Monthly Archives: September 2017

Week 4: Independence Narratives, Past and Present

José Martí’s Nuestra América was and still is very influential in shaping thought through Latin America. There are several points and arguments that can and should be transferred to the present and sadly are not. One argument that he makes and maintains through the entire essay is the idea that in order for people to be able to rule America, they must first get to know the place. By his he means getting to know the history, the culture, and every aspect necessary to rule over the land. Although it can be ruled with ideas that are European or North American, they must adapt to the way in which America is different and it has a character of its own.

The essay is full of metaphors, that although very poetic and picturesque make his argument confusing at times. Yet, it helps explain the complexity of America and how it can not be simply described in a few manners. Yet, I did not find the metaphors to shadow the argument, they simply put into words the complexity of America and the difficulties of ruling over a vast and diverse territory that America is.

In my opinion, plenty of this is what is missing in Latin America, politicians and leaders lack understanding of the region as having a complex multi-perspective history. This goes in contradiction to what Bolívar believed in. There has been few inclusion of some sectors of the population that are important in the history of the region. Like Professor Max Cameron said, there are countries in the region that have failed to include these sectors of the population and the elites have been responsible for governing ever since independence.

There is also danger in trying to bring back ideas that were present in the 1800s, such as is the case with Chavez and the idea of Bolivar’s Great Union, free of ‘imperialistic’ influence, and the consequences are visible with Venezuela’s current economic and political situation.

Bolivar makes a few good points about the creation of America. To begin with, he recognizes that America and its leaders were not ready to seek independence, especially because they had no practice of building institutions and were dependent on the Spanish Crown. This is one of the key factors needed to understand the current situation in Latin America today. The lack of or failure of these key institutions at the beginning of the political life of these countries had detrimental effects that are still visible today. Yet, Bolívar fails to recognize other sectors of the population that were also affected by this lack of well established institutions, such as indigenous people.

Question: to what extent did the independence movements and the beginnings of each nation state influence the current situation of Latin America?

Week 3: The Colonial Experience

What became of the America’s after colonization was a complex process of cultural diversification. It is interesting to see how after 1942, the continent of America (both North and South) became diversified in terms of the different races and peoples that began to settle in the Americas.

The Casta Paintings are a very clear example of how diverse the population became. The video is very clear about the demographics of the population after several years of conquest and colonization. The Casta Paintings try to exemplify how diverse and mixed the blood had become. There were all types of arrangements, which also meant new types of social classes. The video makes this very clear, as well as the paintings. The differences in class are obvious in the paintings where they depict the different class standings and hierarchical character of the colonial society.

It is interesting to see how even though it is thought of the colonization as being a process that alienated the indigenous populations and treated them as “non-human” the casta paintings bring a certain human character to these indigenous populations by mentioning the results of the different combinations in blood mixtures. It seems that every type of person is taken into consideration to make a clear statement of the demographics of the population. The Casta Paintings serve also as a type of demographic pyramid by which they also try to emphasize the consequences of inter-ethnic breeding. It helps to differentiate different groups and how one had to take into consideration the consequences of breeding and where one would be socially placed if one decided to get with another ethnic group.

It is even more interesting to see the consequences that this inter-ethnic breeding had in the future of Latin America. Especially considering that many of the independence movements were led by sons of Spaniards that were not being treated the same because they had not been born in the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, it is safe to say that the Casta Paintings were more than just an example of the demographics of the time, rather they served as a political tool that helped in making it more understandable who were the ones who had power and who were the ones who didn’t. The Casta Paintings also help in telling a story of slavery and how indigenous women were also used as sexual objects and how most of the time the sons/daughters of colonizers were treated as less simply because their mothers were indigenous.

Question: To what extent did the Casta Paintings influence other social/political/economic aspects of the Americas?

Week 2: The Meeting of Two Worlds

I find the title of the video interesting as this event has always been described as a “discovery” but in the recent years I have changed this to an “exchange”.

It is interesting to consider 1492 the “birth” of Latin America. The region has always been there with well developed cultures, yet it is interesting to consider that Latin America became what it is because of this exchange.

I have never thought of Columbus as a hero or villain. I only know that what came afterwards was one of the most tragic events in relation to the culture of Latin America and the civilizations that existed there. Columbus is considered by many a villain, especially if you take into consideration how wrong his calculations were in regards to having reached India.

After Reading:

While I was reading the journal, there were parts in which it was obvious that the point of Columbus voyage was not necessarily to find India and have trade with them, but it had to do with the three G’s (God, Gold and Glory). From this perspective, it could seem that Columbus and his crew were not in the journey for the exploration part of it, but rather they were in it because of the benefits and promises that the Spanish Crown was going to grant them. It is fairly obvious when the first thing he notices when he lands is the lack of religion in the place and more importantly how they had some gold on them. The exploration was more for the benefits to come if they succeeded at it, and I think that it is very clear after having read Columbus’ journal.

One thing I found very interesting and wonder why that was, was that when they were traveling, Columbus reported less leagues travelled to his crew. I wonder why this was done and what the purpose behind it was.

After reading his journal, it becomes a bit clear that Columbus was not really a hero, he was more into the exploration for the benefits and the gold rather than to establish good connections and learn more about the land. Everyday it seems he becomes more ambitious to continue and explore in search of gold and that seems to be the driving factor behind the voyage.

My question for discussion has to do mostly with the language that Columbus uses to describe his voyage. It seems that he tries to add some magic and mystery. I wonder why he wanted to describe his voyage in such a way. It probably has to do with the fact that he wanted to impress the Spanish Crown in order for them to give him and his crew more riches.

I already knew the story behind the second reading and it was probably one of the most violent events during the Conquest. It is an important event because we can see how the Spanish Crown had the intention of Christianizing and teaching the Catholic religion, but although they said it was not going to be through coercion, in the end it certainly was through violence against those that were against being converted, as is the case with Inca Atagualpa.

Introduction: Week One

Hi everyone!

My name is Katherine Poole. I was born and raised in Guatemala and I am very interested in learning about the different approaches the class will have towards the idea of Latin America. I am an International Relations major with a minor in Political Science. I am very interested in learning about how other students will interpret Latin America and I hope I can bring something to the discussion being from Guatemala.

Reaction to videos:

I watched some of the previous videos on the course website and I found some very useful and helpful for studying important concepts and events. They were very clear with what the video intended to do and then addressed the subject matter in detail.

The videos are helpful in understanding more about the different topics being discussed in class. More importantly, I found them interesting because they display the students’ conceptions of what Latin America is, either through pictures, music or videos. Which adds another layer to the videos because they do not only help explain certain aspects and the history of Latin America but also how these events are being analyzed by the students making the videos.

Independence in Latin America

This video gives a good context of the reasons behind the independence of Latin America. The video skimmed over the libertadores and their ideas behind the independence movements. Although I would have liked the video to be more consistent. If there was going to be a map of the Mexican independence there could have been one explaining the other independence movements. The video was also good in regards to asking the students questions and perspectives on the ideas discussed in the video.

The War on Drugs

I found interesting how they mention in the video that whoever controls the drug trade controls the country. This is very true to some countries in Latin America that have high levels of corruption and are closely related to the drug trade. I appreciated the context given and the history of drug trafficking. I enjoyed the student interview which brings about a different perspective about the topic. It also gives some perspectives on how some countries have dealt with drug users. Yet I think the video lacks information on why the drug trafficking violence has moved towards Mexico. It does mention corruption, but I think drug trafficking and corruption are paramount problems that go hand in hand and are more important than they appear. Especially because Central America has also become part of the drug trafficking campaign.