Week Thirteen

The last topic of this course is about the current and future of Latin America. In comparison with a few hundreds Latin America has come a long way towards modernity. For instance, the situation of human rights, politics, economy and so on. However, despite these improvements there is still a long way for Latin Americans to go to meet the first world’s standards. Furthermore, nowadays, countries across South America have a very different situation compared to each other and it would be wrong to look at them all at once. During this modern era, each country’s political situation greatly differentiate its potential to improve. For instance, we cannot compare Venezuela with Uruguay due to their great difference in political aspects of the countries. Moreover, regarding the economy of the countries, same phenomena would apply. To be more particular, regarding the management of natural resources, a comparison between Chile and Colombia is simply not possible due to the severe difference in countries approach with these matters. As a result, I believe that nowadays it would be more appropriate to study each country independently rather than judging them all as a whole. I think the destiny of people in each country is upon themselves and they are capable of changing their situations for a better. Countries in South America should not rely on super powers anymore as those countries would only consider their own benefits. It would be very interesting how the situation in South America change over the next few decades.

Week Twelve

The most interesting points for me about this week’s material were the dictatorship and the movement called “Mothers of the Disappeared” that was discussed in the video with Rita De Grandis. As we saw in the video, the dictatorship lasted from 1976 to 1983. All dictator governments would like to eliminate anyone who they consider as threat against themselves and this was not an exception. The method that they implemented to eliminate their opponents was disappearing people and leaving no traces. The surprising thing is that anybody with a beard or jeans, who was young could be a target for disappearance, meaning they might be innocent and have not done anything wrong and they have been judged solely on their appearances. In order to fight with this cruelty, a movement got initiated by mothers and grandmothers who based on morality would be the first people who are entitled to search for their children and grandchildren. This movement was called “Mothers of the Disappeared”, essentially they took motherhood and the right to look for their children and imbued it with political content. Furthermore the 1978 world cup that was held in Argentina, had a huge impact on globalization of these issues which significantly assisted this movement.

It was very interesting to me that without denying their gender roles, these women took on political roles and fought for their right and freedom. Majority of all these women were from the middle class and got involved with politics fearlessly which is very impressing. Particularly, in a society that political issues always take precedence, the role that these women played becomes even more highlighted. Even nowadays, still the mothers continue to march and thanks to DNA analysis, up to 112 children of the disappeared have been found but there are many more, up to 500, still be found.







Week Eleven

When we look at the history of South America in the 20th century,  we see that the 1930s and the 1940s was an important period of reforms aimed at inclusion, political incorporation, and state building. However, in the case of Peru, this was not particularly the case. Peru has a history of truncated attempts at reform, from the 1920s to the 1930s. As we move on, during the 1960s we witness a wave of struggles for land among the peasantry. For instance, as Dawson explains in the video, an early guerilla movement causes the military to go into the countryside where many young officers became deeply politicized by the conditions of the countryside such as: poverty, misery, neglect and abandonment. Later on and in 1968, these junior military officers with the leadership of Velasco took over the power in a coup. Following the coup, Velasco undertakes a series of radical reforms. Among those reforms is land reform which is largely unsuccessful in terms of creating a prosperous peasantry.

Normally, one of the reasons to have and reform is to pacify the country which typically happens after a war or a change in power. However in Peru, the land reform eliminated a critical component of rural social structure which is the middle class. To be more particular, the land reform heavily impacted lawyer, teachers, etc. As a result, these groups of people recruited by “The Shining Path” and they were sent to rural areas where indigenous people were under cruelty and injustice by landowners, to make them united to over throw the states.

It is evident by the situation in Peru, that a political movement with the aim of changing the government structure is just the first step of a reform. For instance, following the reform in Peru, when the lands got redistributed, many people were not trained to act as producers which led to a collapse in rural production and more hardships. This example indicates that having a proper plan regarding aftermaths of a political change is probably much more important than just succeeding in a reform.


Short Research Assignment

My group project is surrounding week 9 topic “Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire”. In order to add something new while keeping it related to the course material and specifically our topic, I decided to find sources and write about the history of production of raw material in Latin America. To be more particular, I found sources regarding the history of mining in Latin America from the Colonial era to the present including the role of the United States in this industry in the region during the 20th century.

Natural resources are a huge factor in South American countries’ economy and therefore mining is a significant industry throughout the whole region. However, due to the nature of this industry, it is always a source of conflict between various parties especially in South America. Furthermore, due to the cheap labor costs and less complicated regulations, mining has always been a target for North American companies. “A History of Mining in Latin America” is the result of two decades of research by Kendall Brown of Brigham Young University, who, in eight chapters, compresses approximately 450 years of the history of the exploitation of mineral resources, labor and technology in Latin America. The 7th chapter of this book particularly discusses the political and national events such as Mexican revolution that take place in Latin America which influence mining sector and the role of the U.S. government in these occurrences.

