Week Seven Readings

This week’s readings focus on the rise of modernity in Latin America in the late 19th century. I find that this time of rapid change throughout Latin American countries is controversial and difficult to grasp. North America was looking for cheap resources, and Latin America (better yet, Latin American elites) was seeking more economic growth. This motivated the export boom in Latin American countries. The export boom was classist, sexist, and racist; therefore, whether it was beneficial or detrimental largely depended on where you stood in society. Elites believed Latin America needed to become modern. I think this mentality arose as they were becoming exposed to the “progress addiction” that North America had (and has). However, this meant that non-elites, the poor, the peasant, the rural were forced into the capitalist system. They were forced off their land as their resources became commoditized and privatized, and they were forced to sell their labor as the market economy expanded. In this chapter they state that the urbanization throughout this period was not all bad given that industry workers living in the city now had a place where they could fight for their rights (such as, wage and living rights). However, I do not really see how this is an argument. Industry workers may have now had a space to have their voices heard, but this space would not have been needed if they had not been displaced from their land in the first place. That being said, modernity in Latin America did benefit some other marginalized individuals and groups. For instance, women were able to fight for women’s rights. Modernity enhanced population density and influence in cities, which gave women the power for change in an influential space; and modernity exposed Western feminist mentalities to Latin American women.
This period affected each individual differently, and also provided a place for each individual to portray him/herself differently. I found this particularly interesting to study in the reading’s section on photography. Photographs are literally posed individuals in made-up settings. They allow individuals to picture themselves however they want, wherever they want. Introducing photography helped embed the stereotypes of people and spaces of Latin America to the world – many of them being very negative. For example, photographs portrayed the idea that light-skin, European-like dress, and clean settings was equivalent to wealth. Hence, many Indigenous and African upwardly mobilizing individuals dressed and appeared European-like in photographs. This is a disturbing in that it is self-discriminating and self-destructive, but also represents the confusion and inequality that modernity brought to Latin America.

3 thoughts on “Week Seven Readings

  1. It was interesting to know how photography affected societies in Latin America. As you said indigenous people tried to improve their social status by wearing European clothing. I found out from the book that Benito Juarez, later become the president of Mexico, also did that to erase his indigenous past.

  2. I agree that this time period was beneficial to women. It put them in a position where they were able to fight for their rights.

  3. I also read about photography in the text and find its uses very interesting in early twentieth century Latin America. People had, and still have, the ability to “erase” and avoid what they didn’t want seen or to be known. This was the case with Mexico’s president, Benito Juarez. In a photograph taken of himself, he “erased” his indigenous past through dress, manner, and profession as president.
    Nice job and see you tomorrow!

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