Monthly Archives: September 2019

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!