Short Research Assignment: Source 1

With the letters written from Che Guevara to Carlos Quijano, we see Guevara’s ideas of revolution in the lens of socialism and capitalism and the balance that plays between these two during the Cuban Revolution. In the eyes of Guevara, socialism is the ideal regime due to the liberty of self expression that it offers to the people. Guevara starts his letters by introducing Fidel Castro as the early leader of the Revolution. He continues by explaining the structured relationship with the masses, a “personage that systemically repeats itself” (Guevara 260) throughout the Cuban Revolution. Guevara uses metaphorical language to describe Castro’s captivating presence to the masses as a “dialogue of growing intensity which reaches its culminating point in an abrupt ending crowned by our victorious battle cry,” (Guevara 261). 

As Guevara continues in his letters, he speaks of the society being self-educated and the process that the individual must go through in order to build up to a socialist regime. While it is a long road to becoming the “new man”, as the “change in consciousness does not come about automatically,” (Guevara 266). An interesting addition to Guevara’s letters is the discussion of Art as playing a significant role in the socialist regime, as socialist realism was “born on the foundation of the art of the last century,” (Dawson 268). He speaks about 19th century art, although he believes that this time period in class art had more of a capitalist undertone than anything else.

To conclude his letters, Guevara provides a few statements to give to his readers, one of the most important being: “We socialists are more free because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are more free,” (Dawson 271). The path to revolution is one that is long and foreign, in a sense. As the last sentence of his letters, Guevara writes “PATRIA O MUERTE” meaning ‘Fatherland or Death’, finishing his letter as a

Che Guevara’s letters are a useful tool for our project, as it provides an overlook and first hand perspective on Guevara’s political beliefs. A key concept in his letters is the process of becoming what he calls the “new man”. His letters are almost a how-to guide to the revolution, including essential concepts in transforming the individual’s habits into the “new man”. His letters are also an explanation behind the beginning of a revolution in Cuba, starting with Fidel Castro’s rise to power. What is interesting to note, is that Guevara successfully focuses on Castro’s positive traits, for instance, maintaining a good relationship with his supporters. What Guevara fails to mention is the correlation between Fidel Castro’s rise to power and the millions of women who lost their jobs and were dominated by the patriarchy and masculine figures.

Week Nine: Power to the People

This week’s readings focused on early twentieth century Latin American politics, mainly in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. All three countries have had populists in power, a particular group of nationalist politicians who catered to the working class. In a time when technology was becoming a popular way to approach a large crowd, the populist politicians of these three countries used forms of broadcasting to spread their ideologies. It is interesting to read about the three different politicians, and how the use of technology and how it either helped or harmed their time in power.

For twentieth century Mexico, the Mexican population had Lazaro Cardenas.  A populist who gave to “the peasant, the Indian, the worker and the middle class professional”. While Cardenas favoured the lower class, he could not communicate his ideas to every single rural town in Mexico. As a solution, Cardenas attempted to broadcast his messages through radio stations that were controlled by the state, but many people preferred listening to more popular stations instead. Cardenas then posed an obligatory radio station that everyone must listen to every Sunday night at eight PM. This way, Cardenas announced many of his most important actions to a larger, more widespread crowd. For example, his announcement on expropriating many company’s holdings on the Mexican oil industry sparked thousands of demonstrations and actions of support.

On the other hand, in the case of Brazil’s Getulio Vargas, the use of technology and broadcasting did not receive the same support. Like Cardenas, Vargas also placed an obligatory broadcasting of his station Hora do Brazil. While this is a strategical way to have a bigger audience and support system, Hora do Brazil related more to the elite less than popular tastes. Vargas noticed that popular music had more of an effect on the normal middle class, so he tried to appropriate samba music for purposes of nationalism. This idea was also rejected by the common Brazilians. Later on, due to the widespread belief that Vargas attempted to murder his on air enemy Carlos Lacerda, Vargas would broadcast his suicide note. In theory, the idea of incorporating popular technology to spread political messages seems to be a smart concept. But in practice, one must have the charisma that a politician needs in the digital age to get their message across to a crowd.

