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.

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