Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire

Firstly, I laughed at the inclusion of the line, “white man that makes the chicken,” included by Dawson in reference to Colonel Sanders. Alright next…

This chapter goes on to recognize the influence in which the United States played on constructing Latin America. If a country is on the good side of the USA, it is quite inevitable that they would have had and still have influence in helping construct their nation. It is an easy comparison for Canada, because we share the same border, and the two competing nations were inseparable in forming the other.

It is difficult to label Latin America as an empire, because there was not one specific conquering nation. Haiti is a French Republic; Spain had a stranglehold of some nations but not dominant; many nations still had strong native cultural ties that they were unwilling of letting go. To classify Latin America as an empire is to be wrong, but undoubted that it could be explored.

The United States was also going through a transition as a materialistic society. After the Industrial Revolution, materialism seem to dominate and a new era of capitalism has emerged. This is a competing interest of Latin American nations because of strong cultural ties to their natives and to their native homeland. If the United States tried to influence Latin American nations, a conflicting view of society and the way ideas of how to run society could not be mere, they would be drastic. The commodities of Latin America were so native to their land, that they could not fully recognize the exchange value of such ‘stuff.’ This proved to be a problem, and still can be a problem in the low standards of living.

Dawson titles his document section as “Contesting Hegemony” with signifies the backlash of Latin America to the United States. The first document testifies to this anti-hegemony and anti-imperialism that could flourish in Latin America. However because of this Latin America struggles.

The Export Boom as Modernity

The first thing I noticed while watching the Dawson video, was the amount of occasions he used the word ‘ethos.’ I like this word. Ethos is a Greek term that defines the characteristics of a group, and in this case is being used to characterize Mexico modernity. Before watching this video, I struggled with the term ‘modernity’ because I had never really heard it been used much, in my academic studies or in my everyday life. Modernity isn’t a term used on the daily, and I so struggled to remember to think of a time where a teacher of mine used it outside of history class. Because of this, I focussed on this chapter in it’s historical terms, rather than a social backdrop in which I usually examine these readings.

What struck me when I turned my attention to the reading was the line that mentioned, “people of African and indigenous origins were most often the victims of Latin American modernization.”

The people of African origins were mostly slaves, which in any historical context, never would have had a say in the way things were to supposed to go through anyways. This can be argued however, if we take a look at Hegel’s “master and slave,” in literal terms, one can argue that Latin American modernization did have influence from the slaves. working with natural resource extraction, Latin American economies could only export to what the slave could provide the states/colonies. The resource extraction and selling of goods, had impacted modernization, and that was done at the hands of the slaves.

Throughout any historical timeline, it seems that indigenous people’s often get left out of the conversation. They partake in their own practices, beliefs and religious exercises, and often seen as ‘voodoo’ to the white man. It has been systemic genocide over indigenous peoples in many era’s and geographical aspects of time, that it should not be surprising that things were not different. The Industrial Revolution might be the biggest demise to indigenous peoples and contact with giant political figures because of the role that religion played during the revolt.

By being able to mass produce such commodities like a Bible, religious figures with a lot of political influence, were able to thrust their ‘right’ onto others ‘wrong’ and take hold of the moment. Religion has it’s social affect on politics, while resources have it’s physical affect on politics, and the everyday culture, or…wait…ETHOS of the group seems to get lost.

Question: What aspect of society should have the greatest influence when constructing independence: religion, economics, or ethos?

Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

The first topic I want to dis cuss is slavery and this abnormal timeline in Latin America. In 1793, due to the Haitian Revolution, slavery was abolished in Haiti. Chile abolished slavery in 1823, the United States in 1865, Cuba in 1886 and Brazil in 1888. I suggest this timeline because modern-day Haiti would be seen as the most impoverished out of these countries in the Americas, yet they were the first to abolish slavery. The Revolution might have expedited the process, yet the relationship between independence and slavery in Haiti is a lot closer than say that of the United States, where almost a year after declaring independence, the United States abolished slavery. Is the United States the thriving country economically today because of their abuse of power with slavery? Strong words, an extremely stretching assumption, however in a relation to Haiti, that assumption could be theoreticized.

Another concept that seems to linger this whole course is religion. de Sagasta’s religious view on women and women’s rights, put her in the majority of her time. It also shows the power of the Church. Was she exercising full agency in her opinions or the agency of the Church? “Women…should never even in thought surpass the limits that God, in when making them…gave them as their pass on earth” (99). What struck me about this quote is that ‘in our opinion’ was also included in that quote, which I admitted to add a more dramatic effect to the quote. Was it really her opinion? It was the opinion of the Church and of the dominant classes of the era, not just in Latin America but throughout the globe. I feel like looking at this period of feminism in Latin America would be a strong group presentation topic to explore further. Using Karl Marx’s principle of Capitalism, with topics such as commodities, use-value, exchange value and his definition of ‘labour,’ exploring a Marxian critique of feminism in early Latin American history would be an extremely interesting topic. Other quotes that struck this feminist accord:

“Woman…is the poetry of God.” (99)

“She is a slave!…but a companion, man’s other half, slave perhaps to her children.” (99-100)

“As if her rights as a woman were not enough to be happy and to make other happy.” (100)


Discussion question: Is there a certain cultured ‘woman’ that de Sagasta is defining, or does her description of ‘woman’ apply to all cultures of Latin America in this time period?

Caudillos vs. the Nation State

I have drawn parallels of the fight for independence of these countries to that of Quebec and Canada, and once again this chapter reminds me of such links. Dawson talks about the caudillos and that they are strongmen, charismatic, and leaders who fought for their people. In the case of Santa Anna, and him being a caudillo and Mexican ruler for many years, he was backed by a Catholic society. This is in such a case the same situation that French fighters in Quebec were in when they were fighting for independence from Britain reign. They also had the religious aspect, as Quebecers for the most part belonged to the Catholic Church, and the Ontarians belonged to the Protestant church. There were a few select figures in Quebec, who saw French nationalism as a good thing and who wanted their needs to be met. Unfortunately for the Quebecers, France had not cared about their colony because they lacked sufficient resources that the France of Europe could benefit from. Instead France focussed on areas such as Haiti, because there they had the resource of sugar. I draw this conclusion because we see some of these Latin American countries striving for independence to be under the same issue as not wanting to be backed by Spain, for various reasons. Dawson explained how the cultural and ethnic divisions were “too vast,” and [Spain’s] idea of being connected by patriotism and blood, among other things, could not work,

“The Slaughterhouse” was an interesting read because we read into the early history of Latin America and the strive of independence from the charismatic leaders of the colonies. The caudillo is fictionalized into groups of people that ultimately relay a message of good or bad: this idea of socially constructed ideas depending on what side you’re on. Going back to the last couple weeks and talking about who benefitted from revolts, independence and liberation. Some of these people were viewed as bad, and some were viewed as good. There are figures, like Santa Ana or Che Guevara, figures who are viewed as both good and bad, depending on which side you’re on and how you viewed the situation. Mostly these views were war based or politically segregated: ‘I didn’t benefit from his leadership’ or ‘I benefitted from his leadership.’

Though the caudillo is viewed as either hero or enemy, how did the idea of a caudillo leadership reform Latin American independence?

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