Week Eight: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

During last week’s discussion, we learned about the beginning concept of modernity in Mexico, and briefly touched on the event of the Mexican Revolution. This week’s discussion, being a continuation of last week’s topic of modernity, introduced many more narratives of the Mexican Revolution besides Creelman’s. This week, we were able to explore the ideas of different social classes and different perspectives.

I appreciated that in this week’s lecture video, the Mexican Revolution is broken down into three key components — The Old Guard, Villa and the serrano revolutionaries, and Zapata and the agrarian revolutionaries. Starting with the Old Guard, who is a component to any revolution narrative, is the person who “benefits” politically and economically before a revolution, and who would like to maintain their privilege. Villa, who represents the face of  the “Cowboy Revolution”. The serrano revolutionaries that followed Villa were the most affected or transformed by modernity. The third key component of the Mexican Revolution is Zapata. Zapata represents the “peasant narrative” of the revolution. The agrarian revolutionaries were the ones that supported Zapata. A grand majority of these revolutionaries were either indigenous or mestizo that lived in the central parts of Mexico. The agrarian revolutionaries experienced many occurrences of their land being stolen. It took many attempts to restitution their land and have the right of local governance.

Next, I would like to analyze Ruben Dario’s “To Roosevelt”. Dario uses metaphors and descriptive language to address Roosevelt. Many of his lines have religious undertones, for instance, “You are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar, / breaking horses and murdering tigers”. Dario also uses satire to almost poke fun at Roosevelt and America’s naivety, “you are one part George Washington and one part Nimrod”. I found “To Roosevelt” quite similar to Martí’s “Our America”, as Dario even mentions Martí’s piece in his own work. Moreover, they are both expressing their pride for what Dario calls, “Spanish America”. Ruben Dario writes of the impact America has on Latin America, how strong of an influence the country can be over an entire continent. I especially like the lines: The United States is grand and powerful. / Whenever it trembles, a profound shudder / runs down the enormous backbone of the Andes”.

Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

This week’s topic focused on rights and emancipation, particularly in the aspects of race and gender. It is quite jarring to think about the reality of race and the effects it had — and frankly still has — on both North and South America. For instance, the very fact that the last abolition date of slavery was 1888 in Brazil is shocking enough. And learning about the diminishing Indigenous population, as well as the millions of African slaves who died in the first three years of their enslavement is just the beginning of the irreversible trauma that the Americas once faced. It is also important to understand a very good point that although liberals “lead” the movement of emancipation, it was really the slaves who pushed their way out of the brutal institution and into freedom.

We are very fortunate to be in a country where all have access to equal rights, to receive an education, vote, and voice our opinions an concerns regardless of our race, gender, sexuality, etc. Most of us being settlers of the land that we reside on, it is important to know the privilege that we have to be able to study, work, and live on the land that we are currently on.

Continuing now with the subject of gender rights, I found María Eugenia Echenique’s “Brushstrokes” more compelling than Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta. I really liked Echenique’s idea of regeneration, that “the women today are not the women of the past,”. With the use of writing and philosophy, Echenique hopes to clear the path for Latin American women to unveil their aspirations of arts and sciences. Her writing allows women to explore the idea of prioritizing their own needs above others. On the other hand, Pelliza de Sagasta in her piece “Women: Dedicated to María Eugenia Echenique” writes in a poetic manner about how emancipation would not be natural for a woman. She disregards Echenique’s points and instead talks about how women should be “everything but emancipated,”. It is certainly interesting to read two pieces written in the same year, by two women with opposing ideologies.

Week Five: Caudillos versus the Nation State

Post independent Latin America was not in an ideal political climate. Latin America in general during the nineteenth century was not considered “ideal” in any sense — it was described as a “violent place where every man was against every man,”. A place where there were wars against one another, as well as other nations and countries, there was no one to mediate in times of conflict. Had there been a presence of liberalism upon Latin America, perhaps much of the violence that took place in the nineteenth century could have been spared. Perhaps there would not have been so much separation between “Blancos” and “Colorados”, or Conservatives versus Liberals.

