Monthly Archives: October 2017

Week 9: Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire

This week we begin to see the continuation of external power in Latin America and the growing American (US) dominance in the region. This week is particularly important because we notice a shift in power and have to take consideration of another external power in the politics, economy, and social aspects of Latin America.

Being Latin American, the United States is always thought of as being this external threat, and militaristic power. Especially considering cases such as Guatemala, Chile, and Cuba (to name a few). But even today, we see how the United States, to some extent, still has the upper hand in Latin American politics. Either through trying to fight corruption or through commerce and trading policies. Yet, in this Trump era it is interesting to see how these relationships will build.

What I found interesting n Dawson’s argument is that although the United States has always been seen as this militaristic power in Latin America, there are other important aspects, such as the culture and how both Latin America consumed the United States and the United States consumed Latin America. Although I would argue that the United States was not only a consumer but also played a very important role in extracting much of Latin American resources., while Latin America act only as a consumer and producer of the United States’ raw materials.

Yet, it is also important to recognize the United States’ effort in providing aid to the region and helping with developing the states. Although some interventions might have delayed the process of democracy in some countries (and this is not to say that all countries have reached democracy), Latin America (some countries in particular) still looks up to the United States rather than looking at other regions in the world.

Questions: How should we consider the Trump era and the effect it can have in Latin America? To what extent has the United States’ interfered in the sovereignty of other states, and to what extent should this be allowed by the international community?

Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

This week took into consideration the different results that modernization and the export boom brought about. It was interesting to think about the different reasons behind a revolutionary movement and who decides to call a movement “successful”. More importantly, and Dawson makes the point, the revolutions, or social/economic/political movements in Latin America did not distribute the gains equally across the population. It was because there were losers that the winners got to win. This helps explain many of the reasons behind how Latin America has had trouble developing, simply because there have been great disparities.

Again, it seems that Latin America is shaped and is a result of the reproduction of certain practices and institutional conditions. The revolution seems to benefit only certain groups, as did Independence and this was certainly the case for many other countries in Latin America.

In regards to this week, several questions come up: first, is, and should, violent revolutions be the solution towards disposing authoritarian regimes? Secondly, how effective are revolutions that do not take into account sectors of the population and are simply a replication of elite politics? Lastly, who gets to define what a revolution is and what characteristics a revolution should have?

Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

Dawson discusses modernity and how it was an export driven process by which some of the population gained more than other sectors, further creating disparities among the population of Latin America.

An interesting comparison I drew from this week to a previous week was the introduction of photography in Latin America and how it was used as a way of ‘documenting the population’. This reminded me of the Casta paintings in a way. Especially because the photographs introduced the audiences to different sectors of the population. Dawson draws on Deborah Poole’s argument, the photos served to describe and inscribe racial identity to they subjects. This could be compared to the Casta Paintings in that they were also trying to frame a particular racial identity in relation to the different mixes of race that existed in Latin America. Both serve as a glimpse into the society they were trying to frame.

One thing I found interesting is this idea of one (or two) commodity economies. These structures have had their impacts well into the 21st Century as Latin American countries are still trying to expand their economies into other less agricultural sectors. The fact that the Latin American economies were one commodity economies is one of the main reasons as to why Latin America became highly dependent on the World Market, especially on the demand for their particular commodity. Also, these types of structured economies lead to many Latin American countries opting for import-substitution industrialization as a way of steering their economies away from this type of import dependency.

Question: To what extent could the modernity project be considered an authoritarian project to maintain people in power? To what extent could the modernization project be justified by the use of violence?

Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

This week’s readings were interesting, especially because when thinking about and studying rights and citizenship in Latin America, the black population is most likely to be left out. It was also interesting because when thinking about emancipation in Latin America the case study is usually Haiti, and in this week’s readings we could see that the emancipation process was something that happened elsewhere and at different times such as in Cuba and in Brazil.

I found Dawson’s chapter a bit dry as I was expecting to know more about indigenous populations, because at the end of the day these are the majority in some Latin American countries.Especially how indigenous rights have played a part in each country’s constitution. Yet Dawson’s chapter was largely focused towards slavery and the emancipation process, which helps explain some countries in Latin America, but not make generalizations across the region. I think the comparisons Dawson draws to the United States are helpful but do not help in constructing an idea of Latin America as it seems that what the author is trying to do is draw comparisons between the United States and Latin America, when in reality things played out differently. Although I do consider the African and slave population to have played an important part in the construction of Latin America, I would argue that the study of indigenous populations and their struggle for rights should be considered, especially given the case that some countries still have large indigenous populations.

Question: why was there such a difference between the United States and the rest of America when considering black populations?

Week 5: Caudillos vs. the Nation State

I found several interesting things in the video this week.

One in particular is I always thought that ‘liberalism’ and the fight between liberals and conservatives during independence and the years after was mostly economic liberalism. By which all liberals were trying to free the market in order for the criollos to make profits rather than sending them to the crown. ON the other hand, it is interesting that Latin America has never been considered ‘liberal’. It is hard to imagine Latin America without having to think of a machista, very conservative and close society. It is slowly opening, but change in Latin America is very difficult because of these conservative ideas.

It is also interesting to think that many of the practices, such as caudillismo or clientelism have transcended over time. Although it is not done at the same level there are still political strategies in Latin America that are based on these ideas. It is also interesting in comparing clientelism to popularism. Although they are at different scales, corruption is present in both and they are aspects that are still present in plenty of Latin American countries. There it is important to have connections in order to ‘get ahead’ which leads to corruption and other forms of enrichment.

In answering the video’s questions, in my opinion, clientelism was able to flourish in Latin America because the institutions and the organization for this to happen were present. First, there were plenty of indigenous populations that had been subjugated to a similar system under the crown, but this time they were beginning to get paid for their work. Also, it was important for the indigenous and poor people to have things in the present, it became impossible to think about the future especially if they needed to think about the present and how to make it to the next day.


Question: how much of caudillaje/clientelism is still present in Latin America?