Week Four


One of the more interesting quotes that I came across during the video about Hugo Chávez was actually about Bolívar. It was that for him the “process of independence was never a social revolution”. I think that this is well supported by our reading and the lecture because in each source, he always discusses his dislike of the political system. Yes, he does hate the social hierarchy created by the Spanish as it paints creoles as lesser, but in his letter he mentions the governing strategies of other nations/empires/places. There is oppression in these strategies, but he doesn’t care because the people are able to rule themselves, in that “viziers of the Grand Turks are Turks”. That is what he wishes for Latin America, for them to be ruled by themselves. However, Bolívar’s view of “themselves” excludes a large quantity of people, particularly the Indigenous peoples and slaves. He promises freedom to those who fight with him, but at the end of the day creoles are the ones allowed to be in charge.

Something that I had never put much thought into in regards to the Revolution(s) was that the Indigenous peoples may not want to join with Bolívar and those fighting for independence. I have only learned about this time period in a quick, vague sense, so it failed to cross my mind that some (besides the Spanish) would prefer Spanish rule. The point of view of some of the Indigenous people makes complete sense though because as stated in the textbook they were given “self rule, land, water, timber, and the practice of customary law”, although it is hard to say whether or not these rights were respected. If a new government were to be formed with only creoles in power (who already dominated at least some part of society and the economy), they could take away their rights.

The Hugo Chávez video also mentions how the creole elite treated the Indigenous peoples worse than the Spaniards, so I guess my questions are if that is partly because since they were not at the top of the social hierarchy, but still above many others, they made sure to assert their dominance over those below them to feel more powerful? Or was it more that keeping the other memebers of society oppressed was simply good for them economically, as many were slave owners and the Indigenous peoples were used for labour as well?

Although José Martí disliked the creole leadership as showcased in “Our America”, he has one idea in common with Bolívar, that “the government must be born from the country”. Martí however, believes that the people who are in politics should have studied and have a firm understanding of the place and people that they are governing, including the histories that date back before colonization. This differs from what I understood from Bolívar’s opinions because while he also wanted Latin America to rule itself, he thought only of the creoles as the ruling class and makes no mention (at least to my knowledge) of trying to learn or associating any sort of importance with the records of the people and land.

Week Three

Towards the end of the Casta paintings article the author states that there are many questions still regarding “the circulation, patronage, and reception” of the paintings. While I agree that there is much still to be determined and confirmed, I think that some inferences can be made. The article already gives examples for the reception. Andres Arce y Miranda disliked the Casta paintings because of the portrayal of creoles– Mexican born Spaniards- as inferior. However, the Spaniards in Spain enjoyed the paintings. So, already we have a small insight into what some groups thought of the paintings. Unfortunately, not shared in the article (or even known?) is the reception the paintings had amongst the indigenous, “mestizo… mulattos…zumbos”, and black communities since their portrayals were quite offensive. I suppose this missing piece brings into play what we talked about before, in that only those with power are the ones whose point of view is shared.

The patronage of the paintings can also be somewhat inferred. The article mentions how anxious the Spaniards were with keeping “socio-racial hierarchy in colonial society”. The images in Casta paintings and the fact that they exist reflect their worries. Therefore, we cannot pinpoint exactly who commissioned the paintings and supported the artists who made them, but I suppose wealthy Spaniards wanted themselves to be shown as superior and were afraid that they were losing their power. Today in my geography lecture we briefly discussed a couple of ideas from Foucault, one essentially saying that those who have power are the ones that get to control knowledge/what people learn. The Spaniards are using their power/wealth to enforce a certain view of how they think the society should work. The paintings are also written about as if they were everywhere, so could they be seen as some type of propaganda? I suppose some questions I would want to discuss in class then would be: Can Casta paintings be defined as propoganda? What type of affect did they have on people’s mindset, if any? Did they help re-solidify the racial hierarchy? Did people use the paintings as examples of what they should strive to be like (within their class), or were they more of a threat/reminder as to where people ‘belonged’?

As well, to connect the article with the video lecture, the question of identity arises. It brings up the issue of the people of Latin America attempting to figure out how to label themselves/what to identify as. Although it is highly unlikely that the Casta paintings themselves contribute to this “anxiety about identity”, the class inequality that they represented and perpetuated surely do.

