Week Nine Readings

This week’s readings outline the strategic penetration of the United States into Latin America through the market. Alexander Dawson’s chapter on “Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire” begins by describing the connotations and ideologies tied in with the term “empire”. Empires, in the mind of Americans, were created by Europeans, and not by Americans. Americans were at the core of anti-imperialism, and what appeared to be imperialism or domination, was actually God’s calling for Americans to re-appropriate their America. Americans saw their expansion as a Godly responsibility, a duty, rather than a form of suppression. Whatever they’re excuse, Americans were, and are, imperialists. And they managed to succeed through strategically and subtly manipulating the market in Latin America.
The American empire, described by Dawson, is an almost identical reflection of the European empire. Any attempt by Americans to deny their state as an empire, is pure hypocrisy. America’s domination had very similar outcomes to Europeans’ colonization. For instance, similarly to Europeans, America’s intrusion in Latin America introduced death and disease during the construction of the Panama Canal. Involuntarily or not, how is this any different to the diseases, such as smallpox, that Europeans brought to the New World that killed vast amounts of Indigenous populations? If anything, the American empire was more deadly than the European Empire. The fact that the market was the main tool for domination, introduced many more factors than purely physical colonization – like that of the Europeans. What I mean by this is that I think the American market, not only entered Latin America physically, but also psychologically. It used local people’s image to stereotype and attract American demand for Latin American commodities, and it manipulated local people’s tastes to also create demand within Latin America. Particularly through advertisement, the American market empire basically brainwashed both societies into idolizing certain commodities.
This American empire expansion is scary and disturbing to read about. I feel like the market was used so strategically that it was able to favor American interests to any extent. This empire was, and is not, only concerned with expanding its market, but also in expanding its ideologies. This is seen, for example, through the CIA and UFCO cooperated to overthrow Arbenz. Arbenz recognized and acted on the American Emprire’s manipulation and oppression in order to restore his country’s autonomy. However, this did not play out with the American empire and therefore they would do anything to take this interference out of the picture. They began representing him through pictures of the Soviet Union to appeal to the American public, and used CIA plans to invade land in Honduras. Again, this shows how this empire used the market to physically and psychologically manipulate its own empire and its expanding empire. It’s a scary thought to think how the market posed a greater threat than the military.

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