I believe the reason why caudillos was so successful in post independent Latin America was because so many people were eager to have a sense of community and protection with one another. Even if it meant that one must be a “client” to a powerful patron, at least there were given the promise of protection. If one was considered to be poor/powerless, being in close connection to a person of power meant that you were ensured of security and freedom. This is why many people who lacked power of any sort resorted to caudillos.

Echeverría’s “The Slaughterhouse” is a powerful short story that completely criticizes the concept of caudillos by using gory and violent imagery. It was an interesting story to read! The way Echeverría portrays the elite as being barbaric and almost animalistic under the control of Rosas shows the reality of Argentina controlled by dictatorship, and how this affected the rural people. I think it is also important to note that the contrast between the Unitarian and the irrationally behaved Federalists accurately shows the lack of civility in an environment of caudillos. For instance, when the young boy in the village gets decapitated by the bull, the federalists’ reactions, or lack thereof, is shocking to read. They are more worried of the bull than they are of the death of a young boy.

It seems to me as though the Federalists in “The Slaughterhouse” are written to be 100% evil and supportive of Rosas. By contrast, the Unitarian is written to be completely innocent and that they do no harm. My question is, is that a realistic portrayal of the two opposing sides? One side is all evil, one side is all good — is there no grey area?

Week Four: Independence Narratives, Past and Present

It was interesting to compare and contrast the three narratives of independence this week. Between Bolívar’s “Letter from Jamaica”, Martí’s “Our America” and Chávez’s speech at the G-15 Summit, all narratives expressed the importance of acknowledging Latin America’s independence.

I found myself particularly interested in Martí’s essay. José Martí, being a poet and journalist — among many other things — wrote one of the most influential pieces of Latin America’s identity in 1891. I found the language style that Martí uses in his essay the most captivating. The way he uses metaphors and vivid imagery to try and unite Latin America. One quote from the piece that resonated with me was: “The wine is made from plantain, but even if it turns sour, it is our own wine!”. To me, this metaphorical sentence wraps up the importance of feeling pride of the Latin American culture. That embracing one’s culture and setting oneself apart from the rest is important — even if it “turns sour”. Martí also concludes his essay by stating: “There can be no racial animosity, because there are no races,”. This ideal image of having no races connects with Bolívar’s idea to unify the colonies into Spanish America.

On the other hand, Chávez’s speech in the 2004 G-15 Summit takes Bolívar’s letter into acknowledgement, as well as modern statistics. Chávez discusses the harsh reality of how neoliberalism affects Latin America. “790 millions of people who are starving, 800 millions of illiterate adults, 654 millions of human beings who live today in the south and who will not grow older than 40 years of age.”  He talks about how neoliberalism was supposed to promise wealth and success for South America, but this was not the case for the people. To conclude his speech, Chávez speaks about media monopoly, how the North twists and alters the values and information of citizens of South America. I think it was important and very necessary to talk about media monopoly in his speech, as the domination of the North is not a new concept. It needs to be recognized as an issue and must be fought against. Something that Chávez says towards the end of his speech stood out to me: “Never is domination more perfect than when the dominated people think like the dominators do,”.

Week Three: The Colonial Experience

In this week’s discussion topic, I found the subject of Casta Paintings particularly interesting. Before watching the video, I had never heard of Casta Paintings, the idea of trying to separate and label the different mixtures of people did not come to mind when I thought of Latin America’s “colonial experience”. The paintings show the obsession of classifying people into specific terms, or “anxiety about identity”.

From what I could see, the white men of the paintings were depicted as a person of the higher class. This is shown by the way they are dressed in more European clothing, and even the background setting of the painting. There were some cases of black men also dressed in European influenced clothing, but for the most part, it was white men. The women, more specifically the Mulattas and Mestizas, were depicted as part of a lower class . This is also due to the choice of clothes and background setting. That being said, the lines between white, black and indigenous were crossed. This further proves how much diversity and mixture was, and still is, present in Latin America.

It is clear that people were desperate to label Latin Americans by the captions of the Casta Paintings. I found it funny that even for the painting of a racially ambiguous family, the painting would be captioned by saying: “no te entiendo”/”I don’t understand who you are”.

