The resonating theme for this week’s reading to me was ‘conflict’ – and it seems this has been the case for a great deal of the last few weeks’ readings. Conflict between Latin America and the encroaching imperialism of the United States, between followers of Zapata, Villa, Madero, and Diaz, and ultimately between different socio-economic classes of Latin America as a whole. This all paints an image of a deeply divided society at war with itself, whose power dynamics have been further distorted and complicated by the process of modernisation. In the West, it is easy for us to think of modernisation as beneficial. As we discussed in last week’s class, it brings about increased efficiency, technological advances, and (ideally) democratic changes in the current. However, I had never considered how high the human cost of such a progression often ends up being – industrialisation and the struggle for worker’s rights (Dawson makes note of the unremarkable nature of violent conflict erupting between workers and bosses in this period) and the “loss of rights, land, and autonomy.”
Dawson suggests that “it would be misleading to represent this as a period of perpetually looming crisis”, but it is hard to see it as anything but given the constant narrative of conflict, revolution, and instability. But perhaps it is because of this that I found Darío’s poem so refreshing – to talk of such a society by referencing its rich history and in such patriotic and emotive language was a nice break from the aforementioned narrative; “… our America lives. And dreams. And loves. / And it is the daughter of the Sun.”
Another thing I found particularly interesting in the reading was the distinction drawn between rural and city-dwelling rebels. Dawson argues that rural rebels did not belong in the cities, and that their concerns lay mostly with things local in nature such as regaining land that had been acquisitioned in the modernisation pushed by Diaz. And because of this, once they had occupied the cities and shown that they were a force to be reckoned with, they had no great reason to stay and occupy Mexico City. It got me thinking that perhaps this is another legacy of caudillismo. It is interesting to compare this to other agrarian revolts in history that had entirely different outcomes (for example in the Soviet Union).