Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

This week’s topic asked the question: given that modernity and the export boom were coming (in all its superficial, gilded glory), what would be the cost for Latin American countries?

One element seems to have been almost a positive feedback loop – new technologies introduced by modernity (railroads, telegraphs) lead to more upheaval in Latin America’s social contracts, and any rebellion over these is in turn repressed more severely due to modern technologies (railroads, guns). For example, technology such as the telegraph and machine gun influenced aggregation of power and globalization. It seems to be the case that opposition to nation-wide transformations would have to take on a new form to match the heightened risks.

Part of this new form can be seen through works such as “to Roosevelt”. There is a lot to be analyzed here. He, like Marti, warned Latin America over the threat of North American supremacy. To appeal to the US, he wrote in a novel way, indicating a new form of protest in my opinion.

I was interested by Dario’s use of inversions. He calls the United States “primitive and modern, simple and complex” (153). Whereas these juxtaposing labels such as “primitive” would otherwise be used by the United States against Latin America – in Dario’s use, I think he is arguing that neither the US nor Latin America can be so simply classified. I would really like to further break down the literary elements of this poem, but the point is this; outlets such as Dario, arguably stretching back in legacy even to the writings of Guaman Poma, were only one way to resist the impending changes coming to Latin America.

The other form of protest against the effects of modernity are all the civil wars (ex. War of Canudos). In last week’s discussion, I didn’t speak up but I was also thinking that the text was more so indicating that the indigenous were being integrated into society, and I recognized that the jobs listed at the end of the passage were very much the result of modernity. The sentence before the passage gave it away: “And you believe that the vast Indian population of Mexico is capable of high development?”

“I do.” (135)

Yet in this week’s reading, I was taken aback by the reversal of this optimism; as Dawson describes it, the many groups that arose during Latin America’s internal conflicts were seen by some as a memento to undesirable groups (such as the indigenous) which were hoped to have gone away against the tide of “progress”.

My question is: Do you think the “Aesthetic Era” José envisioned can actually be realized? I personally wouldn’t mind for “love, fantasy, and creativity” to have a say amidst all the rationalism (:

On another note, it’s interesting to see a concept of racial advancement that is more about hybridity than a narrow purity.


1 thought on “Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

  1. Jon

    I very much like your point about the “positive feedback loop.” And yes, we will be looking in a subsequent week about the ways in which movements for resistance or change also took up new technologies even when they were ostensibly struggling against new developments and in favor of what we might call “tradition.” These paradoxes are very much in play.


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