By the 1950s, Mexican trade unionism had gained control over the miners with a low level of conflict, although the rigidity of contracts and wage demands discouraged technological modernization. Meanwhile, in 1952, Bolivian miners led the nationalization of tin mining, and during the 1960s, the unions in Chile demanded increased state control over major U.S. copper companies, which culminated in 1971 with the nationalization of the sector. Brazil took a different path in 1964, when the military dictatorship promoted industrialization and mining, positioning the country as a major iron producer in the 1990s with its vast store of mineral wealth.

In order to better highlight the role of the U.S. government in these events we can look at the Bolivian movement for nationalization of mining. As we read in part of the 7th chapter, “In fact, immersed as it was in the Cold War, the United States was alarmed about leftist influence among the Bolivian revolutionaries and saw the nationalizations as a threat to American economic interests.” This shows the amount of negative impact that the U.S. government had in this region, which explains the reason why the United States has always been unwelcome presence in Latin America.

In conclusion, I believe this would be an interesting way to better understand the United States approach in Latin America since it has been a source of investment, and many of the historic events that shaped the region during the course of the twentieth century.

Week Ten

This week topic is about the term populism and how political figures take advantage of this method to gain popularity among people. Political figures always try to express that they are same as other ordinary people and they are coming from an average social group. This way they are able to gain the trust of majority of average people and become popular (win elections).

This method is widely used by politicians in both present and the past and it has some pros and cons. Regarding its pros, it would most probably unite the people in the society and prepare them for a change. For instance, Mexican president Cárdenas and Argentine President Perón used this method to establish a relationship of trust between the government and the people which gave hope to the entire Latin American community. However, on the other hand, this might be used to promote false claims and mislead a nation for personal gain.

Furthermore as it is mentioned, populists were not just defined by a political style; they came of age in an era of significant social and technological change. These technological innovations transformed what it was to be a politician, and what it was to be a member of the crowd. In the radio age the act of listening to the leader still connected the listener to power, but instead of something that was individually empowering, it made the crowd into a people.

Also, another interesting fact about this week material was the improving role of women in Latin American society during that era. For instance, the role of the president Peron’s wife Eva Duarte. Prior to that time period it was very uncommon for women to hold political roles, however, she managed to overcome this barrier.

It is interesting to see how the situation in South America has changed over the years.

Week Nine

For this week’s material, I would like to express my ideas regarding raw material and particularly mining in South America.

South America is one of the most rich and resourceful regions of the world. Since the invasion of South America by Europeans and particularly Spanish government, they were always eager to find precious metals in this region. Therefore, they would have forced indigenous people to work for them in mines in a very inhumane situation. However, over the years, the working conditions for locals only slightly improved and they would be forced to work in the mines. After hundreds of years, eventually the working conditions improved, however, it was still significantly below the world standard and locals had to work in those unsafe places as they had no other alternatives. Nowadays, South America is still a very attractive investment opportunity for international firms due to rich resources and cheap cost of labors. Also, since the local governments are corrupted, getting licence for operation is significantly easier compared to North America.

It is important to realize that the economic problems of South America do not belong to the past. People of South America can live in a much better situation if their governments take steps toward improving the natural resources sector. This way, thousands of long term and well paid jobs will be created and the GDP of countries would significantly rise. However, the problems are so deeply rooted that would take governments many years to be able to make positive changes.

Week 8

To begin I have to state that I fundamentally disagree with Dawson’s definition and view of revolution. In the video, Dawson states that, “Revolution is a claim of ownership on history” and is “an attempt to shape a view of the past that organizes power in the present.” I believe revolution is exactly the opposite of what he claims and is a movement by citizens to bring a change and improve their situation rather than fighting for something belonging to the past. Therefore, in my opinion, revolutions have a forward vision rather than looking into the past and trying to going back to something that a nation previously held. Furthermore, even though I am also interested in how people tell the story of a revolution, however, I think it is critical to realize the facts about a historic movement rather than just relying on people’s opinions and their versions of the story.

Regarding the components of a revolution Dawson mentions that the Old Guard as people who benefited from the previous government and as a result want to maintain their political and economical privileges and would mostly maintain their power. However, normally all the powerful men from a previous government would get wiped out and would be considered lucky if they get a chance to survive and live freely let alone maintaining their power. Therefore, I have quite different view of a revolution compared to Dawson.

