Monthly Archives: November 2017

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.