Week 9:

So far this semester we have traveled from the early colonial days of the 1500s to the not so distant past of the 20th century.  In particular, this week has focused on continued imperialism against Latin America from its new enemy to the North. Dawson’s reading has two narratives; the more commonly known militaristic intervention from the united states; and, at least to me, the subtle cultural influence that now seem to have been quite pervasive.

The first point that Dawson made which I found very interesting is of America’s self perceived image. “the US was a nation forged through anti-imperial struggle, a nation dedicated to the principles of freedom and self-determination”.  In this light it is interesting to think of how north americans might have seen their countries intervention to the south. For example, Dawson mentions an ad campaign run by United Fruit that attempted to portray their massive enterprise in as a modernizing force that benefited entire countries. However, it is now known that their presence had long lasting and devastating consequences. It could be argued that their role in the coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala laid the groundwork for a long civil war that took the lives of 200,000 people, mostly Mayans. Furthermore, they stripped many people of their land and the chemicals that were used on their banana plantations caused many illnesses and deaths. In Nicaragua, the U.S invasion in the 1920s could also be partially attributed to them.  To this respect, Augusto Sandino’s manifesto was a great read. His clear anti-american sentiments resounded deeply with many poor and disenfranchised people.  “Today that flag hangs idle and humiliated by the ingratitude and indifference of its sons who don’t make the superhuman effort to free it from the claws of the monstrous eagle with the curved beak that feeds on the blood of this people while the flag that represents the assassination of defenseless peoples and the enmity of our race flies in Managua’s Mars Field. Sandino shared the dreams of many Latin Americans of a free and sovereign region. He feared U.S influence, particularly the influence they would gain over Nicaragua and the region as a whole if the they managed to build the Nicaraguan Canal. So, Sandino was one of the first Latin American revolutionaries to challenge U.S hegemony. Unlike Marti who wanted their neighbor to the north to get to know and understand them, Sandino wanted them gone.  “Come, you gang of morphine addicts; come murder us in our own land, I am awaiting you, standing upright before my patriotic soldiers, not caring how many you may be. But bear in mind that when this occurs, the destruction of your grandeur will shake the Capitol in Washington, reddening with your blood the white sphere that crowns your famous White House, the den where you concoct your crimes.”


The second Narrative that Dawson gives is of cultural influence. There were a few things here that struck me. First off was the Belmonte that he provides. When I was in Nicaragua earlier this year Belmont’s were still a popular cigarette, and as he notes, they were more expensive and thus seemed to offer some sort of prestige(maybe they kill you faster or something). Secondly, He notes that television had a great impact. This immediately made me think of Chavez’s desires to start a news network of the south(Telesur), now that I see how long U.S television has had an influencing role in Latin America the urgency with which Chavez beseeched this idea to his counterparts makes more sense. Finally, the impact of Disney cartoons seems almost comical, yet utterly serious. I think that it is widely accepted that Walt Disney was pretty racist, but I never thought that his work had such a subtle impact.  The analysis of the Abominable SnowMan by Dorfman and Mattelart was fascinating. The way that they perceive this character as a metaphor(allegory?)  of Latin America’s indigenous peoples and the story as the story of colonization seems incredibly accurate.  The way in which the snowman is treated as a uncivilized and naive child is emblematic of the colonizers opinion towards Indigenous peoples. “The hegemony which we have detected between the child-adults who arrive with their civilization and technology, and the child-noble savages who accept this alien authority and surrender their riches, stands revealed as an exact replica of the relations between metropolis and satellite, between empire and colony, between master and slave.”,,,”Each time this situation recurs, the natives’ joy increases. As each object of their own manufacture is taken away from them, their satisfaction grows. As each artifact from civilization is given to them, and interpreted by them as a manifestation of magic rather than technology, they are filled with delight”

So, my question for this week is, What force had the biggest impact in the long run. Did the military intervention that led to countless dictatorships and probably millions of lost lives hold Latin America back. Or was it the cultural impacts that played a more vital role with the stereotypes and the continuation of “look and feel” modernization that it promoted  have a stronger and more lasting effect?


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