Regarding the readings from this week, the poem “To Roosevelt” , the poet has strong opinions against the Unites States and believes that the U.S government is a source of chaos and war in the world and particularly in Latin America. I also think that U.S government played a destructive role  in the history of Latin America and took advantage of their resources which will be further discussed during the next week.


Week Seven

This week study discusses the term modernity and explains the progression of Latin America in order to become a modern society.

As discussed in the video, modernity has 4 key components:

  1. Innovation
  2. Liberation
  3. Secularism
  4. Universalism

In my opinion innovation is the first step towards modernity. Particularly, innovation in industry is an important factor in the advancement of a society. By introducing new and more efficient ways to do things we can expect to be in a better position. Furthermore, we can consider innovation in forms of arts since it could impact the way people think and better prepare them for a change and guide them towards modernity.

An important sign of modern societies advancement in the way that people in that society think. In the other words, growth in people’s way of thinking equals the growth in their society. We can witness a perfect example of this argument in Latin America where people started fighting for their independence against Europeans and freedom against slavery. As people of South America gained the intellectual freedom, their societies also became more modern. For instance, women or people from African descendants would not get treated as commodities and this is a sign towards modernity.

I believe secularism goes hand in hand with freedom. We are can call a society modern only if its people have intellectual freedom. In a modern society, people should be entitled to have their own way of thinking and therefore they should be able to choose weather they want to have a religion or not. Furthermore, politics should be divided from religion and I believe this is a fundamental step in modernity. I think religion is simply against modernity and involving it with politics would act like a venom for that society.

Regarding universalism, we can argue that in a modern society, people tend to be eager to advance themselves and one way to achieve this, is by learning from others. Therefore, we can claim that a sign of modernity is sharing ideas and achievements. Also, if we look at the whole world as one huge society, countries should learn from each others advancements.

Another interesting point in this week’s material for me was the point that in Latin America, modernity involved everything such as economy, freedom and rights, innovation and etc. but it lacked the political advancement which is a huge aspect of modernity. Even though people were free, however, they still were not treated equally and some people believed that they are more capable than others and therefore they should be the ones making rules which is exactly oppose to the idea of democracy. As a result, Latin Americans had a long way to overcome this idea and move away from dictatorship and towards democracy which is a necessity of modern societies.

Week Six

The concept of Citizenship and Rights and the path people of South America took to achieve their rights is an important one and helps us to understand their current situation better. During the lecture presentation video, we we asked to consider 3 main questions:

  1. How does a history of slavery shape the Americas today?
  2. Are there other examples of unresolved conflicts or tensions?
  3. How might we do justice to such histories?

In order to answer these questions, first we need to think about the struggles that “lower class” people and slaves went through. People who could not even have their own religion and were treated like goods or equipment. When we think about this, and the fact that these actions were still valid until late 1800’s, we realize the significant journey that these people went through. When we realize the history of the people in South America it brings a sense of sympathy to us and assists us better understand their way of thinking.

The interesting fact that I realized during this week’s materials, is that South America is also a victim of slavery as much as United States. However, slavery in these region was quite different. To be more particular, I think since there were more groups from various ethnicities and backgrounds in South America compared to the United States therefore, their fight for freedom could be more challenging since different people from different backgrounds are more likely to have contradictory ideologies. However, in both cases, the “upper class” would treat the “lower class” rigidly and cruelly. Eventually these acts led to fights for freedom across the region and they became successful.


Week Five

All regions of the world have experienced dictatorship at some point through out their history and Latin America is no exception from this. However, the fact that differentiates Latin American version of dictatorship is that people weren’t too unhappy with their leader and In my opinion this a huge point. It would be interesting to realize what these dictators have done differently that gained them popularity. After watching the videos I realized that leaders’ popularity comes down to the way people feel about them. For instance, since one of these dictators knew the language and customs of the lower class people, they would support him. This is a significant point since it highlights the importance of propaganda and relation with people as a major aspect of politics. It was also quite interesting to realize that various political party’s would suggest things like security to people in order to gain their support.

The evolution of the Caudillos during post-independence era was a result of multiple factors. To be more particular, people who had military power, were charismatic, political and knew struggles of lower class society; would have a great chance to become a leader and eventually a dictator. When we observe the growth’s process of these dictators, we can see they all have many things in common and interestingly many of them have felt the struggle of ordinary people and yet when they become powerful they become dictators. However, it is also important to observe the role of previous governments and in the case of Latin America the role of Spain during pre-independence era. For instance, we can mention that if Spanish invaders did not classify people based on their skin color, then people would not feel as bad towards their social class and begin supporting Caudillos.

I think it is important to look for the roots of a problem and I believe the roots of Caudillos goes back to pre-independence era. Now the question is how can we prevent such incidents from happening in the future or is it even possible to do so?