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?

1 thought on “Week Five: Caudillos versus the Nation State

  1. Magalee

    Hey Laura! I totally agree with your statement regarding community and protection! There were of course other factors, but I also believe that the Caudillo’s ability to appeal to people’s yearnings for unity and stability were huge contributors to achieving independence.


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