This week we looked at the political movements that shaped Latin America in the 1930s-1950s. These movements created a new version of political technique called “populism”. Coupled with the widening use of technology like radios, photography and the growing number of people living in big urban centres, politics was becoming less a game of elites and more available to the masses of the working class. Before the implementation of technology, those in rural areas and/or the lower classes would have no way of connecting with politics or to take a broader view, their own national conversation. With urbanization and technology, even people who couldn’t read could feel connected to their countrymen and be in the know as to what was happening in politics. This gave the huge population of lower-class, working people a lot of power. They now had access to the same pop culture like comics, and radio shows that the elites did and not only that but they began to dictate what was pop culture.
Recognizing this shift, many hopeful politicians tried to capitalize on this by using radio and photography to appeal to this new lot of informed voters. A couple were successful in out-competing commercial radio shows such as Argentine President, Juan Domingo Peron and his second wife Evita. Together, they garnered the love and support of the working-class and were able to harness their political power in order to get freed from jail and win the presidency. During this time, women in Argentina were also granted the right to vote and the end of the second world war brought new foreign interest in Argentina’s exports leading to a temporarily flourishing economy.
My question for the class this week is that in my understanding, populism is very often viewed negatively and leaders who are retrospectively labeled “populists” were ones who often did no follow through on their promises and actually ended up being worse for the lower-class. However, with this week looking at the Perons it seems as though they certainly empowered the lower-class politically and economically. In one instance they empowered them to the point where they were forced to do their bidding to avoid a strike and Evita had to run as the vice president. I wonder if there if this is actually the case and the Perons and other populist leaders from Latin America were actually good for the lower class?