I also found the excerpt of the Lieutenant Nun’s memoir very interesting! She was raised with her whole life already planned out — live to become a nun. But Catalina knew that that was not the life that she wanted to live, and made the brave decision to run away, disguise herself as a man, and lived her life as a traveling soldier instead. It’s not often that you read about historical figures like Catalina de Erauso. It must take a lot of dedication, bravery, and perseverance to leave your family, disguise yourself as the opposite gender, and become a soldier at the age of fifteen. This is especially striking when you think of the time this took place. In the 1600’s it was much more common for young girls to be raised with the idea that they must serve and dedicate their whole lives to God. With that being said, Catalina was not just a brave soldier, but a murderer, and that should not go unnoticed.

Week Two: The Meeting of Two Worlds

I found the approach to this week’s topic very intriguing, to refer to the date of 1492 as a mythic story. From what I was taught as a young child in school, Columbus was always portrayed as a hero to America. I was not given the whole story, just the best image of his discovery. It wasn’t until later in high school that I learned the harsh reality that Columbus should not be considered so much a celebrated hero, but more a villain in the history of Latin America. Now, hearing Columbus’ own words of his expedition gives me a sense of the reality of 1492.

By reading excerpts of Columbus’ personal journal, it is clear to see how he viewed his discovery of Latin America. He talks mostly about his desperate search for riches and the abundance of goods once he reaches the land. This didn’t seem too far off with what I was taught in school about Christopher Columbus — that his intended plan was to arrive to India in hopes of discovering goods. But after watching the video, I now understand why Columbus puts such a strong emphasis on the plentitude of goods on the newly discovered land. It seems as though Columbus is compensating for not achieving his original plan by focusing mostly on material goods.

It is also very interesting to learn about the occasions when Columbus was not truthful to the crew he had travelled with, in order to convince others that the trip they had made was worth the effort. Not only does he have to attempt to assure his crew of the expedition, but he pleas with the King and Queen on numerous times. It is apparent that Columbus was not confident in his efforts to convince his crew, as they eventually became uncooperative. At least that is how he portrays them in his journal. And most importantly, he mistreats the natives of the land and completely disregards their importance to his discovery. Without the help of the natives, Columbus would not have been able to discover the abundance of goods on the land. Reading his interpretation of the story behind 1492, it seems very likely that Columbus is an unreliable narrator of his expedition, based on his interpretation of the events.

I am sure that I was not the only one who was only taught the best image of Columbus’ discovery. Why is it that we are taught only of Christopher Columbus’ heroism, but not the reality?

Week One: About Me and Student Videos

Hello! My name is Laura. I am a first year student in the faculty of arts. I’m from the Lower Mainland area, but my family is from Colombia, which is the main reason why I was interested in taking this course! I am very excited to learn about my own culture, as well as more!

One of my favourite student videos was The Meeting of Two Worlds: Aztec Edition. I enjoyed this video because I find that the animation made the video easier to follow, and the information given was said in an enthusiastic and interesting way. The video also included direct quotes and diagrams, which I also liked. Another one of my favourite videos was Venezuela: How We Got Here. It was interesting to learn about Venezuela’s economic crisis by watching this video because of the way the students presented their information in a captivating way. Much like the previous video I enjoyed, this video also had information that was easy to follow. But instead of using animation, the students presented more written facts than anything else. This was easy to follow because it was easy to take notes of the information given in the video.

Although all of the videos I watched present the information successfully, there were a couple videos for me that don’t work very well with the way I learn. For example, the video Casta Paintings did not have much content, the video was just pictures of the paintings. I wish there had been more facts or written content in the video. The presenter’s voice seemed a bit uninterested in the content that they were talking about, making the video a bit dull. Another video that was a bit hard to follow was Caudillos. The video was all hand written and drawn on paper and recorded. This made the video hard to follow because the drawings and writing were a bit blurry. I also found the audio to be sort of quiet, which made it difficult to keep up with. Besides these minor inconveniences that I found in these few videos, all of the videos that I watched did a great job of presenting the content that they were supposed to, and everyone did a great job!