was how she shattered the societal norms of gender expectations of her era. I wonder how even her own brother did not recognize her as she fought under his command. She somewhat reminded me of the Jeanne d’Arc, a female soldier in France.

All in all, I found the subject matter of this week very captivating. My question for the class this week is as follows: why do you think that we mostly associate slavery with the United States and not Brazil where it was more present?

Week 2 Response

After watching The Meeting of Two Worlds as well as some additional readings, I feel that my knowledge on Christopher Columbus has definitely broadened. However, it has broadened in a sense that what I thought was a rather black-and-white topic, has a much more nuanced approach in reality.

It struck to realize how the names of many cities, states, provinces, and even a country are all named in honour of Christopher Columbus. This led me to think of other things that are named after the famed explorer. Take for example the words corn and guinea pig. The French translation to these words are ‘blé d’Inde’ and ‘cochon d’Inde’ respectively, which means Indian wheat and Indian pig. This correlates to the fact that Columbus believed he had arrived in India rather than in the Americas. It also surprised me that Columbus died believing he had reached Asia, and established a new route to the Indies. This truly made me question the image of the “heroic” Columbus that I had as a child. Furthermore, the concept that Columbus is technically pre-Columbian was very interesting, in which it almost resembles an oxymoron.

The works of Todorov were also intriguing. Columbus had truly started a very long and gradual chain of events that form society as we know it today. In addition, I was also interested in Bartolomé de las Casas. I always assumed that most Europeans at the time would have felt superior to the Native Americans, however de las Casas proved me wrong. Although, After reading some of Columbus’ journal, there are definitely passages that display this superiority. For example the following quote from his journal, “However, they appeared to me to be a very poor people in all respects.” I found it very interesting reading through his journal and seeing the landing through his own perspective.

It was a bit harder for me to understand Columbus’ voyage as an allegory. It did make more sense as I realized through his journal, that he is very vague. HIs accounts could have simply been a myth as stated in the video. His many uses of similes and comparisons seem to show that Columbus was unsure of what he truly saw. Perhaps he knew all along he was in fact not in Asia, but did not want to appear as a failed explorer to the king and queen of Spain. All this reinforces the notion that Columbus’ explorations may not have been as they always seemed.

My question for the class is as follows: why didn’t the Vikings, who had landed in the Americas before Columbus, had not made the same efforts towards colonizing the new land?

Initial Thoughts

Hello everyone, my name is Isak Parker and I am a first year Engineering student here at UBC. I took Spanish language courses in high school and I wanted to learn more about Latin American culture. That is why I chose to attend this course.

After watching several student videos about different Latin American subjects, figures, and time periods, I have created a short list of my two favourite and least favourite videos. Note that these are my personal opinions, and vary from student to student. These videos can be found on the UBC Latin American Studies 100 website.

My most preferred video was by far The Colonial Experience by Ana Gheorghiu and Lindsay Chapman. This video was very captivating and all around well done. The video covers the fascinating life of Catalina de Erauso and the infamous Casta paintings. The slides about Catalina de Erauso were very amusing and somewhat “movie-like”. It incorporated many entertaining images accompanied with interesting information, as well as hints of humour all throughout. This gave me a sense of adventure while watching it: the accounts of her life reminded me of a thrilling spy movie. As for the Casta paintings, the subject itself was very interesting to learn about. Though it was a preposterous and degrading concept, I found it was intriguing to learn about. The information was clear and concise, which made this difficult subject easier to follow. All in all, The Colonial Experience was my favourite video because of its engaging content and interesting topics.

Second on my list was The Meeting of Two Worlds III by Angela Pope, Ishan Gill, Deone Young, and Francisco Botero. This video emphasized on the voyage of Christopher Columbus and his interactions with the Native Americans. Filled to the brim with interesting information about Columbus and his trek to the Americas, this video was very absorbing. In addition, they included personal journal entries from Columbus himself, which I found enriched the video. There are many captivating pictures as well as cartoon videos that fit smoothly with each other. This made the video increasingly interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this video as it included tons of information, alongside entertaining pictures.

My second-to-last least preferred video was The Meeting of Two Worlds II by Jackson, Spiro, and Chica. The first half of the video was very difficult to understand as there were only white-coloured subtitles that blended in with the pictures in the background. This made it impossible to read the written information. Though the subject was clearly interesting, it was very hard to read what was displayed on the screen. The fact that were only voice-overs towards the very end of the video made it somewhat unentertaining. Overall, I was unable to understand the information delivered in this video, hence it being second last on my list.

My least favourite video was Speaking Truth to Power by Daniel and Mackenzie. My reasoning behind this low score was simply because there were no images, subtitles, or any sign of interest presented within the video. Everything was done through a low-quality microphone and webcam. This made it difficult to retain information, and made me lose interest in the subject completely. Ultimately, I found this video somewhat boring and forgetful. Although there were some interesting topics such as the lack of organization in Latin American governments, it was difficult to be engaged while watching this video.