Week 10: Power to the People

This chapter discusses the creation of national culture, and whether or not it was cohesive or successful. I thought it was really interesting the importance that Dawson placed on the role of the technological advances of radio and photography. In Brazil, authoritarian ruler Getúlio Vargas understood the potential of radio as a means of propaganda, yet there was still some resistance from the public. Its funny that Vargas’s enforced announcement hour was nicknamed “hora fala sozinho” (the hour that talks to itself). I find this an interesting example of people’s ability to resist being influenced by propaganda, but maybe his regime just wasn’t using media effectively enough.

Dawson also explained the emergence of leaders in Latin America that suddenly had such a wider reach because of radio. Evita and Juan Perón were examples of those populist leaders.

“Not only did Juan Perón liberate the tango from censorship, he could speak the same language as the great tango singers. Their expressions, like their rage, were his as well.”

I think that this is a great example of how Perón was a populist leader. The people could relate to him, he wasn’t perceived as a distant elite. Even more so than Juan, Eva appealed to the general public. This was through her “humble origins” and the way she defied the expectations of an elite woman at the time. Dawson explains that almost every popular Latin American leader from the mid-twentieth century could be called a populist so I wonder if there are any that could distinctly be recognized as non-populist? If populist leaders are described as being quite divisive, how did this trend both reflect and influence nation building and unity? Despite the hostility she and her supporters faced, it can’t be disputed that Eva did enhance Argentine society through her foundation, the FEP.

Is nationality always constructed through propaganda or does it sometimes exist genuinely, without forced construction? In the case of Brazil’s samba, popular culture played more of a role in nation building than elites did.


On a side note, I couldn’t ignore this crazy statement: “This was still not the end for Evita, She was dug up and returned to Perón in Madrid in 1971, where the body could occasionally be seen on his dining room table.” ???