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.

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