Week 4: a struggle against dependency

As the readings of this week show, there were many different versions of the story of Independence in Latin America. The desire for freedom against Spanish rule was not as widespread as I had expected- many groups opposed the Independence movement, for various reasons. Dawson explained that many indigenous communities were in favor of colonial rule because they were given certain rights that would be threatened by the private property ideology of liberal creole elites. These “early liberals” were characterized by movements that “identified with progress and against tradition” and called for “an end to the power of the corporate entities that characterized colonial society—the Church, the nobility, the military, and the communal Indian village.” I found it interesting that these liberal movements fought for the end of slavery yet favored private property at the expense of indigenous rights. It reminded me of the contradictions of the Civil War in the United States- it was actually the Republicans that fought against slavery. Yet those same values of freedom (mainly economic freedom) over corporate entities and big government that emancipated slavery now fuel the neoliberalism which is so oppressive to Latin America today.

Hugo Chávez talks about this in his G-15 Summit speech, saying that “neo-liberal globalization is a weapon they [the North] use to manipulate us into passivity.” Chávez explains how unbalanced trade policies and protectionism create a never ending debt. It is this debt that causes Latin America to be continuously dependent on imperial forces. It seems as if the United States has taken the place of Spain, latching on to the colonial foundation left behind from a fractured independence.

Would Latin America have been further effected by neoliberalism today if it hadn’t been for the backlash against these early liberals by indigenous movements in favor of Spanish rule?

I think that it is important to recognize the difference between the rhetoric used when talking about Independence and the difference between that narrative in Latin America and in the United States. In the U.S., Independence is a call for nationalism- a break from Europe and an opportunity for freedom. That freedom was being paved before Independence, as settlers saw the new land as a place to be conquered and owned rather than just exploited and ruled from a distance as with the Spanish colonies. The difference between settler colonialism here and colonialism played a large role in how the countries broke away from their imperial rulers. In a way, most of the Americans fighting for Independence were all like creoles, as they were Europeans born in America. Native Americans would not have benefited from European rule and were left out of the narrative entirely, whereas there was more of a diversity of voices in Latin American independence.