Monthly Archives: October 2019

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.