Week Two

The journal of Columbus reminded me of a reading I had to do in a History course last year that was about Marco Polo’s travels. Both explorers were very rich in description about the places they traveled to and how wonderful and beautiful the places were. Their observations seem a bit over the top at some points and what I found odd was how Columbus also gives a statement of what the indigenous people were saying when they met, but there is no way they would have been able to understand exactly what was said. Of course there are other ways to understand people besides speaking in the same language, but many things get lost without that direct connection. It seems like a small detail, but a similar problem arose with our study in my history class of the Marco Polo text in terms of what is exaggerated or not completely true in the account. What I found most alarming in Columbus’ journal is how he views the land he is travelling through and the people he interacts with. He catalogues everything with the mindset of how much of an asset it can be to the Spanish monarchy. He notes that the people are “willing” and already begins to create plans for the land. I understand that I am looking at this situation with a “21st century mindset” which is very different than the 15th century European one. However, it was saddening to see in the journal, at least from what I read, that there were no thoughts in trying to set up some sort of trade system or relationship with the indigenous peoples, it was all about colonization. Of course most of this information is not particularly new, as I learned it in high school and somewhat first year, but I have never read as detailed an account on his “discovery”. It is one thing to learn about what happened in a general sense and another to see into the eyes of the main historical character. As well, having solely one point of view provides a very biased one. At the time of Columbus, at first, the only word the people from Europe and Spain had were his and his crew, which I think could have created certain expectations of the area.  The presence and abundance of gold being a huge one. This obsession with gold- and power- I found was highlighted better in the Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala reading. Don Pizarro and Don de Almagro and their men seemed to me to be described as only seeking riches with no care for anyone or anything else they encountered. I suppose a question that could be asked then, is that did Columbus’ extravagant description (and Candia’s in the other reading) of the America’s contribute to the expectation of receiving riches and consequently, brutal behaviour by the conquistadors? Or could it also be because of the way Columbus talked about everything there as if Spain was entitled to it? Or did he speak that way more due to the opinions of the monarchy and societal norms at the time (as in other countries were colonizing, so it was fine/they should too)?

Week One

Hello! My name is Elena and I’m from Richmond (which is just outside of Vancouver). I’m a second year student and am hoping to get into the International Relations program next year. I wanted to take this course because I am half Spanish and have always been personally interested in Latin America because of the shared language and some similarities in culture, unfortunately due to colonization. However, I really want to learn more about the incredible diversity (because as we discussed in class it goes beyond Spanish similarities) and histories that Latin America has.

The first video I watched was “The Meeting of Two Worlds II”. One point that interested me that the group made was about how some believe that it would have been better if Christopher Colombus never came to America. This raised some questions for me because if Christopher Colombus had never come to America, would there not have been someone else who eventually would? If yes, then what would be different because I think that could depend on the time period and what country came. Would the relationships be better with the indigenous peoples in that, they would have been better respected? Would there always be the problem of disease that the Europeans were carrying or would the affects be not as devastating? How would the culture of Latin America develop differently? Of course the way Colombus “discovered” America and the way that those who came after him behaved were terrible, but would the Americas have more or less the same fate no matter who came? The rest of the video was fairly straightforward although the writing was a little difficult to read. It outlined the beginning of colonization in the Americas and it mentioned how after Spain other countries like Portugal and Britain made their way across the Atlantic. The video did state that there were different reasons for Europeans to come varying from wanting riches to wanting to spread Christianity.

I also watched “Towards an Uncertain Future” which deals more with issues in Latin America in the mid 20th century. I remember learning about topics similar to these in a few courses last year, particularly the struggles that happened during the “Lost Decades” in the 80’s.  The video brought up how little people during that time were able to trust their government and more importantly the type of governments that had formed. The students say that most people were left with 3 choices: “to exit”, “to voice their opinion”, or “to declare loyalty”. As the video addresses though, stating an opinion was sometimes not even an option if it contradicted the government because it led to death or punishment. In a way I found this video more interesting than the other because it dealt with more recent topics. In high school I did not learn much about Latin America besides Fidel Castro and the time before independence, only in university did some of my courses address the more recent events. I find this pretty unfortunate because as the video shows within the last fifty years there were/are so many complications and disputes in Latin America, some involving North American companies (Texaco) that have shaped the area.

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