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?

2 thoughts on “Week 7 Response

  1. Ruze Guvenc

    I really like your take that Diaz is a “double-edged sword”, I agree that it isn’t a black and white situation in regards to him. I think it all comes down to the perspective you are analyzing him from. From a purely economic perspective, he was a great leader that provided Mexico with immense progress. But if we are talking about progress from the position of human rights developments, he was awful for the country and literally a dictator. Maybe Liberalism wouldn’t have worked in Mexico, since it may not flourish within a Latin American context, but the poverty and cruelty that resulted during his reign were most definitely not desired by the people. I personally see him in a more negative light, but that is mainly because I prefer to take a human rights perspective.


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