Week 5 – Caudillos

I found this week’s discussion of the caudillos really interesting because I saw so many parallels between caudillos and clientelism with today’s political figures and government. Like many political fanatics, I have been trying to understand how Donald Trump won the presidency in the US last year, and after watching how he appeals to his base’s emotions of fear of immigrants and dislike of government or intellectual elites I have come to understand the power of emotional appeal in politics. So, when learning of how the caudillos quickly seized on the vacuum of social disorder created after independence I think I am more fully able to understand their appeal to the lower-class such as the Afro-Argentines or the Indians. Caudillos were charismatic leaders who garnered support by seemingly caring about the interests of those at the bottom in order to use them as military pons. Although it was not all bad for their followers, who did gain some protection, land and social order, when state structure became established caudillos who held power cast their follower’s because they were no longer need as militia. I feel this mirrors what often happens today. With Trump for example, who was elected as populist leader claiming to connect with the struggles of working-class white Americans, then once in power he hasn’t really enacted any policy that would help his base. Not only did caudillos seem to often exploit their followers, but they are also a primary reason that Latin American nations did not establish “proper” governments. Again, similarities with today’s populist leaders who tend to hold back progress in favour of traditional ways that they benefit from – the essence of the “make america great again” slogan.

On the other side of politics and culture in Latin America were those like Esteban Echeverria who yearned for Latin American nations to gain a stable federal government and follow European enlightenment. However, as our professor, Dr. Beasley-Murray so aptly put it, liberalism is very idilic and often hard to achieve in practice. For example, today in Canada or really anywhere in the world there are instances of inequality with minority groups like racial profiling or gender wage gaps despite the fact that equality is enshrined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So even if a federal government and constitution could have been implemented they likely wouldn’t have been perfect in practice.

My question this week is about the liberal elites and how they felt about class and racial hierarchies. I am a little confused because I remember reading about how they partly disliked the caudillos e.g. de Rosas who embraced Afro-Argentines precisely because they were deeply racist but then at the same time wanted to establish government. To do this they promised Indians and other lower-classmen equal treatment under future law if they would side with them. So my question is, were the liberal elites racist and classist or did they want equality/constitution accompanying federally-structured social order?

1 thought on “Week 5 – Caudillos

  1. Isak Parker

    Great blog post, I really enjoyed reading it! Your comment about the power of emotional appeal in politics really struck me. In addition, I couldn’t agree more about the similarities between Donald Trump and caudillaje, super interesting!


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