Monthly Archives: October 2017

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?